Dr Amy Birch, Centre for Research Staff Development
Over WriteFest 2018, I have hosted a number of Shut Up and Write! sessions where researchers have space, time, and peace to write. I have been delighted with the number of people I have met and the engagement they have brought into the sessions. Often our discussions in our short or long breaks from writing have focused around recreating the Shut Up and Write! experience in their own workspaces, so I decided to write a blog this week that could summarize all the tips we have discussed for creating the perfect writing environment.
However, as a serial procrastinator, I have found I will use any excuse not to write. This meant that even with all the things I know about creating the perfect environment for my writing, I still decided that I needed to find the perfect images of clean vs. messy writing spaces before I could start writing this blog! It was pure serendipity that I happened upon this great vlog that summarized most of what I was going to write, albeit with more references, and better narration and production quality.
I hope you enjoy – as the title suggests, this is intended to help you create the best study space; however, the same rules (and distractions) apply to creating your perfect writing environment. This is an American vlog, so here are some more UK friendly links to standing desks in a range of sizes. Did anyone say Black Friday deals?
Thomas Frank has created lots of vlogs to (his words) help you be more productive – check them out on his Youtube channel. You can check out the study spaces gallery here, and get a free version of Cold Turkey Writer here.
Writing well can be a tough task, no matter how seasoned a writer you may be. Good writing often comes from stumbling across the perfect formula for you, in which all the conditions to foster creativity are right. For many writers, the place where they write feeds into that formula.
I realised early on in my PhD that my formula involves inconsistency. I would have a productive day at a library or cafe and rush back the next day expecting similar results, only to have a miserable day that would conclude with me having strung together a few feeble sentences of my thesis. So I now alternate between libraries, cafes, and my living room couch, finding that the constant rotation in setting drives my writing.
As part of WriteFest 2018, we’re putting on Shut up and Write! retreats throughout November, which are a great opportunity to escape your usual surroundings and access protected time and space to work on your papers, chapters, and grant applications. If you can’t make it to King’s this month and are based in London, you can still make progress on your writing in one of the many quirky and interesting locations around the city.
Check out some of my favourite writing spots in London:
The British Library Reading Rooms – If you are looking for silence, these reading rooms are an oasis within the busy clamour of the Euston and King’s Cross area in which the library is based.
The Wellcome Collection Reading Room – a mixed bag of vintage arm chairs, sofas, a winding staircase complete with floor cushions and a ringing telephone that tells you the history of medicine when you answer it. When you need a break, have a wander through the free exhibitions downstairs.
The Barbican – Brutalist architecture, dim lighting, and ample seating and socket plugs. I find the creative vibe inherent to the Barbican often jumpstarts my own creative process.
Parks – Take your laptop or notebook and settle down on a bench in one of London’s numerous parks. Admittedly this might only be an option in warmer weather, but the scenic views go a long way in unclogging my ideas and thoughts.
Look Mum No Hands! – Doubling over as a café/bar and bike repair shop, this venue is a great spot to immerse yourself among other writers and freelancers busily tapping away on their laptops, with caffeine and baked treats to fuel you.
Finally, open yourself up to the possibility of writing anywhere, even when you’re not planning on it. Fragments of my thesis, sentences, and even whole paragraphs uncover themselves in unexpected moments when I’m on the tube or eating dinner, and the ‘Notes’ app on my phone is a handy way to quickly record them before they’re gone. Venture into some of the locations in this post and see if you can discover the right writing place for you this Academic Writing Month!