Writing Techniques: Setting

I bet y’all looked at the title of this post and thought that this would be about creating settings for a story, right? GUESS AGAIN! I actually want to talk about “setting” in the context of the writing process. Like, the setting where the actual writing takes place… the “work space,” if you will. Where the so-called “magic” happens.

I’ll admit, I’ve not always been the best at selecting a place to write. Sometimes I’ll get set up on the couch and, within twenty minutes, I’ll end up resting on my elbows with my knees/feet tucked under my body (in a “snail” position, sort of), typing with the screen about five inches from my face, which is probably not the most effective sitting position for both productivity and posture, and it might also be a contributing factor to my declining eyesight. I became somewhat notorious for my unusual “study poses” while in college, as I used to splay out on couches or chairs to do my work, but I can’t say that it helped the study/work process much. I also don’t work very well in public places… I’ve gone to Panera Bread and Starbucks a handful of times with the intention of writing or getting work done, but I usually wind up puttering around on the internet and don’t accomplish anything of note. From this, I’ve drawn the conclusion that I can write anywhere, but I’m only at my best under specific conditions.

When I was writing I’m With You, I lived in a different house. I did some writing in my “office” area (also known as the spare bedroom with a desk in it), some in my bedroom, but most of the time, I wrote in a little kitchen “nook,” where my ancient PC was located. The nook was basically a table in the corner of my kitchen, right next to a window (so I could also make sure the neighbor kids weren’t terrorizing my yard.) That work station was about ten or so feet away from the fridge, so I could spend entire afternoons in there and only had to get up to use the restroom. I also lived alone for a significant portion of my time in that house, so I didn’t have to worry about bugging anyone else with my choice of work space or bizarre sitting positions. It was the ideal setting for writing productivity, and about 90% of I’m With You‘s first draft was completed there.

However, it is all thanks to my kitchen nook that I realized the importance of a proper work setting and atmosphere, because ever since I left that house I haven’t quite been able to recapture that level of efficiency. Sometimes, at night (or in the morning) I’ll write while I’m in bed, but it’s definitely not good for my posture, and I cannot even begin to count how many times I’ve fallen asleep mid-edit without meaning to. Unintentional naps are the true nemesis of my writing output and my spine.

desk.PNGNowadays, I’ve got a desk in the corner of my bedroom and a yoga ball chair. The enclosed picture is old (if the “Star Trek premiere” note on the calendar is any indication – although it’s referring to Star Trek Beyond, not the 2009 film), but my current setup is basically the same, with a bit more clutter on the desk. I’ve since gotten a rad BB8 light-up statue, for one. Also, that little fan is a great asset for summer days, because my room is like Antarctica in the winter and the tropics in the summer, with no in between.

Overall, it’s not a bad set up – but it does make me miss my kitchen nook. I have whittled away at various writing projects sitting at that desk, including the latter drafts of I’m With You. Some days I set up in the kitchen or the living room instead, for a change of scenery. If the weather is nice, I’ll even go on the enclosed patio and actually endure sunlight, but my desk is my primary work station. I genuinely wish that I could be one of those writers who can stroll into a Starbucks and pump out two chapters in the time it takes to finish a latte, or plop down in any sort of chair or table/desk and create quality content no matter the location. Maybe I’m just picky, or there are other factors at work here, but I have definitely noticed a correlation between setting and productivity when it comes to my writing. I can write anywhere, but if I want to work to the best of my ability, I need a solid “space” to get work done, and designating a specific area, like a nook or a desk, works best for me, because it makes it seem more “official.”

I’m also very curious to know what sort of “setting” works for other writers, as I’m sure different folks require a different set of circumstances to be at their best and most efficient. What kind of desk works for you? Is there a certain chair you have to use? Can you work in only one room, or can you spread out all over your house and work from any space? Is absolute silence necessary, or do you need some type of music or background noise? Do you have to preemptively make sure your obnoxious cat has been adequately fed so she doesn’t whine and beg for food while you’re in the middle of an inspiration burst? Lots of sunlight or little? Total isolation or a few folks around to bounce ideas off?

For some, “setting” in terms of a story is as important as “setting” in a literal sense… therefore, the “setting” in which you write the “setting” can be a vital decision. Perhaps it’s trivial in a way, and it might not even matter to some, but if it improves productivity (and posture, in some cases) then selecting the right place to work can have some worthwhile benefits.

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