Cut Out the Distractions

scrivenerfullscreen

The hardest part of writing for me is to cut distractions out of both my workspace and my mind itself. Last Saturday, when I decided I was properly inspired and ready to write, it quickly became clear to me that my desk was simply too messy, so I cleaned instead. Then I blogged. Then I played WoW.

The screenshot above is of an epic poem I’m working on in Scrivener, a fantastic word processing program that I need to write a review for ASAP. One of the neat features of Scrivener is the ability to shift into full screen mode and cut out all the distractions in the background. I turned down the opacity so you can see what I’ve got in the background there, and it’s easy to see how I might have trouble focusing if I didn’t normally keep the rest of the screen blacked out: iTunes, Adium (instant messaging), iPhoto, etc.

My brain needs a bit of distraction to produce, to be honest, but it depends on what I’m working on. If it’s a research paper or an essay, I have to have music in the background. This distracts the creative portion of my brain, allowing me to think more linearly and logically and just bulldoze through the words I need to get on the page. But if I’m writing a creative piece or a poem, I have to have silence or I can’t hear myself think, narrate, or compose.

I like to have the window next to my desk open (or rather, the blinds open) so I can glance outside while working; having something to occupy my eyes sometimes helps my brain meander on its own, when staring at a blank page or desk would cause me to look inwards too much and stall.

There’s a fine line between having too many distractions and having just enough (and just the right ones) to keep myself going. What distractions help or hinder your work?

What’s your working space?

cleandesk

I decided to do some cleaning on Saturday, prompted by needing some room for my Macbook. I kicked myself halfway through the process for not taking a picture before I began, because my desk was all kinds of gross: covered in milk splatters from where I eat my cereal every morning; papers, receipts, books, trash, and dirty dishes crowding the workspace; where the Macbook is now, a large, black tower PC previously resided; the monitor was far closer to the front of the desk.

I needed room to move the Macbook down onto the keyboard tray, which meant I needed room to move the keyboard somewhere else (a giant Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000, which I HIGHLY recommend; more on ergonomics on Wednesday). I’d previously been using the laptop on the small table in our formal dining room, and the height was too high to be comfortable for my arms. And I also wanted to move my desktop (which still drives the Dell LCD monitor) down onto the floor.

My rather small desk was originally purchased to fit into my bedroom back when I lived in a townhouse with a couple mates of mine. The room was maybe half the size of my current office, and between a twin bed, this desk, and my computer chair, it was packed. Obviously, height rather than width was a priority, but now that I have room to spread out, my desk can be occupied by more personal rather than just essential items.

Up top are two pictures. On the left is my niece Lynette, who died in a car accident in 2001. She’d just had her senior pictures taken a month before she died, and I keep my favourite on my desk where I can always look up and see her smiling.

The picture on the right is of my wife April and me on our first date (which happened to be on Valentine’s Day in 2006) and serves as part of the frame for a wood carving from my friend Cody. This may be one of my favourite gifts ever, and has some good inside jokes built into it.

Stubbs was my nickname from grade school (based on my last name, Stublefield), and doing a roundhouse kick above my name is Chuck Norris in all his glory. To the left of my name is a cutout of the pope holding a staff, a reference to my nick in Counterstrike for a long time: The Pope (followed later by Gun Totin’ Pope when my doubles teammate ditched out on me; our team name had been The Fundamentalists, despite the fact that I wasn’t Christian at the time). The words on the right say, “It’s DM Magic!” For those of you who know, dmmagic is my new(est) online nick, and I’ve been slowly converting accounts to it for the last year. This is a reference to my many years of running Dungeons & Dragons for our group of friends, and it became a catch-phrase for explaining why something happened the way it did.

Below all this are my Klipsch speakers, which flank my various D&D manuals and my collector’s edition of World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King.

I refer to the D&D manuals occasionally when writing fantasy fiction, and the Ptolus book is mostly there to remind me of my hubris and what not to do (I should probably write an in-depth review of Ptolus some day…).

What’s your working space like? Do you keep it cluttered or neat? And are ergonomics a primary concern for you or just a big word you could care less about?