The “Perfect” Writing Atmosphere

Picture this: it’s a crisp fall day and you’re cozy on your couch with a fire crackling in the background. Your cat is cheering you on with her quiet purring as you hurriedly clack away at the keys of your laptop keyboard, your glasses perched studiously on the end of your nose. You have at least another uninterrupted hour before real life will bother you. Oh, and you’re not completely consumed with worry over the actions of the President-elect.

Show of hands—how often does this scenario actually happen?

It sounds glorious, but in actuality, most of my writing tends to take place at the kitchen table in short spurts before or after work. If it’s the morning, I’m usually groggy and the cat is meowing for breakfast. My glasses are smudged and my hair is in complete disarray. I’m constantly aware of time—how much has passed, how much do I have left before I need to make the mad scramble to start the day?

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Sure, there have been those special moments where I get close to the daydream, although they’re few and far between. What I’ve found encouraging is that the words I type during the frantic sessions are no less than the words I type in the more blissful scenario.

It’s easy to buy in to the concept of the ideal writing atmosphere. To affiliate the quality of our writing with the atmosphere in which the words are produced. Why else are we so fascinated to learn that Dame Agatha Christie often wrote while taking baths or that the masterful Stephen King writes at least 2,000 words at his desk every morning?

This is why I love things like NaNoWriMo. For those that aren’t familiar, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, which is going on right now. It’s a challenge to pen 50,000 words in 30 days.

NaNoWriMo strives to help folks with a dream of writing get into the habit of putting pen to paper every day. It doesn’t matter if they’re the most brilliant words ever written or utter drivel (in my experience, they’re most often the latter). It’s that at the end of 30 days, you have a complete first draft.

And there’s a reason why NaNoWriMo takes place in the month of November, notoriously one of the busiest months of the year. Because these are the times when it’s hardest to find time to write. It strips away our notion of “perfect” writing times and forces us to come to grips with the reality that maybe there is no ideal writing atmosphere.

While I’m not participating in NaNoWriMo this year, know that I’m with all you NaNoers in spirit, writing at my kitchen table each morning, smudged glasses and all.

Writers, what’s your ideal writing atmosphere? Are you able to make it happen more often than I am? Readers, do you find it interesting to learn behind-the-scenes info on an author’s process?

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Author: Kate Lansing

I write mysteries, YA novels, and short fiction. I also read A LOT, travel as much as possible, and take way too many pictures of my cat.

11 thoughts on “The “Perfect” Writing Atmosphere”

  1. Love your perfect scenario, Kate! I am luckier than most. I have a dedicated writing place. Since I work from home for the day job, I have a home office with two desks, two computers, two printers. Why two? Because having both spaces distinct helps me get in the right mindset. A perfect writing day for me is dark of night. My muse is a night owl. When I can cozy up to my desk at 10 PM and stay until the hour after dawn, I can crank out 10k words. Good words. Doesn’t happen often. My day job starts at 5 AM and I have to sleep sometime. Still, those are my precious hours.

    What’s a typical day look like? Hit the writing desk at 7 and work until 10 at night. Constant interruptions abound, cats, husband, phone, etc. Productivity drops to maybe 2-3k, but they are words. Always a good thing!

  2. Kate, it sounds lovely. And yes, never happens. Or rarely.

    I can only count on my hour a day at my day job. Usually I’m at a table in the lunch area, although recently I’ve been staying at my regular desk and just moving to a different part of it (it’s a big wrap-around desk) because my chair is better than the plastic ones in the cafe.

    If I’m lucky, I get to sit on my deck in the summer or in front of a wood fire in the winter and type away. Big emphasis on “lucky.”

    But yes. I find the words I write at the day-job are just as good as the words I write in my perfect place (usually).

    Typical day? Roll out of bed between 6:30 and 6:45, shower, off to the day job (with The Boy in high school I no longer have to do a morning school drop off so I get a tad more sleep), write at lunch, work some more, then off to evening activities, which may include some reading – again, if I’m lucky.

  3. Kate, I love your ideal writing atmosphere and I don’t even like cats.

    Weekdays, I get up at 4-4:30 AM every morning, do 25-35 minutes of yoga and then sit down to the computer while the rest of the world is asleep. I get in 75 minutes. On weekends, same thing but I get in three hours each day — assuming there has been no drama.

    Lots of drama lately but I’m storing it all away for later inspiration.

  4. I love your perfect atmosphere, especially the uninterrupted aspect of it. Mine is getting up at 4 a.m. for the uninterrupted peacefulness of those pre-dawn hours. I love them, but envy the night owls, whose end times are open-ended.

  5. I think every writer should attempt NaNoWriMo at least once. I’ve only done it once, but it really brought home to me that I can write no matter what — hungry, tired, uninspired, busy, sad, bothered, scattered, sick …. whatever the circumstances are. And when you know you can write under less than ideal situations, you realize how marvelous it is when you can create those ideal situations. I am very lucky that now I am able to write “full-time”, which is a true misnomer. My set up is perfect, except when Nala spies a cat or hears the UPS truck in the ‘hood.

  6. I always think about this. My ideal writing scenario is not in my house. There’s a really nice bakery in town and I’ll go there when I can. I hate writing at home. A change of scenery is good for the imagination. Sometimes, atmosphere-wise, the best writing days are those that are gloomy, cold, blustery because they jive so well for mystery writing.

  7. I’m loving reading about all your favorite writing places, and their more realistic counterparts 😉

    Kait, that’s so cool that you have a designated desk for writing versus your day job. I can definitely see how that would help your brain switch gears. And, gotta admit, I’m envious of your night owl tendencies!

    Mary, I’m so impressed you’re able to write during your break at work! It seems like my writing has to happen before or after work in order for my brain to truly focus. Ooh, your wood fireplace sounds ideal for writing in the winter 🙂

    Keenan, I hope the drama calms down! I totally get that. I’ve had to accept that while pregnant, I’m just not going to be able to do as much as I normally can.

    Sue, I’m a fan of the quiet pre-dawn hours too! Although I’m with you, I envy those night owls like Kait who can work into the wee hours with no fixed end time 🙂

    Becky, exactly!!! Well said!! NaNoWriMo taught me the same thing. Nala sounds like quite the writing companion, lol. Is there a dog or pet in your book inspired by her??

    Kimberly, a change of scenery can absolutely be a good thing. And yes, blustery days definitely jive with mystery writing. Love it!

  8. Nala has absolutely found her way into my writing. She plays kind of a prominent role in MARSHMALLOW MAYHEM. And bits and pieces of her are in this new manuscript I’m working on, which has some agility dogs in it. Not that she could ever do that, mind you. She’s simply too much of a diva for that.

  9. I’m lucky in that I have my own writing space. Lots of light, a fireplace, big screen TV, and a lot of inspiration. I missed it this summer, but I often write in what I call my outside office while sitting on a chaise lounge and listening to a gurgling fountain. Any distractions are of my own creation. Usually.

    I agree, everyone should do NaNoWriMo at least once. King, at 2,000 words a day must think 50,000 is for babies.

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