Italo Calvino, author of If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler, opens his novel with a series of commands:
“Relax. Concentrate. Dispel every other thought. Let the world around you fade. Best to close the door; the TV is always on in the next room. Tell the others right away, “No, I don’t want to watch TV!” Raise your voice — they won’t hear you otherwise — “I’m reading! I don’t want to be disturbed!” Maybe they haven’t heard you, with all that racket; speak louder, yell: “I’m beginning to read Italo Calvino’s new novel!” Or if you prefer, don’t say anything: just hope they’ll leave you alone.”
Calvino’s commands, though meant for readers of his novel, are apt advice for writers as well. When writing, it’s best to focus. We must “dispel every other thought.” When we build a better space for writing, we become better, more focused, more productive writers. Here are a few techniques you can employ in order to improve your writing:
Calvino said it first; don’t let yourself be disturbed. Find a private space that’s free from the normal distractions that come along with your everyday rigmarole. Do you have kids? It’s best to hire a sitter, or perhaps you do your writing while the tykes are away at school. Are your housemates noisy? Maybe its best to find a favorite nook in the local library. Do you have a new puppy? Introduce her to your neighbor’s shih tzu for a play date, and escape to the serenity of your office to get some chicken scratch on parchment.
Keep Snacks & Drink Handy
Satiation is another key to success. While you don’t want to have a full belly of supper (you might fall asleep), it’s best to avoid the pangs of hunger and thirst. Keep some light snacks and your favorite beverages at arm’s length. If you’re a morning writer, you may operate best with a caffeinated drink and a high-protein snack – perhaps a hard-boiled egg or some greek yogurt. In the afternoon, keep it light if you find that you’re always dozing off. While a glass of wine might get the creative juices flowing, a glass of milk will put you to sleep. Personally, I prefer a bowl of cashews and a french press full of dark roast in the morning. In the afternoon, it’s sliced cheese, crackers, and a few fingers of scotch.
Find Your Groove
Music or ambience may be integral to your writing routine. Often, writers prefer to avoid music with lyrics, since it can muddle a good train of thought. Yet, others aren’t phased by lyricists’ phrases. Try out instrumental music if singing distracts. You can opt for anything from classical to EDM. Or, if you prefer, a motion picture soundtrack might drive your writing.
If music isn’t helping, you might find that some background noise is best. Build a fire, open the windows to the chirps of songbirds, find a local fountain, or, if you’re sitting in front of a computer, find an audio atmosphere generator online.
Light a Fire
Now that your belly and ears are pleased, it’s on to the nose. A pleasant aroma can work wonders to stimulate the mind. Odors trigger memory and emotion, two handy tools for writing. If you’re feeling uninspired, light a candle or stick of incense. Aromatherapy might just be the cure to writer’s block.
Comfort counts. Since you’ll likely be sitting for an hour or more, it’s crucial that you’re comfy. It sounds silly, but it’s worth it to invest in a decent chair or sofa. Have blankets and pillows available for warmth and support. Don’t get too cozy though, or you may end up snoozing. If you hit a wall, get up, stretch, do five jumping jacks, drink a glass of water, and then settle back in. When writing at home, I prefer an old La-Z-Boy® recliner, a pillow, a nearby blanket, and an accessible coffee table.
Set a Schedule
Set a schedule and stick to it. If you take writing seriously, then you should set aside time to write. Formulate a schedule of times when you can stave off distraction. Write your schedule down. Concretize your writing schedule, and stick to it! When you establish a real schedule, you can hone in on a rhythm to your writing. You’ll be prepared to start, you’ll have all the tools to keep going, and it can help you to keep writer’s block at bay – once you’re used to a recurring schedule, your brain will adjust, and the words will just flow. Proof: I’m a writer who composes on a set schedule.
Build a better space for writing, and start composing better compositions. And when it comes time to edit, count on us! Here at Panther Editing, we provide editing services for academics and professionals alike. Submit a document for editing today!