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August 7, 2015

The Importance of a Sound Environment (@satiswrites)

English: Hurst Castle : Basement Room This roo...
English: Hurst Castle : Basement Room This room - like quite a few in the castle - was used to store gunpowder. Today it's a bit damp at high tide so if we went any further our socks would get wet. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
by Chris

I apologize in advance if this is short, rambling, and/or incoherent. I’ve spent the last month moving house, which as I understand it is one of the most stressful life events there is, right up there with deleting your Facebook account. Our new house is still filled with unpacked boxes (and probably will be for some months to come), and I’m grumpy because I can’t find the sugar for my coffee.

Whenever you move house, you end up prioritizing what you unpack, naturally. First you need your clothes, then your pots and pans, food, etc. A little later, you can think about setting up the TV and internet (unless you’re me, in which case that comes before everything), and somewhere way down the line you think about getting back to the things you normally do on an everyday basis.

For me, of course, that would be writing. Except … I haven’t actually written a word of my current work in progress in nearly four months. It’s a genuine frustration, because I really want to get my second book out there to the world, and focus on finishing off my third. But I’ve just not had any motivation lately, and although it’s taken me a while to figure it out, I suspect I know why.

You see, for the past year I’ve been working in a dim, windowless basement, with no view to the outside and no concept of the passage of time via true daylight. It wasn’t necessarily by choice; the house we were renting at the time was great for us in many ways, and at first I thought it’d be no big deal; after all, I’ve worked in much worse environments than that in the past.

But as time went on, I found myself increasingly reluctant to sit down at my computer and actually do any real writing. I’d spend most of my time on my iPhone, playing games or browsing endlessly through Facebook and Flipboard, but I’d never go and sit down at my computer. On the occasions that I did, I would get up and go do something else within a few minutes.

Eventually it dawned on me that I dreaded sitting down in front of my computer to do … well, almost anything. And after a while, I started realizing that it wasn’t the process of writing I was dreading (not entirely, at least), but rather the environment in which I was doing it. I just couldn’t be cooped up in a dingy basement for hours on end

To that end, I’m delighted to say that in our new house, I have a full-on office all to myself, with wood-paneled walls and two big windows—daylight abounds. For the first time in a year I’m actually finding myself excited to sit down and write, and I think that the fact of having natural daylight is a huge factor in that. Now, I’m not saying that daylight is the key to a good day’s work (although I’m sure it helps), but rather that the environment in which you work is highly related to the quality of the work you do, and the motivation you have for doing it. For years, I’ve dismissed those who write in coffee shops as pretentious posers; now I think I understand. Sometimes the environment you have at home simply isn’t conducive to getting your work done.

So now I’m sitting at my wonderfully clean desk (never mind that all the papers are still waiting to be unboxed), ready to go at it again. Here’s to a productive next year, in a productive work environment. What do you think, incidentally? How does your immediate environment affect your ability to do your work?

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  1. I think the environment can really set the tone of your subconscious anxiety, so a really chaotic one doesn't let me relax enough to do good writing (or studying). Also, I moved to this, my first house, in October 2014 and I still have stuff in boxes and still have to fully unpack kitchen stuff and ring things from storage but there's always something more fun to do like read or watch TV. But I guess that may help me purge a lot of junk when I get to finishing unpacking, because obviously I don't need at least half of it ;]