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This month find out how to impress competition judges straight from the horse’s mouth and learn to make your writing environment as productive as possible in Ten Top Tips, plus writing events you can attend and useful websites to help you on your way in competitions.


10 Top Tips for a better writing environment

1. Whether you are lucky enough to have a room dedicated to being an office, whether you work in the spare bedroom or whether you have to work at the dining room/kitchen table – keep it tidy. If your desk is clear and free from clutter there’s a better chance that your mind will be, too!

2. Make sure you have the necessary equipment. You can still write successfully without access to the Internet, but it does make life a lot easier. A good broadband connection isn’t a luxury. But we haven’t yet achieved the ‘paperless office’ so a filing cabinet – or some form of storage for files – is more or less essential. And don’t forget supplies of stationery and any necessary reference books. You might be able to ‘Google’ any information you need but most writers still build up a library of their favourite reference books.

3. Be organised as well as tidy. When you sit down to write have everything you need to hand. There’s nothing more distracting than having to jump up every few minutes to get something you’ve forgotten.

4. You also need to be disciplined. Some people write better in the morning when they’re fresh. Others can burn the midnight oil when everyone else is in bed. Find what works best for you and then make sure that you fit some time for writing into your busy life. You might not manage this every day but the more regularly you write – just like exercising your body – and the stronger your ‘writing muscles’ will become.

5. Don’t be afraid to be anti-social. When you’re concentrating on your writing let the phone ring and then pick up the call from your answer machine later. Tell family that you want some ‘me time’ for your writing and make it clear to friends that you are working – so popping round for coffee and a gossip isn’t an option.

6. Make sure you are comfortable. Are the light levels right? Is your chair at the right height? Are you sitting at the correct distance from your keyboard and screen? Is the temperature right? Is there enough fresh air/ventilation? If you have to work at the kitchen table rather than having your own office these factors can be difficult to control but try your best – it pays dividends for both your creativity and your health.

7. We hear so much in the media about ensuring that you drink enough water, but it is true. Noting saps your concentration and gives you a headache faster than dehydration. You might need a strong coffee to kick-start your brain but then leave the caffeine alone and drink lots of water.

8. And the same goes for exercise. Earlier, we said that you should avoid distractions but if you settle down to write for a prolonged period, make sure you get up every thirty minutes or so to stretch your legs and take a few deep breaths.

9. You’ll find that it really aids your creativity if you are surrounded by things that give you pleasure. It won’t be the same for everyone but it can be as simple as a nice view from your window, pictures of people or places that you love, scented candles, something to stimulate your taste buds and even – dare we say it – the odd glass of wine.

10. And finally, the easy chair! The previous nine points have concentrated on you working away at your desk, but writing is a bit like an iceberg. There should be plenty of thinking time under the surface of your writing. So, treat yourself to the most comfortable chair you can find, sit back and let those creative thoughts flow…