How to trick your brain and create the perfect writing environment

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By Melissa Tagg

Here’s the thing: I wish I could do ALL my writing on languid Saturday mornings…slow and relaxed and unencumbered by things like, oh, you know, the need to actually get dressed and go into the office and interact with the real world.

But once I signed my first publishing contract, I realized in order to do that whole “meet the deadline” thing, Saturday writing was no longer going to cut it. I needed to write during the week. Like, kind of a lot. Never mind the fact that I have a day job and a social life and an admitted “need” to indulge in things like bubble baths and pleasure reading and the occasional Netflix binge.
Like Never Before
While I often write in the early morning before work–my peak brain time!–in my busiest of writing seasons, when a first draft deadline bumps into an editing deadline bumps into a book release bumps into real life, I find I’m sometimes forced to write during my less-than-ideal times. Which, for me, would be evenings after a long day of work. That’s when my brain goes limp, my creativity goes into hiding and my every impulse is to just sit on the couch and eat chips and salsa and think about nothing deeper than which pair of flannel pajamas pants to wear to bed.

I think we all probably have those times of day when the writing comes easier…and times when it doesn’t. But just recently I decided I was tired of complaining about night writing! (And all the friends who have ever heard me groan about writing after work said “Amen!”) Instead, I decided I needed to find a way to make evening writing work for me. I needed to figure out how to be productive even when I wasn’t mentally at my peak time of day.

I needed to trick my brain!

And that’s when I got the idea to recreate my morning routine–what, for me, is my perfect writing environment–at night!

So here’s what I did…

• I got all the usual evening stuff out of the way–working out, eating dinner, unwinding
• I changed into my pajamas
• I grabbed my favorite blanket and plopped on the couch…and let myself take a mini-nap. (20 minutes tops! No TV, no music–the goal is to let all the clutter that fills up your brain during the day sift away)
• After the quickie nap, I spent a few minutes praying, reading a devotion, just like I do in the morning, while drinking a cup of decaf coffee
• And then I wrote…

I wrote for two hours. And it felt…well, it felt weird at first. Because I was pretending it was morning when it was very clearly night.

But I did the same thing the next evening. And the next. And, folks, I honestly think I started to fool my brain. It’s been working for me ever since!

I don’t know what your best writing time is. Maybe you’re an afternoon writer or a night writer. I think as much as possible, if we can shift our big writing pushes to those times of days when our brains function at their best, that’s really the ideal, yeah? But we’ve all been in those seasons when our ideal time just isn’t enough. Or our ideal environment–whether it’s a quiet library or buzzing coffee shop–isn’t possible.

But we are storytellers…which means we’re basically pretenders! So when it’s not our ideal time of day or our ideal environment, why not try pretending it is?

Melissa Tagg Nov 2014Melissa Tagg is a former reporter, current nonprofit grant writer and total Iowa girl. She’s also a multi-published novelist, writing romantic comedies in the banter-filled style of her favorite 1930s and 40s classic films. Her latest book, Like Never Before, was named by Publishers Weekly to their spring 2016 “Religion and Spirituality” Top 10 list. When she’s not writing she can be found hanging out with the coolest family ever, watching old movies, and daydreaming about her next book. Melissa loves connecting with readers at and on Facebook and Instagram.

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