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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Creating a safe space to write

   
Author Topic: Creating a safe space to write
Disgruntled Peony
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I've been having a hard time writing over the last few months. Today I realized that it's probably due to a combination of rapidly changing schedules and the fact that I like to write on my computer.

The reason the computer is an issue is that it's in my living room (there's no way to fit the computer desk in my bedroom). There are currently seven people living in my house, many of whom keep weird sleep schedules, which means there is almost always ambient noise (sometimes an abundance of it).

I've tried taking a notebook upstairs and writing on my bed. That doesn't work because my brain has this absurd notion that my bed is for sleeping; I never get more than half a page in before I find myself waking up from an unexpected nap.

Essentially, I do not currently have a safe space to write.

The least expensive thought I've had regarding the ambient noise issue is purchasing a pair of good-quality headphones so I can listen to my inspirational music in peace. The most expensive involves buying a laptop, but I feel like that's just overkill and might lead to the same complications as the notebook situation.

In any case, I'd like to set up a more regular writing time and get in the habit of writing every day. My current work schedule makes that difficult, but it will get easier once the end of the month hits.

Some of you have brought up ideas on how to create a safe writing space before (grumpy old guy has previously suggested the idea of setting a specific and consistent time to write every day, for example). What do all of you consider your safe writing space?

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extrinsic
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A productive mind-set derives from real and imagined time and physical work spaces. My safe writing space resides between my ears. Maybe this works for me because I have above average memory skills.

Another tactic that that entails is keeping notes, doing thought exercise maunders, far-afield research, sketches, the rawest drafts conceivable, annotated outlines -- a few sentences about, first, the mechanical features of a scene segment. These are like flash cards or storyboard cards, in a typewritten outline format. I rearrange the entries if they lack an action arc or an arc slump or try leaving a few out or including wild cards in the deck.

Having a working plan then suggests ideas for what the story is really about, the intangibles of subtext and such, then the development of that layer proceeds. That's when my passion for a story reaches a new, heretofore lower, now higher peak.

That practice also provides powerful filtering tools for revision purposes. If the whole holds up, doesn't stray off topic too much, no glaring logic holes, slumps, or missing parts, the actual writing becomes a breeze, all but writes itself. Noise and distractions, life gets in the way demands, etc., are manageable mischief then, for me, transcended mischief.

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Robert Nowall
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My computer is set up in my so-called "office"---actually the second bedroom of a three-bedroom house. (The third bedroom is my "library.") But in addition to the computer it's crammed full of other junk, making it not the easiest place in the world to get into. Every so often I clean up, and that's probably past due now.

My computer---a recent acquisition owing to problems (described elsewhere) with my old computer and / or Windows 10---with its attached ergonomic keyboard [old] is my preferred thing to write on. I've still got typewriters but I got to enjoying word processing that I rarely use them. (I use one to type up checks.)

I think I've mentioned I recently acquired a small laptop for the purpose of diary writing. I do that either in bed or sometimes on my dining room table. (Previously I hand-wrote my diary in bed, almost always.) I've tried some regular writing on it, but it's not the same.

Regular writing schedules are fine, but I'm pretty much a grab-the-time-when-I-can-find-it writer---it's usually last behind a number of other things. I usually try for a specific amount of writing, five hundred words usually, when I do write.

(My computer-in-office is also my preferred way of surfing the 'net, but my laptop has been handy for quick glances.)

Also, as extrinsic mentions, writing really takes place between the ears and sitting at a keyboard is just putting it down for everyone to see (in theory.) I do a lot of that, all the time, more often than I sit down at the keyboard.

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Disgruntled Peony
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With regards to brainstorming and notes, I have been doing a lot of that so maybe I've been doing more writing than I thought. Also, the idea of a specific wordcount to reach instead of a specific amount of time spent would probably work better for me. A 500 word minimum is something I could probably meet most days, even with work monopolizing as much of my time as it has been.
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babooher
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Do you have a closet with an outlet or a long enough extension cord?
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Grumpy old guy
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Seven people? I'd shoot myself just for the peace and quiet. My only suggestion is go outside--if possible. Take an legal size notepad and a pen and sit down somewhere while you wait for inspiration. Keep doing that day after day until something happens--probably madness. That's the best advice I can offer you unless you can learn how to 'tune out' unwanted distractions. That takes a lot of practice too.

Phil.

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Denevius
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quote:
I've been having a hard time writing over the last few months.
Go on a diet.

The problem probably isn't the lack of a safe place to write. For this post, you wrote 289 words. For my critique, you wrote 513 words. I'm sure there are more instances where, when you sit down at a computer, you write. Just not fiction.

