In my last blog post, regarding How to be a more organised writer, I mentioned getting your writing space organised, tidy and removing/reducing distractions. The lovely Firestarawesome from Deviantart dropped me a comment regarding writing space, specifically communal writing areas.
“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 as 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 (at least that was how I saw it).
In the living room I would be contending with bickering parents and a younger, hyperactive brother usually surrounded by his equally hyperactive friends.
Originally tapping away at a typewriter (wow does that make me sound old) I used to make so much noise that they would often leave just to get away from the din.
When we got our first computer it was put in a communal room. I soon realised this was not suitable and so after I got a weekend job and saved every wage for months, I was able to buy my own. By this time my sister had moved out so I now had a bedroom to myself.
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 are best) and crank up your songs.
Now music itself can be distracting, especially if it’s lyrical and you can find yourself replaying the same 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 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.
- 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 sounds 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 soften their noise.
I have an album called Thunderstorms. I love it, use it for sleeping, meditation and sometimes when I write in places were other noises occur. It starts with a rainstorm, goes on to thunder and then eventually quietens.
Earplugs – if music of any sort just doesn’t let you concentrate then you could get yourself some earplugs. At times I use the soft foamy 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.
Ask – If your family / roommates 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 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 you will be more likely to chug through it than if you’re 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 here].
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