What is your ideal writing environment? Which room in your house do you find most inspiring? Do you have a particular desk or table you enjoy sitting at? Even a certain chair? Or would you rather sit at a coffee shop. Do you even like to sit at all? Can you think more creatively on the go? Maybe while taking a morning jog or evening stroll around the neighborhood? Speaking of, do you feel the creative juices flowing more strongly in the morning or evening when you write with that special black ballpoint pen? Or is it blue? Or do you feel a greater sensation when you type?? If you do actually write do you only write in a notebook exclusively for songwriting that you carry with you? Or are you okay with scribbling on a napkin or back of a receipt? How do you feel about listening to music while you write? Or do you like silence? And what about your phone that keeps buzzing…?
It is so important to know how you feel the most comfortable when you write in order to set yourself up for success. You want to use your time efficiently, so establishing a curated space that suits your needs as a writer will allow you to generate the most effective product. However, even if you have the perfect space, preventing distractions is absolutely essential to having a successful writing session, although sometimes it’s unavoidable. It is extremely irritating when my thought process is interrupted by the train conductor making an announcement about searching backpacks..ugh! But because my songwriting practices happen more sporadically, I’ve trained my brain to quickly deflect these annoyances. Think about what distracts you most when you sit down to write. Is it the clutter sitting at the end of your desk? That stray dirty dish staring you in the face? Hearing the TV blaring in the living room? Or do you distract yourself from completing a thought because your mind is somewhere else? Whether tangible or intangible, developing strategies to avoid the most distractions possible will ensure more a productive, valuable practice.
I’ve realized that what I’m writing depends on where and how I am doing it. There are three main kinds of writing I am currently pursuing, all of which require a different kind of environment in order for me to be the most successful. Primarily, I am writing songs; because inspiration happens more suddenly, popping up over my head like a lightbulb, I feel most comfortable writing when in motion. And the Voice Memo App is my best songwriting friend. All of Scott’s guitar riffs are saved on that app as well as my vocal ideas. I’ll listen to these memos over and over and over again while walking around the city, to the beat, sloshing around words in my head until they smoosh into the right amount of syllables to fit my melody. When I come up with an idea I’ll sing it into my phone and hash it out a bit further when I find a tiny coffee shop where I can write in my songwriting notebook.
Secondly, I write this blog which craves a more calm, stable atmosphere. I clean up the room first (I say the room because we only have one room at the moment #NYCliving), light some incense, turn on my lamp, and listen to instrumental acoustic guitar music through earbuds. It’s fascinating how the rise and fall in the music effects the intensity of my writing. Either music, or I’ll turn on a fan for some white noise. And I can only use a computer because handwriting doesn’t allow me to record my thoughts fast enough before my hand starts to cramp. I also like to have a ‘To Do’ list next to me, eat apples, and wear fresh socks.. Quirky little nuances like these may seem insignificant, but they all greatly contribute to the success the piece I’m working on.
Finally, I like to write in the stream of consciousness style from time to time. When I am overwhelmed with an emotion that I desperately need to release, I’ll grab my songwriting notebook and write in the back, flipped upside down. Even though it would be more ‘efficient’ to use a computer in order to get the words out faster, this process isn’t about efficiency. There is a serene satisfaction when I vigorously scribble paragraphs, thoughts, phrases, scratching out words, underlining, circling. This is an incredible therapeutic practice I highly recommend to anyone, especially songwriters. I’ll revisit these entries when I’m working on a song that deals with one of these emotional moments. I’ll find more powerful phrasing and vocabulary in my stream of consciousness writings which more deeply impacts the lyrics. I can write this style in any setting, preferably in my comfy red velvet chair, but it has to be in the back of my songwriting book.
It’s taken me a long time to determine the formula I use for these different styles of writing, a lot of trial and error. But if you are serious about taking your writing to the next level, I think it’s important to figure out what works best for you. I know now that I can’t just sit down and say ‘I’m going to write this particular song right now.’ No matter how badly I want to finish a song, if I approach it with that attitude I will just be wasting my time and energy. That may be totally different for you! You may only be able to write a song if you dedicate a chunk of time exclusively for its completion. If so, I admire you for that! In the end, no matter what style of writer you are, you want get to know your writing habits more intimately in order to set yourself up for the greatest chance of success.