How You Write is as Important as What You Write

This post was going to appear a little later in my writing series, but thanks to Arthur Miller, who was in the same vein of thought as me, we’re jumping into the how of writing. You can enjoy Art’s story, and once you do, you’ll probably see why he thought how one writes is as important as where one writes.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, the how of writing has to do with the writing instrument you’ve chosen to use. You probably didn’t think it was any big deal, right? Just jot some scribbles on the page and call it a day. Sometimes, that really is how it must be. I’ll admit that many short stories were written on McDonald’s napkins with a goopy ink pen rummaged from the bottom of my mom’s purse while we drank coffee.

But that’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m going to assume you’ve done yourself the enormous favor of creating your writing environment in an effort to nurture your writing muse as she whispers to you. This is a calmer scenario where you can decide what you want to hold in your hand as you create writing gold. There are a couple approaches to this.

Go Elegant or Go Home

This is where my friend, Art, comes in. Art creates gorgeous fountain pens, rollerball pens, and refillable ink pens. There is something about holding one of these affordable treasures in your hand that inspires writing in ways that a Bic pen just doesn’t. I promise you’ll feel more connected to your craft because you’ll want to write something worthy of the pen! Even if you’re crossing out a portion you don’t care for, you’ll enjoy doing so with ink in your personal color preference. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself fantasizing about using your classy pen to autograph your published book.

Keep It Simple

Let’s not forget the humble pencil, however. Whether you enjoy a refillable mechanical or a good ole wooden No. 2, pencils lend that forgiving quality to your writing known as the eraser. Just make that purple prose disappear for good with a couple abrasive scrubs across your paper. What’s more, use your pencil on paper that has a good tooth, i.e., a little grain to the page. The sound of a pencil scratching across gritty paper is the sound of progress being made. You’ll come to love it.

Not This Time, ThinkPad

Did you notice I haven’t mentioned creating straight to a laptop? Technology has its place in the writing process but allow me to share a bit of advice. Using a pen or pencil to write will slow you down, and that’s a good thing, especially in the initial stages of your work in progress. We’re so afraid we’re going to forget a great piece of writing when, in fact, what we’ve failed to do is get our thoughts in order. Bullet point your ideas, organize them, and write in longhand or, if you truly want to sharpen your focus, print in all capital letters. This technique will help you find your groove.

Let me know in the comments which you prefer for capturing that next great piece of writing—pens or pencils.

Where You Write is as Important as What You Write

Have you created your writing environment yet? I’m speaking to new writers who may not know how beneficial this is, and I’m speaking to established writers who may need a recharge. Writing comfort is essential to your creative process, but the definition of comfort means different things to different people. You may need to try a few combinations before you decide on one.

I strongly suggest supportive seating whether it’s the easy chair in your living room or the straight-backed wooded chair at your kitchen table. Make sure it’s seating that you can stay in for a decent length of time.

Not exactly what I had in mind, Duncan!

Writing surfaces need to be taken into consideration, too. I love my lap desk because it puts everything at the correct height, but sometimes I’d like to not have to worry about balancing it. I’m currently on the hunt for a desk that is not higher than my lap when seated. This will eliminate much of the neck and arm strain I’m experiencing. I find most tables and desks require me to reach too far forward or upward and tilt my head at an unnatural angle for my eyes to meet my laptop screen.

Don’t forget to stand and stretch after long periods of writing, an exercise more easily done in private than public places.

Eliminating distractions is crucial to your writing practice. I find the Internet and social media to be the worst diversions because they make so many seemingly harmless interruptions easily accessible, dropping them right at my fingertips. Especially articles about British royals.

On the other hand, my laptop and Bose speakers deliver an endless supply of classical music via Sirius XM as well as custom-made playlists based on characters and scenes. Music with lyrics, however, is banished because I cannot think with someone else’s words in my head, and I enjoy singing along too much. Although, when the 1812 Overture comes on, I will stop writing long enough to direct. It’s quite a sight.

As much as I love being around people, having fewer folks present when I’m writing means fewer interruptions. That does not mean I won’t stop writing to attend to friends’ and family members’ needs; service to others most definitely takes precedence. I’m talking about writing in coffee shops, which doesn’t work for me because the constant flow of people and music with lyrics requires too much of my focus to force them into the background. If you’re able to block out the cacophony or dismiss it as white noise, I say go for it.

Keep one thing in mind, though. You’ll want to write somewhere that allows you to have a restroom break without the fear of having your laptop, notebooks, and writing instruments stolen when you step away. I have had to pack up everything to hustle to the ladies’ room. It’s not the responsibility of the staff to watch your stuff. With that being said, I find libraries to be safer havens full of willing staff members who will watch over your things when you need to slip away for a potty break.

Don’ neglect the importance of good lighting when writing. While I love the ambience my Himalayan salt lamp provides, more sufficient lighting is employed to ensure I don’t strain my peepers. You may need to switch out bulbs in your home to achieve the right balance of brightness and softness. Don’t forget to take eye breaks if working on a laptop and blink often to lubricate your eyes.

If you prefer natural daylight, keep a pair of sunglasses handy even if you’re working inside and stop when the light becomes too dim. As pleasant as campfires are, they don’t provide consistent, bright light. Exercise caution there.

Keep your favorite foods/snacks close at hand to reduce the times you need to go in search of sustenance. If you choose to write at a restaurant or coffee shop, keep in mind that purchasing food and beverages is kind of expected, and that can become expensive. At home, you have access to food, but don’t fall into grazing instead of writing. I find eating a healthy meal keeps me focused, but I also like to keep a cup of tea nearby to soothe and inspire. Black licorice is my treat during and reward for a productive writing session.

Temperature is another key factor to your writing environment. There’s nothing worse than slogging through a writing session while perspiring or having your fingers cramp from the cold. Working at home puts you in charge of the thermostat while layering your clothes keeps things comfortable when writing out and about.

Again, you’ll probably need to change it up a few times until you settle into your perfect writing zone, so have fun with it. Let me know in the comments where you do our most productive writing.

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