Does When and Where You Write Really Affect Your Productivity?

When you write can make a difference in your results.You can find tons of advice about when and where to write. Some experts say it’s best to write early in the morning. Some say it’s best after lunch or late at night. Some say do it at the same time every day. Others say do it in the same place, while still others will tell you to change you location–one day in our office, one day in your living room, another on your deck (weather permitting). Then there are the coffee shop writing proponents who think you can get your best writing done at a table in a busy Starbuck’s while sipping your favorite brew. I’m sure someone might also think it’s a good idea to bring your computer to a bar and sip a beer each night as you peck out your daily quota of words (another hotly contested bit of advice).

So, does when and where you write really affect your productivity? I’d say that when probably has an affect, but it’s different for each person. I might work great late at night, and you might work best in the morning. I might also be able to knock out a chapter to my book or an article on deadline even when I’m a bit tired because I know I have a deadline, but a deadline might send you into a nervous tizzy.

The point is: You have to know your own rhythms and follow them–and they might change day to day, week to week. You have to learn to listen to them.

As for where you write, personally, I do like to change this up a bit. I’ll sit on my deck, where it’s beautiful and airy, or in my living room when I want to write more creatively. But my office is more conducive to getting things done. I work fast in a coffee shop; I don’t want to be there long. You have to figure out where you are more productive.

I heard something yesterday while at the San Francisco Writing for Change Conference, though, that reminded me of a class I used to teach about creating sacred space for writers. Paul Hawken, best-selling author of six books including Blessed Unrest, Natural Capitalism and The Ecology of Commerce, opened the conference with a keynote speech, during which he mentioned that if you write in the same place and at the same time every day, “presences” will come. Call them muses or spirits, it doesn’t matter.

He also said, “Remember what you do as a writer is sacred. Make your writing sacred.”

If you want to sit down each day and see and feel that the writing you do is, indeed, sacred–that the task you undertake is a sacred one, you might want to make the time when you write and the place where you write evoke that sense of sacredness. In this way you can invoke the presences Hawken mentioned.  To do this, consider creating a sacred space, when you sit down to write.

Doing so is easy. You can:

  • Light a candle.
  • Play soft of spiritual music.
  • Create a little altar with a candle, flowers, pictures of your favorite authors, or anything you find inspiring or spiritual.
  • Meditate just prior to writing.
  • Say a prayer or speak an intention before beginning to writing.
  • State your purpose or mission before you start writing.

Anything like this will set the mood and create a sacred space.

Then, as Hawken said, “Write for the presences.” And see what happens if you do this on a regular basis.

Do you have a certain time or ritual you use that helps your writing productivity? Share it in a comment.

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