In my quest to become a more productive writer, I've learned that where I write has an enormous impact on my ability to enter a state of "flow," or deep concentration.

While I had known that where I wrote mattered for a long time, I decided to test the idea out a bit more "scientifically" a few years ago with an experiment. I wanted to see how I could improve my writing productivity by finding the "right" place to write. 

I tried writing in several places: My kitchen table at home, where I had already been writing many of my blog posts; a Starbucks that I had never frequented before; a restaurant; and an office in a shared working space where I could close the door and work in a quiet and enclosed environment. 

I recorded some basic facts about each session on a spreadsheet, including where I was at the time, when I started writing, when I stopped, and my word count. 

The verdict?

I found that my most productive place to write was my kitchen table.

As fascinating as that discovery was, I've changed my writing space several times since that little experiment. I've written on different desks in our apartment, and I've tapped out several first drafts of articles on a note-taking app while lying down in bed.

Finding a cozy and comfortable place to write has also helped some of the most prolific authors, like Roald Dahl, the popular children's author who has entertained millions of children, including my own. 

In a 1982 interview with the BBC, Dahl gave a tour of the hut behind his home where he did his writing. Propping himself upright on a comfortable sofa chair, and laying a sleeping bag over his legs, Dahl demonstrated how he began his routine by sharpening a container of six pencils in an electric sharpener, and then writing on a small tray that he placed over his legs.

My history professor in graduate school, Jonathan Spence, wrote the first draft of his highly acclaimed book on modern Chinese history at a popular pizza hangout on campus. 

To borrow a term from Chinese metaphysics, these writers all discovered what I call their "writing feng shui." Feng shui --which in English literally means, "wind and water" --refers to the idea that your location, your position relative to other objects, and your orientation toward a particular direction such as east or south, all have a big impact on the essential elements of life, like your health, your luck, and your ability to generate wealth. 

Of course, you don't have to understand or believe in "feng shui" to appreciate the importance of finding an environment where you can relax, concentrate, and write more productively. Here are a few ideas to help you find a place where you can get more writing done:

1. Find a spot with minimal distractions.

Of course, the best place to write is likely to be one with no distractions at all: No noise, nobody interrupting you. But this can often be hard to find. If you're in a public space like a coffee shop or squeezed into a seat on an airplane, you'll need to accept that you'll be surrounded by potential distractions. 

Tune out the noise around you by listening to music or audio tracks without lyrics. There's an abundance of free music tracks on YouTube with sounds of water lapping on the shores of the beach, for example, that I sometimes listen to when I need to tune out distracting noise.

2. Identify the best time to write.

Where you write is very much tied to when you write. That busy coffee shop where you're writing might experience times of the day when it empties out, removing potential distractions. If you write from home, and you don't have a writing hut like Roald Dahl to retreat to, you'll have to navigate your family's schedule. Writing early in the morning before my kids wake up--or in the evening, after they've fallen asleep--has given me the space I need to get my writing done.

3. Get comfortable.

Comfortable room temperature? Check. Soft and loose clothing? Check. A cup of coffee or tea at hand? Check. These are a few of the essential items I need before I settle down and start writing. Your check list of things that help you get into the right frame of mind might look different, but you'll want to turn yours into a routine so you can minimize the time you spend on these things and maximize the time you spend on your writing.

4. "A/B test" your writing space.

Like digital marketers that conduct A/B tests on their blog post headlines, you'll want to experiment with different writing spaces to see which one allows you to be at your productive best. Keep track of your writing productivity levels in different places with a spreadsheet or a notepad so you can compare.

Published on: Jul 30, 2018