Dealing with noise in a communal writing space

Dealing with noise, noisy environmentsBefore I move onto Getting Organised Part 2 I thought I would drop in a quick post:

The lovely Firestarawesome from Deviantart dropped me a comment regarding writing space. In my last blog post I mentioned getting your writing space organised, tidy and removing / reducing distractions.

Firestarawesome writes:

 “Very helpful tutorial. Sadly, I don’t have a writing space and I can’t find one myself, as my computer is planted in the living room; the room full of talking and noisiness. It really puts a hinder on my mood. Do you have any advice besides listening to music? I really want to be able to write in my room, but I can’t move my PC without asking my parents, and they’ll say ‘no’. :/”

I can relate to this, when I was younger I shared a room with a noisy older sister who listened to awful boy-band music *cringes* and watched bad TV.

In the living room I would be contending with bickering parents and a younger, hyperactive brother usually surrounded by equally his hyperactive friends.

Originally tapping away at a typewriter (wow does that make me sound old or what!?) I used to make so much noise that they would often leave just to get away from the din I was creating! 🙂

When we got our first computer it was put in a communal room. I soon realised this was rubbish and so after I got a weekend job and saved every wage for months I was able to buy my own and thus got some peace. By this time my sister had moved out and I got the computer mounted inside the wardrobe of my room.

So, I do appreciate that it is not always possible to have a personal room for writing (and believe me when you finally get it, it’s heaven!).  So, here are my suggestions on dealing with this situation.

Let’s start with the obvious:

Music – Drown out the noise of TVs, voices and the like with your own choice of music. Get a good pair of headphones (noise cancelling headphones are best) and crank up your songs.

Now music itself can be distracting, especially if its lyrical and you can find yourself replaying the same favourite song or singing along. If you feel you might do this, may I suggest instrumental music or even music in another language.

I love listening to Julie Fowlis, her albums Mar a tha mo chridhe (As my heart is) and Cuilidh feature beautiful songs all sung in Scottish Gaelic. Her voice is gentle and bright and if you don’t know of her, I recommend you check her out.

NB: Julie Fowlis did the song Touch the Sky in the Disney animated movie Brave

You could also try classical music – now I know just saying that usually has people pulling a face. I used to hate classical music when I was younger, but as I got older I did start to appreciate some (you can blame my partner for that!)  You can’t (easily) sing along to classical music (not that I don’t sometimes give it a damn good try!) Classical music is also good for evoking emotions.

Here are some of my favourite classical pieces that have evoked many a scene without detracting my focus from the writing. Have a listen to them on YouTube. (ahh don’t we all love YouTube!)

  •  Für Elise – Beethoven
  • Danse Macabre – Camille Saint-Saëns
  • St Paul’s Suite (1st movement) – Gustav Holst (what I refer to as “The Pirate Song”)
  • Le Onde – Ludovico Einaudi

Background noise – How about trying to dull the noise with your own. Nature CDs are good for this, you know the kind that has babbling brook tracks or chirping crickets. These are usually quiet enough not to disturb the other people in the room but can help to softer their noise.

I have a lovely CD called Thunderstorms. I love it, use it for sleeping, meditation and sometimes when I write in places were other noises occur. The CD starts with a rainstorm, goes on to thunder and then eventually quietens. It really does pull you in.

Earplugs – if music of any sort just doesn’t let you concentrate then you could get yourself some earplugs. At times I used the soft foamy ones that workmen use when working with power tools – the ones that go into your ears rather than the massive ones that clamp around your head. They are good for moulding into the shape of your ear.

I would recommend if you use these that you inform people of the fact, this is to reduce the likelihood of being scared to death by family members coming up behind you and suddenly touching your shoulder without first waving for your attention.

Ask – If your family / room mates etc are amicable you could try asking them to keep their chatter and TV down to a less disturbing level. If there is only one person, see if they would be willing to use headphones while watching the TV. Don’t overstretch this though, if they are willing to be quiet, give you space or wear headphones don’t force them to do it all night every night. Maybe for 30mins to an hour per writing session.

Embrace – If all else fails, try and embrace the noise. While it can be distracting you will eventually get used to it. Some writers actually like the bustle of background noise. Your tastes may change – I originally needed loud music to write, and found that certain songs would help put me in the write frame of mind for my story.

Now I write in silence most of the time, so that nothing interferes with the voices of my characters. Other times I find the silence quite stifling and so will open the window so that the quiet hum of traffic waffs in.

Embracing the noise is annoying and a struggle. My thought on this is, if you can’t do any of the above – try the embrace option. And by that I mean, write. Tell yourself to write 300 words. It might take you 2 hours and it might be awful! But do it anyway. You can always edit it later when it’s quiet. In the end, just writing anything will help to solidify your writing schedule and develop a routine which is what you need as a writer.

Plan before you write – If you have to write in a noisy environment you can lessen the distraction by knowing what you are going to write beforehand. If you have a set of notes for the chapter/scene you are writing you will be more likely to chug through it than if you are sat, staring at a blank screen “waiting for the muse’s touch” all the while listening to the blare of (insert inane awful reality TV show noise here).

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Happy writing


NB: Picture purchased from

3 thoughts on “Dealing with noise in a communal writing space

    • Hi hun, just thought I would check in and see how you are doing with your writing – did you manage to get your own writing space or are you still writing in a communal space?

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