Seasonal Affective Disorder and You

Tuesday evening was one of the first of the season that I got to sit on my front porch.  As I sat in my favorite spot with my laptop, I took comfort in the fact that there were many more days ahead of me such as this.

I do not exaggerate when I say that it rains in the fair city of Portland eight months a year.  And in the winter it’s dark by 5 p.m.  But this is the time of year when Portlanders crawl out of our musty homes and feast on sunshine.

During those winter months I do most of my writing in bed and watching it rain outside.  Suffice to say that my porch offers a lot more motivation than my bed.

I have never been the type of writer who could work quiet room.  Put me in a solitary hovel where I’m disconnected from life, and I will pound my head against its sensory deprived walls.  I need noise (but not too much) and people (but not too many).  I enjoy working at home, but I tend to seek out places with a little hustle and bustle.

So the warm, sunny season is a welcome change for me, and not just because of the relief from seasonal affective disorder.  Sitting on my porch is a change in environment.  I can watch the world go by on my busy street and write while (somewhat) in the comfort of my own home.  There aren’t too many distractions but there’s just enough noise to keep me stimulated.

Writing in a suitable environment can be a challenge for some writers, and most people know what they need to be productive.  Here are a few things to keep in mind.

Make it comfortable.  I’m not just talking about your desk and chair.  I’m talking about everything around it.  The space should be inviting and make you want to be there.  Even if it’s the kitchen table, this is a sacred space, so take care of it.

Always have headphones.  These come in handy when Tiny’s Coffee is on a Pandora station that doesn’t jive with me.  Or when my partner watches distracting YouTube videos.  Trust me, these things will save you.

You can’t control everything.  You’re going to forget the headphones, or your notebook, or your charger.  You’re going to be distracted by the awkward date at the table next to you.  Your roommates are going to interrupt you.  These are simply distractions.  Things in your environment are going to be out of your control, but you can’t let them deter you from your work.

Change it up.  A change of scenery is healthy and nourishing.  We become stale if we get caught up in our habits.  Change your environment periodically and don’t become rooted in one place for too long.

Remember that this space is sacred.  It may be small or it may be a shared space.  But it is not insignificant.  It is a space where you do your most treasured work.  Approach it with care.

I’d love to hear how you carve out your space.  Feel free to leave your comments below.

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2 thoughts on “Seasonal Affective Disorder and You

  1. Great post – love the video as well :p

    I try to write at the university library. Ironically I hardly ever used it while I was actually studying, but now that I’ve graduated and have time to focus on my own projects, it’s a very effective work environment. Everybody’s busy studying, so there’s no distraction in terms of other people talking, while at the same time I’m in the company of people being productive, which helps me to focus on my own work. Or, during Summer School, there’s hardly anybody else up there at all, which is a different energy, but just as good. Also a nice view out over the waterfront and down to the sea. And I try to go up to the top floor. I think the altitude definitely plays a part in how effective of a writing-space it is, though whether this is just a placebo or some actual scientifically-provable thing is beyond me.

    Now that I’ve moved onto revision, though, I can do it almost as easily at home, because it’s a different kind of focus. I can also listen to music while revising, something I can’t do while writing. But the library still seems to be the most effective spot. Plus it means I’m surrounded by books, which I think helps in more ways than I know.

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