A Writing Environment for the Attention-Span Challenged

When I was in high school, I had a friend who could focus like a laser on his work no matter what was going on around him. If an IED has gone off next to him he would have just scratched his ear (assuming he still had one).

I often wish I had that guy’s ability to concentrate. Alas, I’m a member of the “Attention Deficit… oooh… shiny…” club and have trouble enough mustering the mental presence to put my socks on, much less do anything like homework, or, say, writing.

Even so, there’s hope. ADHD people’s brains naturally set at a somewhat lower level of stimulation than average. To help bring their brains up the average level, these folks instinctively engage in forms of self-stimulation (Hey! Get your mind out of the gutter!) like fidgeting, singing, or jumping rapidly from one task to the other, quite possibly without finishing things. That means I can do the same.

Back when I was growing up, we were too busy fighting off saber-tooth tigers and pursuing wooly mammoths to know about ADHD or ADD, but I’m pretty sure I fell into the category for many years. Even today, I am pretty distractible.

So, I prefer some particular elements in my writing environment. If you’re attention-span-challenged like I am, maybe some of these will be helpful to you.

Oh, but did I ever tell you about the time I was at the beach doing yoga, and my cheap swim trunks were wet, and it turned out they were translucent, and… Oh, sorry. Must… con… cen… trate. Whew.

Background noise. I can’t write with actual music going on and Heaven help me if there’s a TV playing, but some kind of ambient sound helps me focus. I often write in coffee shops and the buzz of conversation provides a stimulating sonic backdrop. If I’m writing at home in my basement office, which used to be the laundry and utility room, the hum of the HVAC equipment and the dehumidifier keep me alert. Of course, there’s always the option of putting on a recording of white noise, or something similar, like forest sounds.

Visual interest. I tend to look up and around a good bit when I’m writing; it gives me a little shot of brain-stim. Given this proclivity, environments with something to look at are best for me. My cubie at the day job is plastered with pictures and such, should I decide to spend a lunch hour of writing there. Coffee shops again, are great because they are designed for visual interest and have the added benefit of all the foot traffic going back and forth. In my home office, I’ve got my paintings on the walls and a couple of crazy-colorful homemade furniture pieces, which include my writing desk.

Comfort, but not too much. I have reached that point in middle age where I love my easy chair. Really. I would love to write in it, but I fall asleep whenever I try. Sigh. Instead, I go for seating that will support my lower back and not be too hard on my old bottom. Some kind of support for my arms is also desirable. I find my cubie is best in this regard, since it has good office furniture designed to accommodate someone chained there for long periods. I have a good office task chair at home, too, and I built my writing desk to accommodate long stints at the keyboard. Coffee shops vary in furniture comfort and quality, but they have the best coffee.

My correctly oriented head. The three preceding paragraphs describe preferences, but, in truth, they are not necessities. What is necessary for me is a brain with the right contents. A good attitude, a willingness to work, self-discipline and a story idea or two are what really make the writing flow. When I can bring these qualities to the keyboard, I can write even in a poor environment. It may not go as well, but it goes, and that’s the great thing.

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