Distractions or Solitude

When I sit down to write, the t.v. has to be off, the dog had to be sleeping and the husband has to be busy doing something other than talking to me. I also need the right temperature and generally, no other noise like music (although sometimes I throw on something classical to drown out background noises).

Distressed WriterWe all have ideal working conditions for writing / working. My husband will have 80s tunes playing (rather loudly) when he’s doing class prep. I’d be too busy singing instead of writing. And I actually find the low drone of his music annoying even though he is a couple rooms away.

I know other people who will go to coffee shops or libraries but for me there are just too many distractions. They are great places to do research but for the the actual act of writing they don’t work for me. I don’t like to be interrupted and I’m too tempted to people watch.

In fact, if I get more than a few interruptions I tend to get downright, what’s the word… ornery. You can ask anyone I’ve worked with and most certainly my husband.

Of course if I waited for the ideal work conditions I would never get anything done. So I take the ideal 10 – 15 minutes wherever I can slot them in. Because lets face it, the rest of the world won’t stop for us. Maybe it does for Oprah but it doesn’t for me.

So tell me (us)… which environment works best for you and why? What is you’re “ideal” environment and what do you suffer through?

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  1. I work best on the bed with things spread around me and the tv going in the background. It has to be something I would like to watch, though; reruns of things like The X-Files, Star Trek, or favorite horror movies are the best. Once I have something semi-interesting on the tv, I can work really well. There’s a name for this, but I can’t recall it right now. It’s related to white noise. The tv keeps the editor part of my brain busy so that the writing part of my brain can get to work. This is also related to how people get really good, creative ideas when they are driving, showering, something like that. The “front” of the brain is occupied with the simple task so the creative part is free to run wild.

  2. I work from home and I usually can tune out traffic and street noises, the dog barking at something out the window. However, I can’t work, which entails a lot of writing, or write my novel if the TV is on. Typically, I don’t have any music on, but if I did it would have to be classical. No Rock, pop, blues. Nothing with lyrics. It’s too distracfting.

    On the flip side, I can work in a cafe. To me, the clatter, chattering and all the human and canine activity around me is white noise. If the noise dies down and I hear someone rambling away on their cell phone that’s when I find it distracting and I pack up and leave.

    For the most part, I don’t go to cafes anymore. Partly, my laptop is heavy and I don’t want to schlepp it, but it’s also finding too many people on their cell phones mindlessly chattering about nothing in general.

    When I was in grad school, I discovered that the best way to study was to go to one of the graduate reading rooms that had locked, soundproof “reading” closets to study and write. Whenever I did this my test scores were always in the A+ range.

    That leads me to wonder if I soundproof and black out the window in my home office could I manage to write a Pulitzer-winning novel?


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