Tim Ferriss, author of the The Four Hour Workweek and The Four Hour Body published a video that documented his day. Tim is a New York Times Bestselling author and has an outrageously successful blog as well. That’s why I paid special attention to his writing environment.
As you would imagine, Tim’s writing environment is optimized for creativity. He uses a stand-up desk to keep him focused on writing and not lounging. He drinks a special tea along with a glass of wine to relax and prime his creative juices.
Problem is...I'm not Tim Ferriss
My modest 3 bedroom home packed with 3 boys isn’t exactly an oasis of relaxation.
Shouting and wrestling aside, My writing environment is as important asI consider my writing environment to be as important as my computer and text editor. I refine the environment constantly looking for the optimal balance of calm and inspiration.
You should too.
This is what you should consider:
The standing desk movement is starting to build momentum.
It seems that standing actually is healthier and aids focus. I plan on giving it a try soon. The point is that you want adopt a posture that leads to maximum focus. Sitting sometimes aides distraction rather than concentrated work.
I’ve been experimenting with music variations for years. I’ve found that a piano arrangement is the mother’s milk of creativity. It’s easy to slip into the zone and pound out page after page of copy.
Research says that music works best for people who need a high level of stimulation to focus. These are the folks that need the TV, radio, kids scurrying under foot, and an open magazine to concentrate. Low level of arousal people need complete silence. Most of us fall in between.
Test to see what works for you.
3. Priming the Pump
If you have difficulty “getting started” think about ways you can “prime the pump.” Read an inspirational short story, watch a video, or remember a time when you operated at your peak. Now channel that into the spark you need to get going.
On the Mac, you can set-up a desktop scheme that blocks out all other apps (AKA distractions). You can also use a text editor like Byword to blank out your screen except for text. I use these tricks religiously to keep destructive distractions at arm’s length. In my book anything that calls for your attention should be put away. For me, this includes Twitter, Facebook, email and my iPhone (another computer in disguise).
I focus on holy trinity Mouse, Monitor, and Keyboard. Surprisingly, I watched my productivity soar when I used an app called Fl.ux to change the brightness of my screen to a calm warm glow at sunset. The warmer screen did wonders for my concentration and relaxed me at the same time.
I usually work with two monitors, but I always turn one off while I write. This helps me resist the temptation to fill it with Tweetdeck! As for monitors, I go big. This helps reduce eyestrain. Use what works best for you.
Your mouse should be effortless, ergonomic and unobtrusive. I love the Logitech MX Mouse. It’s silky smooth, fits perfectly in my hand, and is accurate. However I have been using the Apple Magic Trackpad and it’s slowly growing on me. The Trackpad allows gestures and seems to disappear after a while. The point is that your equipment shouldn’t stand in the way of your writing.
Bonus Equipment: I received a pair of Bose QC15 Noise-cancelling headphones. They are magical. They reduce 90% of ambient noise and have great sound quality. I won’t write without them.
I’m somewhat of a software junkie and I have tested dozens of applications. As you would expect, software choice is based on the personality and style of the writer. So there isn’t a perfect tool for everyone.
I use Google Docs. Yep, simple Google Docs. I like the auto-save and having my document automatically available in the Cloud. ByWord is a close second because it helps eliminate distractions and has configurable paper colors that helps ease eye strain.
From here, I cut and paste my blog posts directly into WordPress. I never write in WordPress. When I’ve attempted it, one of two things happen: I hit the “publish” instead of update or inexplicably lose everything when the software seizes up. So I write in the Docs first and paste when I’m finished.
I think it’s romantic to write at the coffee shop. However, it's usually a disaster for me. I find myself obsessing over my next cup of coffee, people watching, and other well-meaning distractions.
My best place to write is in my home office, behind a closed-door, with the headphones on. This arrangement is easy and leaves little room for procrastination. Just go in, shut the door, and start typing.
Find a place that works for you and stick with it. Experiment when you have low-importance work to get done until you are comfortable with your new location.
No Hard and Fast Rule Other Than...
Write! When I started, I focused on everything but actually writing my darn posts! So if you write best sitting on your back porch, in your boxers, sipping a margarita, with your laptop perched on your knees then do it.
I’m curious. What is your perfect blog writing environment?