As a Mental Health Practitioner, I have been experimenting with well-being exercises that support my writing, and I want to open up discussions about writer’s well-being.
Well-being is defined as “the state of feeling healthy and happy” by the Cambridge Dictionary. Thus, there are multiple facets to our health and happiness than just our mental health, which can impact each other.
Today I want to discuss your Physical Environment.
[Usual Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional and please see your GP if you feel you require any form of support for your mental health. If you live in England, every county has access to a free IAPT psychological therapies service. Additionally, The Samaritans are a free, confidential listening charity, and you can contact them on 116 123 if you need to talk.]
Environment :: Physical Space
These days, the minimalism and de-cluttering movements have really moved into the foreground of our media, and de-cluttering your habitat can create a sense of clarity in the mind.
This consideration is a little less focused on ‘research’ and a little more on trial and error; finding what works for you.
Some writers have a favourite spot to work: some like the simplicity of the sofa, while others have a specific desk with inspirational images surrounding them. For others, a busy coffee shop gets their head out of the house, and allows for people watching.
Personally, I switch between the sofa and kitchen, because I tend to edit at the kitchen table, looking out over the garden, but I know I would struggle to write there, due to all the distractions.
Finding Your Space
As I mentioned above, this is a pretty personal consideration, and what works for one person may not work for another. However, the key is to try different options. Even if you feel your current ‘space’ works for you, it never hurts to have the full knowledge of each possibility.
I’d definitely recommend trying different environments multiple times; if possible, during different stages. This is how I discovered that editing downstairs works better for me.
Equally, things change. Every few months, I tend to get that ‘restlessness’ sensation, and I find tat moving to a new environment, such as typing in bed or up in the spare room can just give that ‘refresh’ feel for the restless mind. So make sure you ‘update’ your knowledge of what works every now and again.
Ember and Smoke are my two biggest distractions. Ember particularly likes to sit across my arms, or keyboard. When planning in your writing time, it can be helpful to really reflect on the distractions in your life, and plan a little around them. What works? What doesn’t?
Equally, do you work best with a pretty view, or do you end up bird-watching instead?
Are you someone who is inspired by lots of photographs and quotes around your desk-space, or do you need everything to put clean and tidy for that ‘tiny mind’ feeling?
Taking time to reflect on what is working can really help increase our productivity, when we use that knowledge to influence our writing environment.
Changes to Routine
Sometimes, things we barely even think about any more don’t quite work out. This is another thing to really consider planning ‘alternatives’ for, so that you can still access as optimum-as-possible an environment to make your progress in.
For example, if you normally have a strong coffee before you begin writing, it’s helpful to have a process in place for when you travel, or if you were to run out at short-notice: do you have a ‘back-up’ that will still give you that caffeine boost?
Similarly, if you’d usually write from 9am-11am because your child is at nursery, what is your plan for getting at least a tiny snippet of time to write when s/he is unwell, or on those days the nursery isn’t open?
Sometimes, we can’t make a substitution, but in a lot of cases, planning ahead can actually allow us to still make some progress, even if our environment is less-than-perfect.