My preference of when and where to create can alter from book to book, week to week and year to year depending on changes in my life situation. For instance, when I had small children at home, I needed peace and quiet in order to write. I wrote early in the mornings before my family woke up, closed away either in my home office or propped up on pillows and under the covers in bed in my spare bedroom. And I would revise what I'd written during breaks at the part-time law-office job I had at the time.
Now that the kids have grown and moved out of the house, I feel stifled sometimes by the confines and solitude of my home office. I often write in coffee shops where there's background noise, but not noise that's directed at me--as was the case when I was raising children! I also write outside sometimes when weather permits.
Long ago, I noticed that ideas and words seem to flow more freely from my mind into my fingertips and onto the page or computer screen when there's water nearby. Since I live in the landlocked great plains and don't have an ocean, river or stream within easy driving distance, my husband and I have turned our backyard into our very own tropical paradise, complete with palm trees, lush foilage and flowers, and even a waterfall. Watching the water trickle over the rocks, listening to the soothing, musical sound of it, somehow frees up my imagination. (To read a good discussion on the topic of water and creativity, click here.)
Famous 20th Century patron of the arts and author of The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (1933), Gertrude Stein, also found inspiration more easily in a certain environment. Purportedly, she connected most easily with her "muse" while in her parked car, where she would often sit to compose poetry on scraps of paper!
Sometimes, despite the right environment, I get stuck. Walking is a tool I use to come up with ideas, dislodge writer's block, or solve plot problems. The fresh air clears my head as I let my mind wander. I don't know why walking works, but it does. The fact that I burn calories and tone up in the process is an added bonus!
Rituals can make all the difference, as well. Many writers and other artists complete rituals before starting their work for the day. For instance, writer Toni Morrison is said to drink coffee while watching the sunrise before she begins her work for the day.
While writing THROUGH HER EYES, I began a ritual that I've continued. I make a music soundtrack for my book and listen to it often while I write. I search for music that captures the tone of the story. Since lyrics interfere with the words in my mind, I only use instrumental music, usually from movie soundtracks. My playlist for THROUGH HER EYES included music from the soundtracks of the movies GIRL INTERRUPTED, THE MOTHMAN PROPHECIES, and IDENTITY. For my book THE SHADOW GIRL that will be out next year, I listened to BENJAMIN BUTTON soundtrack and to the music of violinist Leila Josefowicz.
When I sit down to write, listening to the soundtrack I create for my book helps me to immediately reconnect with the world of my story.
What is your best creative environment? Do you engage in any rituals before you begin each creative session?