Weekend: Environment! (Not about recycling or trees.)

Mrph. Not really awake in any sense of the word, but it’s already the afternoon so I should be awake.

So, we’re back on inspiration, this week. Specifically, ambiance. When you’re doing those things you do because you like to do things (write, paint, draw, Sudoku, whatever floats your boat and stimulates your mind), what kind of environment do you like to do it in? Do you like quiet? Do you like chaos and noise? If so, what variety — a cafe with music? A lunchroom? A gang war?

Do you have snacks or beverages? Do you use headphones and blot out the world? If so, what’s playing on them?

For me, while I can often write just about anywhere, I’d say my best case scenario involves a cafe environment. Music optional, but I’m picky about noise — Quiet and unobtrusive is fine, or so loud that it all becomes white noise is okay. The middle range between the two extremes drives me freaking batty.

Generally, coffee or tea or a latte is indicated. It’s always hard to admit drug addiction, but caffeine very much fuels the creative process for me. Give me a good caffeine high and you’ll get me totally in the zone.

So how about you? Sound off!

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12 thoughts on “Weekend: Environment! (Not about recycling or trees.)”

  1. What’s funny is I used to find that my 2 hour each-way commute by lightrail was the perfect environment for drawing and sketching and the things I filled my time with. At some point, I stopped being able to draw with other people around, so now I do my thing on the porch, with nothing but birds to watch me.

    Writing though, I do that best in a vehicle. I’m always passenger, in our truck or on the train, and somehow it works. I agree with you about the noise level. I guess on the lighrail, voices reach that perfect pitch, where it’s all a hum with the sound of the tracks.

    Coffee is a constant. Cassettes of 80’s heavy metal and hard rock mixed with disco and lounge are optional.

  2. It completely depends on what thing I’m doing. If I’m writing, I tend to do best with at least a nod toward solitude. Being in a cafe is all right, provided I have my headphones with me and leave the cell phone in my bag and the wireless connection disabled. I am terribly, terribly distractable until I get going on an interesting tangent, and then I have a pretty serious case of tunnel vision.

    Another creative outlet for me is game design, and that’s very much a collaborative effort for me. My business partner and I have certain rituals that seem to get the juices flowing, many of which involve worrying servers at greasy restaurants (Steak & Shake being the most obvious example) by covering the table with notes, drafts of cards and gameboards and volleying our content back and forth like a verbal tennis ball. As with writing, it can take some time to get going, but once we do it’s an incredibly rewarding experience.

    And, yeah. Caffeine is a good thing. Chai or coffee for writing, Coke or a caffeinated root beer for game development. I do not pretend to understand why these rules exist, but they have become cemented over time.

  3. I tend to write better during lulls at work. Fewer distractions (no TV, no art projects nearby begging to be worked on), and a more stable desk (my computer desk at home wobbles a bit, which can sometimes throw me off of my muse).

  4. Y’know, I’ve never found a set pattern. Sometimes the desk helps to block out distractions until I suddenly find it too enclosing a week later. Sometimes the couch is good to lounge in with the laptop on my belly, but then after a few days I find myself unable to get comfortable. The library will be good for a while until I don’t feel like walking there, which kills the location choice’s momentum and I’m forced to look elsewhere.

    And it’s not just a matter of being picky; they’ll work well for a few days, and I’ll think I’ve found a good spot, and then all of a sudden I can’t stand the place for one reason or another. Perhaps it’s because I’m associating a place with a particular action (whatever I’m working on at the time), and since I change focus so often I throw out the baby with the bathwater.

    Or maybe I’m just oddly picky.

  5. My workspace is utter visual chaos (big piles of debris all around), but I have to have long stretches of quiet (so, y’know, when my mother’s at work or otherwise distracted). I have a desk, but the laptop is sitting at the very edge facing my bed, so I more or less just lie here and work.

    I used to do a lot of good one-shot drawings in class, back when I went to college. Got to the point where I was writing my notes in the margins of my doodles.

    No music, usually. No food or drink besides the occasional bottled water.

    Brainstorming is done best when I’m pacing around the kitchen, listening to whatever music I feel like at the time. Or, these days, at work. I have an hour to myself when I’m running on automatic doing the opening duties, and things just leap into my head and get bashed around and perfected during the rest of the day.

  6. I write on the Metro.

    I have an hour commute each way. I could just sit there and listen to music, but I made a concious decision to use the time for something productive. So when I grab a seat (I’m lucky enough to have one on most trips) I flip open my Fujitsu p1120 ultraportable and start typing.

    I do my best to drown out other voices, as I find I can’t type when I can actually hear people’s words. I crank up any music I have which doesn’t have lyrics (FMA’s soundtrack, Rob Dougan’s lovely instrumentals) and I type till it’s time to get off.

    It was onerous at first, now I find that I can’t sit still on the metro unless I’m working.

  7. Definitely a cafe person myself. Cup of tea always helps get the creative juices flowing. I’m with you on the noise level. I bit of soft music playing, maybe just enough people talking to be called chatter. I don’t, however, want to hear about how cruel the landlady is from 3 table over. I also have an odd tendency to have my headphones on even though I rarely if ever play my own music. I guess I just like the feel of being a bit closed off from the outside world.

  8. I can’t work if I feel like other people are looking at me. I can work at a somewhat reduced level if someone else is in the room and paying attention to something else, but prefer solitude. This is odd, because I also cannot write except on a computer, and also operate at a reduced level unless I have internet access and Adium or Trillian open. I seem to be perfectly capable of working while carrying on a conversation online, but not while carrying on a conversation in person.

    I also work best properly caffeinated, of course, and strictly using Coca-Cola and chocolate as delivery mechanisms for that caffeine.

    And I prefer squalor. I just seem to gravitate to it.

  9. I’m a music person; whichever cd happens to be in the player at the time. If there are other people around, then headphones. If I’m alone, at my cluttered desk, then speakers.

    Dark chocolate and/or green tea when I’m at home. Coffee (usually a latte, plain or raspberry mocha) when I’m out, which means bookstore or cafe.

    The bookstore requires music, the cafe usually doesn’t, because I can’t do loud music through headphones, and store noise filters through, resulting in distracting uncomfortability.

    I forget to eat while I’m creating.

    Not that this means anything because I haven’t written anything since the end of April.

  10. I do most of my writing at around 2 AM, on my bed. I don’t understand how it keeps happening, but as I’m shutting down my computer for the night, inspiration strikes, and I grab my notebook (which was formerly a ledger) and hurriedly scrawl my idea – often I wake up the next morning and have to reread it several times before it makes sense.

    Otherwise, I find I have to do all of my writing in my room, with no music on. Anywhere else, there’s frequently too much distraction, whether aural, visual or another type.

    This might have shifted though – I haven’t written much for about half a year now.

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