Creativity Lab: Your Writing Spot

Creativity Lab is our new blog series that uses scientific studies to help find ways to make your writing life creatively enriching.

Why Find a Writing Spot?

Whether it’s the window seat at your local coffeeshop or a nook hidden in a quiet corner of a library, finding a spot where you can get lost in your own world for several hours straight is critical to your success as a writer.

But you can choose the wrong writing spot. You may wish to be surrounded by your favorite books, but if you keep getting distracted from your writing by that book you want to re-read just one more time, your script might never get written. Coffeeshops are a good choice, but if colleagues and friends keep stopping by to chat, you may not get much done.

So how do you find a place that nurtures your creative work without detracting from your productivity?

From the Lab

A study published in the Journal of Consumer Research called “Is Noise Always Bad? Exploring the Effect of Ambient Noise on Creative Cognition” found that a moderate level of ambient noise (70db) enhanced the subjects’ performance on creativity tasks. When the tasks were performed with a high level of noise (85db) their performance declined.

The conclusion of this study stated that a modest amount of background noise — comparative to the level of background noise in most coffeeshops — can create enough of a distraction to encourage people to think more imaginatively.  

There is no scientific proof that caffeine improves creativity, but here’s a blurb from a Livestrong article detailing how caffeine improves concentration:

“In a 2005 study by Florian Koppelstätter and colleagues at the Medical University at Innsbruck, Austria, fMRI scans determined that caffeine promoted increased activity of the anterior cingulate and the anterior cingulate gyrus in the prefrontal lobe of the brain. These specific areas are involved in planning, attention, monitoring and concentration.”

These traits may be less related to creativity and more related to productivity, but I would argue that staying concentrated helps a writer maintain a state that best helps them tap into their divergent thinking skills.

Over at AmySuto.com I explained how  creativity is broken up into two parts: Convergent thinking (the process of combining and sorting out the best ideas) and divergent thinking (the process of creating ideas). Of the two, divergent thinking can be substantially improved, whereas convergent thinking is more crystallized. As screenwriters, we can improve divergent thinking skills through cognitive fluency exercises, such as freewriting or participating in Word Wars with your friends. More on this in a later article!

Based on the above research, a coffeeshop or another location with a fountain or steady level of ambient noise will serve you best.

How to Choose a Creatively Optimal Writing Spot

Here are some more tips for picking the best writing spot:

  1. Have some background noise like a murmur of people, a fountain, or something of the sort.
  2. Only be used for creative work in order to create a mental association. No Facebooking, Tweeting, or Emailing allowed!
  3. It should be somewhat out of the way so you can write in peace, but not so isolated so you can’t people watch. When searching for inspiration, the best place to look may be around you.
  4. Your writing spot should be a comfortable temperature.
  5. It should be accessible, but still removed from your daily life. Your writing spot should be a sanctuary of sorts. It’s your place to get away and disappear into the world you’re creating.

Now get out there and start writing!

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