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Hey Writers, Ambiance Affects Your Mood & Thus Your Writing

January 3, 2015

I’m sitting at a window in my kitchen. It is morning. A New Year is on the brink of setting proudly off like a firecracker, but I am up to nothing explosive. I am bending my morning body to perform familiar tasks through the haze: make coffee, let the dog out, get the laptop, start writing.

I and you have probably done this a thousand times. If you are the ritual type, you’ve got all sorts of necessary add-ons at this point. There may be music or no music at all. Perhaps you must have your feet snug in specific slippers or your grip on that pen you got from Grandma circa 1989?

Whatever the particulars, if you have particulars at all, you are probably not going to find anything that I am going to say revelatory. You might as well eavesdrop from here on out, imagining those unlike you,  unaware of the influence of ambiance.

It’s true. True and stupid and not at all above ridicule. I never call ‘ambiance’ AHM-BEE-AH-NS, by the way, preferring instead a more vulgar pronunciation of –“and beans!” said very crudely, as though following a jolly exclamation (however out of place anywhere on earth it would be) of

Franks and Beans!

Ambiance is the “and beans” of things, the stuff you have to consider after taking care of the stuff that really matters.

Alright, so I’m ambivalent about it. Then good. Let’s not take our beans too seriously.

If you are Stephen King, putting the final gory touches on a scene of decapitation in the dark, you’d probably do it justice while writing from a colorful pit of foam balls. But if you are a less determined writer than King (and no doubt far less overdetermined as well, thank goodness!), then you might benefit from some spiritual feng shui. Stage your writing space thoughtfully. Plant the “and beans” with care and just watch the bounties you’ll reap come harvest time.

Here’s my view this morning.

Photo on 1-3-15 at 8.00 AM #3This is the view through my writing window. A world of half weather, iced-over snow and leaf-strewn bare ground. No sun. No shadows deepen the shoulders of the tree trunks in the distance. Everything is flat, coldly out of sync with itself. My favorite part of the scene are the sled tracks that trek boldly over the ledge in the back there. I wonder if viewers will piece together a rowdy backstory to explain those precarious tracks.

No music is right as the accompaniment to this view that swallows my eyes every time I look up from a sentence, whether satisfying or not. This view is all that I get for my efforts: inchoate tundra.

And because much of writing (and all that we are ultimately to reap from the writing life) is mental rather than material, the careful writer will here change the vantage to improve the view. The view matters, so alter your point in relation to it.

Here’s what I settle for:

Photo on 1-3-15 at 8.00 AM #3Ah, that’s more like it. Touches of every kind of bold weather and clime. Here is snow as well as autumn waste. And those tree trunks along the horizon! Notice the perfect way they skirt the light, hiding the sun? This is the perfect scene for the imaginative. It is nature’s coloring book, lightless and undefined, an open landscape perfect for the writing I am now perfectly prepared to undertake.


So forget about the FRANKS next time you’re running into writing obstacles. Pay attention to the AND BEANS and watch as nearly everything changes (or not) as a result, guaranteed.

From → writing tips

  1. “Nature’s coloring book, lightless and undefined”–perhaps you’ve just found the words for why winter inspires? (Inspires me, anyway).
    Thanks for the quietly thought-provoking post.

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