Location, Location, Location and Writing

If you’re going to write something as long and complex as a thesis or dissertation, one of the first things you need to know about yourself is where you write best. What we call “writing” actually involves a variety of different task types and I encourage you to think about the location that suits each best. Make yourself a chart like this.

Home Café Library
Composing

Editing

Planning and organizing my week.

 

Online database searching.

Downloading articles.

Grading student work.

Composing

Editing

Reading and annotating articles.

For most people, what constitutes a good writing spot has a lot to do with noise levels. I can’t compose where there is background noise, so I do most of my composing at home or at the library. But I would get bored if I never left those spaces, so I also work at cafes when I have more mechanical tasks to do. What are your noise-level needs?

If you find yourself wandering from place to place in search of the perfect writing spot, give yourself a strict limit of no more than one place change a day.

Try cleaning your desk. You might be surprised by the mental clarity that a clean desk creates.

For many people there is also a creative part of the research and writing process—a part that can’t be entirely controlled. Here are some common ways that people open a space for new ideas.

Idea Generation
Walking

Shower

Driving

“Setting the mind” before sleep

Research on writing productivity shows that “snack writing” is more effective than “binge writing.” In other words, writers who write in small, regular doses produce more than those who try to write in long, high-stakes sessions. For this reason, it makes sense to schedule a regular time and place to write so that you relieve yourself of the decisional burden of trying to figure out when and where to write each day.

Nevertheless, there is a role for what I call “retreat space.” I find that there is a kind of deep composition that only happens when I am away from home and am relieved of the quotidian tasks of daily life. Your writing retreat space may be literal or symbolic.

  • You could ask for a writing retreat as a birthday or holiday gift where your sweetie, spouse, parent, housemate, or friends agree to deliver meals to your door and protect your quiet space.
  • You could housesit for a friend.
  • You could go camping (U.S. camping). Look for cabins and yurts. If it’s winter, reserve now for summer.
  • You could try AirBnB.
  • Find could find an affordable hotel.

Where do you write?

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