How to create a physical space that inspires you to write

It’s been a long time since I’ve described myself as a writer. But it’s always been something I’ve identified with internally, if not externally. I feel more articulate when I write, even if it’s just putting together a helpful message for a friend or an email at work rather than stumbling through a conversation where my desire to observe competes with my need to communicate.

As I re-enter the world of writing, I’m starting to seek out motivation any place I can and it hasn’t gotten any easier this time around. It’s not just finding the ideas — I have a long list of titles for future blog posts. It’s finding the motivation.

In my experience, three main things cause loss of motivation in almost any area, not just writing: lack of interest, lack of inspiration and lack of confidence. While you can’t always force inspiration to appear out of thin air, you can design your environment to increase the chance that inspiration will hit by creating a space that addresses these three challenges.

Creating space to create (Photo by Lisa Fotios from Pexels)

Lack of interest

It is often said that when a writer isn’t interested in what they’re writing, chances are their readers won’t be either. Interest begins with the subject matter that an author writes about. But it extends to interest in writing and even interest in being present in the environment where you write.

An author won’t want to be in a writing area that’s not interesting and that will translate into the author not wanting to write. To keep yourself coming back to your writing, you’ll need to want to keep coming back to where you write. Some simple things can be done to make an interesting writing area.

1. Make it varied

Monotony rarely works for anyone. Hang a wall calendar so that your walls change monthly. Set up things you can change easily. For example, have your computer and chair placed so that you can move from one end of the desk to the other when you get bored. Or simply completely relocate. Try writing on a chair outside or sprawled on the floor of your bathroom.

2. Set up a place that is optimised for writing

If you can do this, it means you won’t get sick of being in that place and you won’t have to associate that place with boring things. If not, make sure your writing area is one that can facilitate ‘getting in the zone’ when you transition to writing from some other activity. For example, if you write by hand rather than your computer, make sure there’s space to break out your writing materials rather than squeezing in around your computer or other devices.

3. Get rid of distractions

While it’s good to have variety to get the creative juices flowing, you still need to make sure it’s not more interesting than the writing itself or you’ll never get anything done. Remove reading material and internet connections unless you need them for your writing or are very focused. Open your laptop writing medium — see what I did there — in full screen so task bars and notifications don’t grab your attention. Put on noise cancelling headphones, with or without music, to cut out unhelpful noises.

Lack of inspiration

This is similar to a lack of interest in that a boring work space can stifle your inspiration. However, inspiration is specific to your piece not merely general interest in writing. Inspiration is integral to writing, that is clear.

Things that intrigue me personally, include history, psychology, puzzles, sport and, of course, design. You have to find the things that get you excited and spark a desire to write. Make sure in this well-saturated world, you pick and chose inputs that include those topics that you can’t help but sit on the edge of your seat when reading or talking about them. Surround yourself with articles and objects and pictures of that topic.

When working on a specific piece, surround yourself with the things that inspired you to write that piece. If you don’t remember what first made you want to write that particular article or story, find related things that make you think of that piece with excitement.

Lack of confidence

Low numbers of likes, clicks or reads. That’s the modern day rejection slip, although I hear those rejection slips still abound as well. Negative feedback, or no feedback, can crush confidence and make writing seem almost repulsive. Aside from constantly reminding yourself that only you decide whether or not you’re a writer, there are some practical things you can do.

1. Collect the inspiring feedback

This can include both the good and the bad. And it can include both the big and the small. The important thing to capture is how that piece of feedback made you feel. If it inspired you to keep writing, capture it.

Had 10 people share your post? Mark it in your diary. Engaged a reader in some healthy debate? Print out the comment section. Sold or posted a piece of work to a publication you respect? Frame it.

It can help to gather all these in a central place so you can go back and reflect on them again when you’re out of inspiration. Try to re-enter the moment and remember when 10 shares felt like a big thing. It will keep you inspired and humble.

2. Decide what you like about what you write and own it

Select passages of writing that you think really worked, regardless of what other people have or haven’t said about them. Again, keep them handy to read when you feel like your writing is never up to scratch. It’s okay to write for yourself sometimes.

3. Figure out what is important

If you have lots of respect for your agent, remind yourself of their positive comments. If you think your online critique group knows your writing the best, take what they say as important. Place a reminder of the important critiques in your working area. Don’t disregard any critique but scale your reaction based on how important it is in the context of your network and your career. Is it really worth loosing motivation over?

In summary

Take a minute to look at the space where you’re writing. Is there something you can remove or add right now to make you feel more like writing? If so, do it. If not…

Get writing.