As with so many things when it comes to writing, the sort of writing environment that will work for you will vary for each person. So it's important to keep in mind that when I talk about "what works," I'm speaking from my own experience, and maybe the comments of a few fellow writers here and there. It's by no means universal advice or a set of rules that you must follow.
I'm a guy who's fairly easily distracted. I wouldn't have it any other way. Four years in the Navy, four years as a wildland firefighter, and nine months as a defensive handgun instructor have taught me situational awareness at all times. The slightest noise or flash of movement catches my attention. I may not be 100% focused on it, but I'll know it's there and I'll be keeping an eye on it--whether I want to or not. This habit keeps me safe and aware. It also distracts the heck out of me when I'm trying to write.
Everyone is different when it comes to their attention span and their ability to focus on a particular task. Writing is supposed to be fun and enjoyable, but when it comes to your writing environment, I believe you sort of have to approach it as if it were homework. Determine what kind of person you are when it comes to attention span and focus. Are you easily distracted? Can you effectively multitask or does doing multiple things decrease the quality of your work? Can you focus 100% on one thing and one thing only, even if bombs are going off in the street?
We all want to write the best we can; that's why I believe it's important to ask yourself these kinds of questions. For many of us, writing may be just a hobby. We've got "real" jobs, and maybe a family to take care of and spend time with. But if we're serious about our writing and we want to make the best end product possible, we can't approach our commitment to that quality lightly. We have to take it seriously. We have to determine what sort of environment works best for us when we're writing.
For me, that means a relatively isolated environment. It means I'm in my room with my door closed. It means I don't have the TV on and I'm not hanging out with friends on a chat channel somewhere. I'm not watching videos on YouTube. I'm not checking Facebook. The only things open on my computer are the files pertaining to the particular piece I'm working on. I probably have music playing, but it's most likely music that inspires me for the piece (we'll get into things that inspire me in another post). This sort of environment is admittedly somewhat boring. But that's the point. It allows me to shift my focus to my writing, which gives me to opportunity to put forth my best effort. And trust me, I can definitely see the difference in my writing between the times I was focused, and the times I was not.
I encourage all my fellow writers to take a moment and look at the environments they're in when they're writing. Figure out what works best for you. Do everything you can to set yourself up for success. Sometimes people claim they just don't know what to write, or they've got writer's block. In my experience, an environment that's not conducive to writing can sometimes be the culprit.
See you next time!