Monday, February 23, 2015

Why I May Have to Live on an Airplane

"Do you pull down your shades and shut out the world when you write? Or are you motivated by a city view? A view of nature? What is the ideal landscape for your creativity?"

- from Susan

It is a good question. I’ll share what I’ve learned about what doesn’t work. What does work is an evolving solution.

Looking at anything that I could or should do or dream about doing instead of writing is not a great idea: laundry, cookie jar, iPhone, stack of bills, photos of Hawaii…not smart.

The spines of 800 crime fiction books by some of the best authors in the world, thoughtfully arranged so that I can be reminded every time I raise my eyes how far inferior what I’m typing at this moment is from their worst sentences…not the best spur to creativity.

Any view of any piece of outdoors under my control and that, therefore, needs my attention before it is ruined by rain, drought, sun, shade, or mealy bugs…my fingers itch just typing this.

A beach out my window?…Forget it. I’m miles away in my head instantly and will be out the door in five.

All of this is to say, obviously, that I’m easily distracted. It’s odd, really, because I’m a spectacularly bad typist, must look at the keys to have any hope of hitting the right ones, then look at the screen to see what my free throw percentage was for that paragraph. (So far, I’m only about 60% on this essay.) My eyes are constantly in use, so how do I see all those distractions?

When I moved to my wonderful house, I finally had a room just for work. I set it up so I face a whiteboard, bookshelves behind and to the sides, window to the right, a whole floor away from food. The best outcome so far is that I’m burning more calories running up and down stairs.

So what works? Two places really work wonderfully, and from what I’ve heard other writers say, they’re not surprises: airplanes and coffee cafes. Something about the quality of the noise, the lack of potential delight by interacting, and the tight radius of my space has an effect on my powers of concentration. Since I have a deadline coming up, I’m thinking about installing chairs around me, finding a tape loop of 50 voices talking at once, and maybe tilting the whiteboard so I can barely operate the keyboard. If that’s too hard, I’ll head to Peet’s!


Paul D. Marks said...

It's interesting to see what works for one person vs. the next. I can't write in places like coffee shops. Too many distractions. Good post, Susan. And get those plane tix.

Meredith Cole said...

In my own house, I must have total quiet (no requests for snacks or help finding lost toys). But I write well in coffee shops, too, Susan. I don't mind the noise (as long as I don't have to do anything about it...)

RJ Harlick said...

Intriguing the positive affect background noise has on Susan and Meredith. I'm afraid I am like Paul and need total quiet with no distractions. Even the internet can be too distracting for me.

Catriona McPherson said...

I love this post! And I think I'm your identical writing requirement twin, Susan. But more of that on Thursday.

Susan C Shea said...

So, two other writers huddled in front of their laptops at Pets and two in padded rooms...can't wait to see what the rest of the crew has to say!