Creating the Right Atmosphere for Writing

Anna Burgess Yang
2 min readMay 18, 2021

Getting into the writing mindset each time I sit down.

An aerial view of a cup of coffee and notebook on top of a drawing of a cityscape on a desk
Image created via Midjourney

I used to think that writing was something that would strike me at random times. And while it’s true that ideas will come out of the blue, the actual act of writing is something that has become a daily ritual.

A yoga instructor once said to me, “It’s not called yoga perfection; it’s called yoga practice.” The same is true for writing, and the ongoing practice has led me to be a better writer.

Part of this practice involves setting aside buckets of time where I can tell my brain to go into “writing mode.” Because I sit at my computer for far more than just writing, I have tried very hard to create a distinction between “writing time” and “other work.”

What I have found to be effective is to change the room just enough so that I know it is time to focus on writing. I do this through scents and music.

I have a huge selection of candles and incense. I’ll select one and light it.

Then I’ll use my Amazon Echo to play music. Favorites are Ravi Shankar for #5amwritersclub focus work, d&b or Paul Oakenfold when I’m running up against a deadline or needing to power through a draft, and spirited instrumentals like 2Cellos, The Piano Guys, or Chopin when I’m outlining or not working on something too intensive.

And when I’m feeling sluggish and can’t get through what I need to finish, I raise my desk to a standing position. Standing while writing forces me to keep going — mostly because I get tired and would very much like to sit down but promise myself that I won’t until I’m done.

I have to be careful to reserve my scents and music selections only for writing. By doing this, I have found that it’s easier to get into the groove of writing when I need to work.

Today, I need to work on a “shitty first draft” for a 4,000-word e-book. Knowing my pace, this will likely take me 4–5 hours. It won’t be pretty, but it will be words on the screen and give me the basis to go back and start crafting a better draft.

After Ravi Shankar and white sage incense at 5:00 am this morning, I have 1,000 words done. Next up: d&b for the next 1,500, which I hope to finish by midday. And then will wrap up the remaining 1,500 this afternoon. Intermingled with meetings and other things throughout the day (like picking up my daughter from preschool).

This particular project is so intensive that I’ll likely also need an extra dose of caffeine and some chocolate… but I’m determined that by 3:00 pm today, it will be done.

Anna Burgess Yang

Productivity geek + solopreneur with niche expertise. #5amwritersclub frequent flyer. •