Every writer wants to be better, but there are only two ways to go about it: reading more and writing more. It takes consistent practice in both these areas, over the course of years, for your skills to naturally develop. There are no shortcuts. However, there are a few things you can change instantly that might help you write more effectively—or at least more efficiently.
Choosing Your Surroundings
If you want to be a better writer, you need a better environment. You wouldn’t expect a track runner to achieve the same speeds on a muddy course in windy, raining conditions, right? That’s because no matter how good you are, you’re still limited by what your environment allows you to do.
If you want to be a better writer, experiment with these seven environmental changes:
- Invest in better furniture. You already know that the quality of your furniture can have a massive effect on your productivity. Why? Because you’ve had at least one experience sitting in the uncomfortable chair and not being able to focus on anything going on around you. Office furniture is an investment, and it can help you achieve higher productivity and maintain better physical health at the same time. For example, a more comfortable, properly structured chair will allow you to maintain better posture and better focus on your work. You might also invest in a standing desk, depending on your preferences.
- Put on some low-level music. You won’t get more done by head-banging to your favorite album blasting through your headphones, but some low-level music can help you write more efficiently. The type of music isn’t as important as your personal feelings toward that music. If there are types of music that distract you, or put you to sleep, avoid them—instead go for music that you find personally enjoyable, without too much of an extreme in any direction. The background noise will help fill the gaps in your mental frameworks, and may inspire you to write more creatively.
- Produce stimulating fragrances. Aromas aren’t exactly magical, but the right fragrances can have a powerful effect on your level of productivity—as long as you choose the right scents. Orange, lavender, and peppermint are just a handful of aromas demonstrated to enhance creativity and productivity (while lowering stress and anxiety). The method of dispersal doesn’t matter much here—incense, candles, and diffusers are all options—as long as you’re getting the scent, you’ll experience the effects.
- Hang some visually appealing artwork. Creativity is often sparked by external stimuli, such as visual artistry, so decorate your office environment with art to ignite your imagination. The more diverse and thought-provoking your collection is, the better. When you see this art, your brain should head in a number of different directions (or no direction at all, with some accompanying gut reaction). It should force your mind to wander, and when it does, you’ll be at the top capacity for coming up with great new ideas.
- Ditch the distractions. There’s evidence to suggest that chaotic, full environments encourage greater levels of creativity, but that’s not an excuse to allow distractions to meddle with your work. If there’s a TV in your home office, get rid of it. If keeping your phone next to you when you work serves to distract you with calls and texts, put it in a drawer. It’s a good thing to keep trinkets, art, and other objects in your work area to occupy you when you’re solving a tough problem, but there’s a big difference between a break opportunity and a distraction. Here’s a good rule of thumb: if something pulls you toward it, it’s a distraction. If you have to consciously, independently decide to pursue it, it may not be.
- Know your coworkers. Having intellectual or amusing conversations with coworkers can help jumpstart your creative process. No, you don’t get to pick your coworkers, but even if you aren’t surrounded by other creative types, you can still get what you need by getting to know them a little better. Make small talk. Ask them about their weekend plans. You’ll give yourself a mental break from work, engage your communicative faculties, and best of all—you’ll make yourself feel more at home in the workplace by making new friends.
- Nothing’s working? Change your environment entirely! If you’ve tried all of these strategies and you’re still struggling to achieve your writing goals, just go somewhere else! Try to get some work done in transit, or head to a café with free Wi-Fi. There’s evidence to suggest that the low hum of white noise in a place like a coffee shop can have a massive effect on your productivity levels, and of course, the change of scenery will also be refreshing. It’s easy for your ideas and vocabulary to become stale when you’re only ever in one place. Spread yourself around.
These seven changes will make a drastic difference in the quality and efficiency of your writing. You’ll find yourself coming up with better ideas, finding the phrasing you want at a faster rate, and ultimately getting your work done in far less time. You’ll probably reduce your stress levels while you’re at it! So what’s stopping you? Change your environment now, and start reaping the rewards.