So stop it. When you have an urge to write something that's not fiction, don't do it. Let the words build up inside of you. Your thoughts will seek an escape, but you need to channel it into a story goal you've set. A 500 word flash fiction piece. A 3000 word short story.

I'm willing to lay a bet that, no matter what's going on in your house, if you reserve your words solely for the construction of fiction, you'll have at least two short stories written in the next 30 days.

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InarticulateBabbler
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At the present time, I doodle at work when I'm slow (I have a laptop, which I take everywhere) and write a little every night, after my little one is down. Costs me sleep, but I advance the word count.
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Disgruntled Peony
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A closet would be a bad idea, as all the closets in the house are small and I am claustrophobic. I've thought about repurposing the attic, but it's presently full of junk and doesn't get heat/AC like the rest of the house does.

I've tried writing outside, but I get distracted by sights and sounds. I was disappointed, because that sounded like fun.

The 'diet' concept doesn't entirely appeal to me, simply because being involved with Hatrack and the Writers of the Future forum is a big part of what got me back into writing in the first place. Providing constructive criticism for other stories may not be writing fiction, but it does help the writer's brain in other ways. (These are also my only online outlets at present in an effort to facilitate writing-related pursuits. I glance at Facebook maybe once a month; I've never bothered to sign up with Twitter.)

There's rarely a point in my night when everyone else is asleep. When they are, though, I've been taking advantage of it to take notes and such.

On the upside, my brain has made significant progress toward being able to write two separate stories since the last time I posted here. Going to try the headphones thing tonight and see how that plays out.

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Robert Nowall
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Mention of night writing reminds me...thanks to my thankless but well-paying job, I work nights and sleep days. But that's only in theory, and it tires me out, and I revert to sleeping nights on my days off---and I'm often falling asleep when I get home and can't do any writing.
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Disgruntled Peony
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Oof... Working nights is rough. I worked the graveyard shift for a hotel awhile back, so I feel at least a measure of your pain.
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dmsimone
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I write on my laptop on the couch in my den, late at night. I like to have a movie on in the background...and I'm really particular about that. This is my happy place and when I am most productive. I am also AWESOME at writing on airplanes, for some reason.

Since you live with so many people, have you thought about just going to a library? I always studied in the library in college (I lived with 7 girls and occasionally their boyfriends) so the library was my oasis. It's quiet, there are tons of nooks and crannies to hide in...so many peaceful options.

I am an engineering manager at Intel by day and am on my work laptop ALL DAY LONG. Spreadsheets, PowerPoint, Outlook email. ALL DAY. It is really exhausting. When I get home I put away all laptops/computers/tablets/phones from 5-8 pm. That 3 hour break is crucial for my productivity.

Something else I found to be critical...all day long I am thinking, thinking, thinking, about the next scene I am going to write. Driving to and from work, I think about my story. I use Microsoft Visio for my family trees. I use Excel to plan my chapters and plot twists and timelines. Planning is so essential, so that when you finally do sit down to write, you can get the most out of that hour you manage to squeeze out of your day for yourself. How do you plan?

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Disgruntled Peony
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quote:
Originally posted by dmsimone:
Something else I found to be critical...all day long I am thinking, thinking, thinking, about the next scene I am going to write. Driving to and from work, I think about my story. I use Microsoft Visio for my family trees. I use Excel to plan my chapters and plot twists and timelines. Planning is so essential, so that when you finally do sit down to write, you can get the most out of that hour you manage to squeeze out of your day for yourself. How do you plan?

I'm still figuring out what does and doesn't work for me, as far as planning goes. What seems to work best so far is a lot of brainstorming, writing a scene-by-scene outline (and character profiles if necessary), then doing a rough draft that almost reads like a play. After that I go through, fill in prose, and am left with my first draft.

I should note that I've only managed to be organized enough to finish one story this way so far. [Razz] I'm in the brainstorming/outline stages for two short stories and a longer piece of fiction, at present. Very much want to get to the rough or first draft phase, though.

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ForlornShadow
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Just another thought: have you tried to set boundaries with everyone else in the house? This might sound mean but I have told my mother and grandmother that when my door is closed it means I am not to be bothered. If I am downstairs and am in a certain room with my laptop I am also not to be bothered unless for some really important reason. Doing this with seven people is a lot harder, I imagine; but, I do think that asking for the others to keep noise level down when you are on the computer isn't too much to ask. Hope this helps, don't really know if it will work because I don't know the other people you live with.
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