My ideal writing time is actually midnight to about three in the morning because I’m a bat masquerading as a human. I don’t bother turning on lights either, so just weak light from the computer monitor illuminates the room.
Does this image make you think I’m weird or creepy? Maybe, but let me explain. Midnight to three is quiet with no distractions. And the darkness keeps my eyes from being distracted. It’s calm and quiet, with just me and the screen of words.
Despite my nighttime writing habits, I have a day job. My body also prefers eight hours of sleep, and I hear sunlight is good for skin, so I rarely write during the wee hours of the morning, even if it is when I feel most creative. I deal with this problem by respecting the importance of ambiance in my writing space.
Fluorescent Lighting Is the Enemy
Most of my ancestral heritage hails from overcast European countries. I like the sun when it peeks through clouds but doesn’t burn my retinas or skin. Naturally, that means I like my artificial light on the soft, warm, dim side. I detest fluorescent lighting, and even an overly bright light bulb at home gets me grumpy. At work, I can’t do much about the fluorescence, but at home I have more control.
Often, I turn off the main light in my bedroom and plug in some Christmas lights. I drape the lights over the area where I’m writing—my desk or my bed. If it’s still light outside, I adjust my blinds to let in as much natural light as I need. If it’s dark outside, I turn on a warm lamp. I want the light to feel as cozy as possible, and not like it’s knifing my eyes.
I know some people may be opposed to Christmas lights during anytime except, well, Christmas. If you feel that way, you can opt for desk lamps or Himalayan salt lamps. Maybe a floor lamp is your style. Basically, stop relying on your ceiling light as your sole light source. Experiment with different light bulbs and lamps to achieve your prefered light level and color. The perfect ambient lighting is balm to light-accosted eyes.
My Bed Is Better Than My Desk—Except When It’s Not
Seating can really affect my creative output, but not always. For example, if I’m excited to write an article or novel scene, I like to sprawl on my bed or couch, and it doesn’t matter what state my bed or couch is in. As long as I’m resting on cloudlike cushions, I can keep swatting aside writer’s block. If I’m not comfortable, I drop out of the zone.
But things get complicated when my writing zone eludes me from the start. The bed and couch call out siren songs of naps and general leisure. To force my creativity to flow, I have to ignore these pillowy temptations and sit at my desk. Psychologically, the desk makes me feel like I am “working,” that now is not the time for play or rest. It’s a tactic that Jane Yolen calls “BIC” or “butt in chair.”
Give yourself a couple of seating options. Your mood and how tired you are affect your productivity. An armchair by the window, a desk against the wall, or even a standing desk could all have a place in your home. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you need only one seating option.
Scented Candles Are Always the Answer
I actually don’t light scented candles often. They’re more of a treat for me. I work fine with a lack of distinguishable scents. Whenever I light a candle, however, my writing space feels more comfortable, more relaxing, more homey. If you’ve had a trying day or just want an extra element in your ambiance, buy a scented candle.
Plenty of studies show a connection between smell and memories, productivity, and mood. Of course, maybe you’re afraid a candle is a fire hazard. Luckily, you have many options. Oil diffusers, air fresheners, and incense are all good substitutes.
I tend to pick pine, fruit, or ocean smells. Baked-treat smells feel like a lie. (Why would I want my house to smell like cookies if there weren’t actually any cookies to eat?) If you’re looking for smells to evoke certain moods, do some research. Aromatherapy holds some fascinating information. Lavender is known for its calming effect, and lemon apparently helps you focus. You can pick scents you like or be more purposeful in your choices.
Of course ambiance goes beyond these three points—they’re just the main ones I employ. Other avenues to explore include feng shui, music or ambient sounds, or interior design in general. Part of taking care of yourself includes creating a suitable working environment. Don’t put up with a boring or uncomfortable writing space. Your creativity should thrive, not die!
What do you do to create your ideal writing space? Tell us in a comment below!