My very first creative writing teacher was the great Joanna Russ, teaching a short story class at the University of Washington. Nothing like starting at the top, pedagogically speaking! I admired her so much, and found all her books in the library to read. I loved her teaching, but I remember wondering why she spent class time discussing setting up an environment conducive to writing. It didn't seem important to me, then. I thought anything would work--write on the bus, write at the kitchen table, write on a typewriter, write in a lined notebook. Now I understand, though, that she was right. For a working writer, the environment matters.
I still write at the kitchen table occasionally. I certainly write in coffee shops. But I realize, just now when I've met my recent deadline and am beginning a new book, that I've devoted two days to re-establishing my writing environment, re-adjusting my surroundings in order to re-adjust my brain for the new world I'll be inhabiting for the next few months.
The first thing, for me--and it's not for everyone!--is cleaning house. Old notes get jettisoned. File folders of research get cleared out. The house gets cleaned. Yes, the house. What does that have to do with my creativity? I have no idea, but I know I need to do it.
I also change the wallpaper on my computer. When I was working on The Brahms Deception, the wallpaper was travel-themed art. As I wrote The Crystal Butterfly, it was a sort of Art Deco clockwork concoction in dark green, really beautiful and moody. I've just chosen a new one on DeviantArt.com that looks like a piece of vintage jewelry writ large across the screen. It should be perfect for working on The Sapphire Estate!
My good friend and colleague Cat Rambo writes everything in beautiful longhand before she transcribes it into her computer. Another friend, Brenda Cooper, seems to be able to write on all sorts of devices, including an iPad. I lug my laptop everywhere I go, and as long as I have that--with the proper wallpaper, of course!--I can write in hotels, on airplanes, or even right here in my own (now very clean) study.
The late, great humorist and writer Erma Bombeck (The Grass is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank) began her career in her garage, setting up her typewriter on a board braced on two boxes, and forbidding her brood of children to bother her unless they were bleeding. I wonder how many of us would be really creative in that environment? She certainly was, and her bibliography proves it.
So--the environment is ready. Somehow, that helps to put my brain on the right track. Here we go--again!