A Time and Place to Write by Jack Popjes

You’ll never find time to write, but you can make time. And when you make time, you need to make a place as well. Productive writers know that time and place tend to be connected. It has to do with what actors call body memory.

Actors don’t just memorize and say their lines in isolation. Everything they say and do is connected to what they said and did before—the actions they are performing, the direction they are facing, and their location on the stage. On a 25-city speaking tour, I repeat the same 30-minute speech—word perfect and move about the stage in exactly the same way each time. My body memory keeps me on track and when I walk onto the stage, I start instantly without hesitation.

The same is true for us writers. Once we have developed the habit of writing every day at a fixed time and in a fixed place, our body memory will help us get into instant action. We sit, we put pen to paper or fingers on the keyboard, and we start writing—instantly.

Making a time and setting a place will depend on the individual writer’s life circumstances. At a certain time we writers go to a specific place—a room, a workstation, a table in a corner, a chair, the backseat of a car—and after a few dozen times there, it becomes the place where we write. The moment we sit down and open our notebook or boot up our laptop, our minds and our bodies are ready for action.

I tend to get up an hour before my wife does. I make myself a fresh cup of coffee, take a handful of roasted almonds, and sit in a recliner. While my laptop boots up, I eat a few almonds and have my first sips of coffee. Then I start writing my diary entry for the previous day, read some scripture, and write a prayer while planning the day’s schedule and making an action list.

Clutterfree WorkstationI have another set time during the day when I sit down at my computer in my study and work on specific writing projects. I tend to keep the same schedule as much as possible and have little trouble getting started. I have used rubber earplugs to block out distracting voices. Usually I play instrumental music—Mozart or Bach for some types of writing, smooth jazz for others. Clutter distracts me. I try to keep things put away, but I often just shove all the papers and things in my immediate view into trays and stack them behind me. Out of sight, out of mind.

No matter when or where we write, one thing is sure: to make time we will need to sacrifice something else. My granddaughter writes during 15-minute breaks from her work at Tim Hortons. She gives up the chitchat with other workers having a break. I go to bed early, cutting back on reading or television, so I can get up earlier to write.

When we plan a serious conversation with someone, we set a quiet, private place and time. We do this also in our prayer conversations with God. And when we converse with ourselves as we write, we need to follow this same pattern: set a distraction free time and place.

It’s the way He designed us to live and work creatively.

Jack Popjes started writing stories for their missionary newsletters during the decades he and his wife were Bible translators in Brazil. For the past 20 years, he has blogged weekly on missions, church, Christian spirituality, and Bible translation. His current blog is INsights & OUTbursts. He has print published three books and e-published two books of story based articles—all selected from his blogs. His storytelling ability makes him a popular speaker. jack@jackpopjes.com


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1 comment

  1. Tracy Krauss says:

    I agree that having a specific place is very helpful in getting into the writing rhythm

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