Creating a Soothing Writing Space

With the current trending news climate, many of us may be experiencing a little more time at home than normal. For writers, this is a golden opportunity to get through all the projects that we’ve started and been meaning to finish. Personally, I’m plotting out my Camp NaNoWriMo while also planning to finish two short stories and make some changes to an old manuscript that was submitted as my master’s thesis.

However, our quest for solitude might not be as easy as we think. A global pandemic might mean that we’re not alone in our own space. Children might be sent home from school, spouses may be working from home, a whole 20-pack stack of toilet paper may have moved into our office space, Netflix’s delightful programming might seem even more delightful – there’s plenty of possible distractions.

So, what can we do about these distractions in order to get the most out of Armageddon? Well, through trial and error I’ve come up with a couple ideas to create a calming writing area to get stuff done.

1) Turn Off or Limit Social Media

Social media is a great platform to market yourself as an author and promote your books, but it’s also a black hole of panic – especially when it comes to world affairs. While yes, the memes coming out of the thing are hilarious, there is also a lot of misplaced panic and misinformation being spread as well. Therefore, for your own mental health and focus, it’s a good idea to take a step back. Not worrying about the latest trending hashtag helps you get into a writing frame of mind: calm. In addition, it also helps you avoid that late night social media spiral that keeps you up and leaves you unrested and irritable the next day.

2) Take a Walk

Before you sit down to write, it doesn’t hurt to get out of the house for a few minutes and take a walk around the block – especially if you’re feeling a little cabin feverish. As a very cliché coffee shop writer, I’ve been finding myself having a difficult time not going to my favorite coffee shop with my laptop or a notebook to write. So, I’ve been doing my best to recreate the coffee shop setting at home. However, I’m not going to lie, the cabin fever has gotten to me a bit. That is why I’ve found that going on a short jaunt around the park across the street kind of helps to get those jitters out. Fresh air definitely helps. If you have a garden you don’t even need to go out for a walk you can just enjoy the outdoors from the comfort of your backyard. It will help get you into a relaxed frame of mind where you can think about writing.

3) Recreate a Chill Space

Like I said in my previous point, I’m a writing cliché, I love to write in coffee shops come the weekend. However, since recent global events have left my part of the world on lockdown, I need to find alternative ways. So, in my quest to carve out a place of my own to write, I decided that since I couldn’t go to my coffee shop, I’d bring the coffee shop to me. That meant that I cleared a little nook at the dining room table where I lit a rose-scented candle, played a little café jazz music on a playlist, and brewed myself a cup of coffee. In these uncertain times, it’s basically all about the little joys in life. So, carving out a portion of paradise for yourself is just what you need in order to keep writing during this time. Whether it’s your living room couch, bedroom, kitchen counter, or elsewhere, pick a place in your home where you can set up a nice little nook for yourself. It doesn’t necessarily have to be exactly like mine, but it should make you feel good and safe. So, that could entail putting yourself a vase of fresh flowers, setting out some yummy writing snacks, playing your favorite music, wrapping up in your coziest blanket – whatever relaxes you and inspires you to write.

Hope you’re all keeping well and staying safe! Happy writing!

Travel Writing: How to get inspired by your vacation

Vacations. They’re a time that we so desperately need every once in a while to de-stress, relax, and unwind. And that came come in various forms for people, depending on their personal tastes. Some of us like to veg out on the beach for two weeks straight with a daiquiri in one hand and a mojito in the other; some prefer to get lost down the winding streets of some charmingly medieval European town; others prefer to get up at the butt-crack of dawn to go on a sunrise hike followed by morning yoga then another several other high-intensity activities throughout the day. Whatever your vacation style is, there is one thing we can all agree on: as writers, vacation time can be the perfect inspiration for writing – so long as you can find the time.

I recently returned from a trip to Malta, and as I was sipping my morning latte while watching the sun rise, the thought occurred to me: how exactly do you make your vacation work for you? A writer’s work is never done. Plain and simple. While other professions can easily clock out while enjoying vacation, those of us who are writers – either paid or unpaid – are constantly on the clock. The Muses have no concept of vacation time apparently. Here is a list of everything that I discovered while on break that will hopefully inspire you fellow writers to use your vacations to fuel your writing progress:

Set a schedule

I know, I know. This is probably the last thing you want to do, but hear me out. Setting a writing schedule during your vacation is actually a good thing – it means you get actual writing work done. And there is no need to carve out a whole two hours of your day, 20 minutes is totally fine. I personally found that 20 minutes over breakfast in the morning, then 20 minutes before bed was plenty. It was more a way to organize my thoughts and ideas each day. And of course, if you do happen to have a free day where you can just hole up for a couple of hours in a picturesque café or beneath a beach umbrella to write, that’s even better. But if you’re constantly on the go during your vacation, 20 minutes is plenty.

Keep a travel diary

When I go on break, I like to keep a diary where I document everything I saw, ate, smelled, heard, felt, and experienced during my day. For one, even if you don’t do any work on your manuscript or short story, you’re at least keeping your writing muscles flexed. Plus, going back and re-reading your travel diary when you’re home can help you get back into that feeling of awe and inspiration in order to do some creative writing. I have also found that sometimes you describe things in such a nice way, you want to recycle those descriptions into your writing – and that is totally fine!

Learn about the local history through a guided tour

Local history is a great source of inspiration. In Malta, we did several guided tours and day trips and they definitely helped to get the creativity flowing. Learning the history behind that cool-looking building or discovering more about that historical figure will definitely be of benefit to your work at a later point. Some of the stuff I learned about the founding of Valletta and the Knights Hospitaller definitely had me writing down plot ideas for several projects I’m currently working on.

Take in the scenery

Besides being fantastic backdrops for selfies, picturesque places can help inspire ideas. Whether natural or urban, different panoramas can evoke all types of inspiration. I suggest that if you have the time, take a small notebook with you and just start to jot down whatever comes to mind. If you’re in a particular place that you find thrilling, then imagine a scene playing out. It doesn’t have to be a fully realized story concept or anything; just something that can be a starting point for you. And neither setting, either city or countryside, is more beautiful than the other. They both have different kinds of inspiration to give. In addition to taking in the scenery, don’t underestimate the power of people watching. If you’re out to dinner, or on a tour with different people, or chilling on the beach/poolside take some time to observe the scenery between people – those are potential stories waiting to be written.

Airports are the perfect place to write

Unless you’re going on a cruise or planning a road trip, most of us travel to our vacation destinations by plane. Airports are usually over-crowded, over-priced petri-dishes where we go in order to catch a flight to somewhere magical. While they’re no fun, they do provide perfect places for people watching. And following on the point above, airports are a goldmine of potential stories waiting to be written. How many of us have sat in an airport and noticed someone who, for whatever reason, catches our attention and has us wondering, “Where are they headed?” Well, if you’re not doing anything for two hours till boarding, why not imagine their whole story? That woman wearing a fur coat in the middle of summer, the man in an all-black suit with a briefcase, the couple wearing matching shirts – they all would provide a great foundation to interesting characters and storylines.