I've always wondered how writers can sit in coffee shops to work. With the sound of traffic outside, with people coming in and out to grab a takeaway order, people sitting at other tables and talking, waitresses collecting cups, others taking orders and using the coffee machines. So much noise would make me want to scream. I can understand the need for a caffeine drip, because sometimes there are just days where I wish I had some red bull in one of those hats, with the straw that hangs beside your mouth. That would be great, convenient too! Yet the need for background noise confuses me and believe me, there have been times where I have felt that I needed a change in location to work. But when I say change in location, I'm thinking of an isolated hilltop, the beach when the sun is coming up or in a still forest. Somewhere quiet.
You know when you go out for lunch at a new restaurant and you find that there are way too many tables cramped into a small space, therefore you are almost sitting at the same table as complete strangers. In these situations it can often be awkward, but after a while you get used to pretending they are not there. But some things your brain cannot block out when you having a conversation with the person in front of you, and suddenly you hear the words "...and there was a parrot flying around the room with his watch in its mouth." Although you didn't hear the rest of the conversation and what you heard is quite out of context, you need to know what else the parrot was doing and you find yourself desperately straining to hear the conversation, whilst listening to your own at the same time. I went a little off track there, but I think I put my point across, how are you supposed to let yourself become immersed in your story with conversations like that going on beside you?
According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, background noise affects people’s health by increasing general stress levels. When every electrical noise making devise is off in our house, nobody is driving past outside and if I sit completely still and close my eyes, this is when I feel at my most calm. When I am calm and relaxed, with no stress causing nasty barriers in my imagination, this is when I can play the story out in my head. This is when I can work out, where they are going, who they will see and why. I can't deal with noise; noise is like pollution on my creativity. Since I began writing, I have tried so many different routines; I have probably broken some kind of record. But what I found works best for me is complete silence. If my partner wishes to use the television, he knows that he needs to use his headphones for me to continue with my work. I know, I'm a pain to live with, but I just can't work with the noise. I am the world’s biggest procrastinator and although writing is my biggest joy in life, if there is something else going on, I will be distracted.
Don't get me wrong, if I'm in the zone, I'm also pretty good at tuning out. Neighbours, cars, TV, phones, people talking to me (woops!). But that is just not an everyday occurrence. As I've said before, sometimes there are days where you just have to force yourself to sit down and type. These are the days when a perfect writing environment is really necessary, which is something I spoke of briefly in my post 'Getting back in that writing routine!'
I've seen a lot of posts on the social sites recently, where people have been discussing the music that they listen too whilst they write. Classical, I can understand, it’s the closest form of music you can get to white noise. It's calming, relaxing but for me, still distracting if I'm not in the zone. Other music, with singers and words, again I find mystifying. How can you not find yourself singing along? I would be and if I'm singing along, I am certainly not writing.
When I'm trying my very hardest to concentrate, I build myself up so that I feel as though I am standing on the edge of a cliff, trying not to slip over the side. The last thing I need at this point is distracting noise to break my concentration and send me plunging over. When I'm there, I have this moment when I pause and wait. Wait for the sound to; drown out, cease or for my ability to tune out things to kick in. When it doesn't go away, that feeling comes over me, the one you had when you were a child. When you stick your fingers into your ears and make noise to drown out the sounds of everything else.
If you are like me and you "MUST HAVE SILENCE!" then here's some tips for you, if it really isn't possible to do the simple thing and get rid of the noise altogether.
1. Find noise that works for you that drowns out everything else. Be it, classical music, white noise, pink noise or the sound of a cat purring.
2. Move locations. Go find your silent paradise, whether it is hidden away in the national forest or in your coat closet.
3. Calm yourself. When you stress yourself out, everything else in your life triples in its ability to distract and frustrate you. Breathe in and out, whilst counting to ten. Meditate, this can help improve your ability to cope with the noise and in turn, get back to writing.
I would love for you to tell me in the comments section below, how you deal with your distracting background noise?