Last time, I offered up some tips on brainstorming if you don’t already have a process that works for you. Today I’ll continue in that vein and explain the purpose of a proper writing habitat.
Successful writers and academics tend to have at least one thing in common: they know what they need to get a writing project done. Knowing yourself as a writer and knowing what works as well as what doesn’t is an invaluable asset, and it’s not as difficult to achieve as you might think.
The first skill you need to master is mindfulness. Next time you sit down to work on your dissertation, look at your surroundings. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What aspects of my environment facilitate my writing?
- What aspects of my environment inhibit my writing?
- What am I unsure of regarding my work space?
- What would I do to improve my work space?
Pay special attention to things like ambient noise and light levels, what types of beverages or snacks you like to have on hand, what sorts of wall or desk accessories inspire you, and so on. Everyone’s writing habitat is different. For instance, my office is in a second-story spare bedroom. It isn’t very bright, but I love the color of the walls, it has wonderful floor-to-ceiling shelving for all of my books, and I have a nice sofa to sit on when I don’t feel like working at my desk anymore. It’s very quiet, and most importantly, it’s a room where I do nothing but write and work. Even if you live in a small place, you need to carve out your own space for writing, or you can get constantly distracted by the minutiae of everyday life.
Start with a desk or other flat surface (a table or even a tray will work as well, but you should be mindful that you are getting proper back support). Avoid working in or near the areas where you sleep, as studies have shown that working where you sleep can contribute to insomnia, and you certainly need all the sleep you can get when you’re working on your thesis or dissertation.
Put your desk in a place with enough light and the right level of noise for you. Then think about what you absolutely need to have in your workspace. For the average grad student, that probably includes your computer, your research notes, and maybe two or three books. Keep your workspace as uncluttered as possible. Then, think about a few things to keep on or near your desk that make you feel happy, inspired, or that you find aesthetically pleasing, and make sure these are positioned so that they aren’t distracting but are there for you when you need encouragement.
That’s all you really need to make your very own writing habitat. If you need further advice or instruction concerning your writing habits, consider hiring a writing coach. She can assess your needs and provide individualized support.