SCBWI's Blueboard - A Message & Chat Board

Quiet or Chaos?

Discussion started on


I had a few extra minutes this morning. Thought to myself, hey maybe I can get a few paragraphs in on my WIP. What was I thinking I had 3 kids catapulting bouncy balls back and forth and another playing guitar, loudly, on the couch. I managed one line. I can usually write with "white noise". Kids playing or chattering doesn't bother me. The guitar, while most days I love to sit and listen to my son play, pierces through me when I am trying to write.

Got me to thinking are you a chaos writer or a quiet writer? Do you have to have complete silence to accomplish anything or does the chaos in the background react as a motivator?

Love to know!
#1 - June 13, 2007, 05:19 AM
« Last Edit: June 16, 2007, 01:47 PM by goadingthepen »


I was never one to study with the radio on or listen to T.V. when I was in school.  It's different when it comes to writing.  When I'm writing, I go into a different zone altogether.  My husband could be entertaining his friends, the T.V. could be on or the stereo, nothing matters but the story.

I prefer silence but life will stop for me regardless when I'm working.  But I don't have kids, so I can't imagine how hard that must make it for you to focus!  I would suggest, if they're old enough, you go to them and tell them "Mommy will go insane if you don't let me do this one thing for the next hour!"   :devil:
#2 - June 13, 2007, 05:43 AM



Kids, radios, music, mosquitoes.  Can't start working with any sort of buzzing.  If I'm really cooking, I can keep going despite noise, but to get into work mode, I need quiet.
#3 - June 13, 2007, 05:46 AM

Admins and Mods Emeriti
Poster Plus
  • *
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI Region midatlantic

It makes writing in the summer hard.  I did manage to eke out a little bit at the pool yesterday by hiding in the back under the shelter.  Then some boys came to play four-square, and that was that.  It did give me the chance to study 9 year old boys in depth, should I ever need to write about 9 year old boys.  But then again, I have a nine year old boy so it wasn't anything new.  :)

#4 - June 13, 2007, 05:51 AM
BUSY-EYED DAY (Beach Lane Books, 2018)
GROUNDHUG DAY (Disney-Hyperion, 2017)
VAMPIRINA AT THE BEACH (Disney-Hyperion, 2017)
among others


So it's hard to write with the chaos that is my life.

#5 - June 13, 2007, 05:55 AM
Viking, 2013

Poster Plus
  • *
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI Region nymetro
Now, I need quiet. I wrote my first mg with Alicia Keyes playing over and over again. I agree, summer is hard. I can't stand to hear the lawn mowers and the weed wacking.

Danette  :D
#6 - June 13, 2007, 06:02 AM
G.P. Putnam's Sons
SSYRA List 2012-2013

G.P. Putnam's Sons

Poster Plus
Quiet. Definitely. Unfortunately, it seems there's usually someone in my condo renovating so I don't often get my wish.
#7 - June 13, 2007, 07:56 AM
Film school grad. Time traveller. Billy Bragg fan. Canadian/Irish novelist of character-driven fiction from sci-fi to slice of life.

 Mostly quiet.  I can work with some instrumental music or the white noise of the cafe goers at the B&N cafe, most of the time.  I can't work with that one grating voice that pierces your consciousness no matter know, the woman two tables over who has to tell the whole cafe about her latest nervous breakdown?  I don't begrudge them their venting, but some people just have those voices that can cut glass.  

And my kids, though they don't have "that voice", they usually  pentrate my writer's shield, so I have a hard time concentrating.

Give me QUIET!  please  :laugh:
#8 - June 13, 2007, 07:59 AM
"If you don't get it right the first time, just get it written." ~J. Thurber


I can write longhand if I'm in the carpool line or in a lobby somewhere, but usually that's just note taking or revising.  To type or to write something fresh and meaningful, I need silence.
#9 - June 13, 2007, 08:00 AM

Poster Plus
I like quiet, because writing is meditation for me. It seems like I do my best work after I've been at it for a while and I start to lose myself in the scene, paragraph, sentence, whatever I'm working on. I'm not thinking about anything else; I'm not seeing when I look out the window - I retreat into my story. I even have trouble getting back to that zen state if the phone rings, and I have to talk with someone, and I hang up and it's still perfectly quiet.

It's going to be an unproductive summer, I'm afraid...
#10 - June 13, 2007, 08:37 AM

Poster Plus
Quiet!! Sometimes I'll allow a little music, as long as it's not too fast-paced.

But no one can be home. At all. It doen't matter if my dh is upstairs making no noise at all -- if he's home, I can't write. I think it's the threat of interruption that gets me. If there's any chance that someone is going to break my concentration, I can't get into the zone.

I take the summer off from writing. I always try to have everything in 'rest mode' by the end of June so when the kids finish school, I can just sit back and enjoy the summer. Once September comes, I cherish the silence and feel refreshed and ready to jump back into writing.

#11 - June 13, 2007, 08:49 AM

Poster Plus
  • *
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI Region easternny
I'm a quiet writer, too.  One phone call or request for a juice box, and I'm out of the zone for half an hour.
#12 - June 13, 2007, 09:06 AM

HIDE AND SEEK -Scholastic '13
WAKE UP MISSING- Walker, Fall '13

Books for Kids and Teens
Poster Plus
  • *
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI Region oregon
... I think it's the threat of interruption that gets me. If there's any chance that someone is going to break my concentration, I can't get into the zone....

That's how I feel. I can sometimes do re-writing/revisions when my dh, especially, is home, but it's difficult to work on a first draft if he's around.

Before caller ID, I used to feel I had to answer the phone, because it could be my dh, my mother or my daughter and maybe an emergency.  I had one friend, who no matter how many times I told her I wrote in the afternoon, would always call me in the afternoon.  Even when I managed to get off the phone quickly, it broke my concentration.  Fortunately, she moved out of state!   :D  Now, with Caller ID, I can at least ignore calls that I know are not urgent.   :)
#13 - June 13, 2007, 09:38 AM


What is this "quiet" of which you speak?
#14 - June 13, 2007, 09:54 AM


When I first started writing I was a chaos writer.  It never ever bothered me. 

Now, I'm a dead silence writer.  Need it, gotta have it or zip, zilch,  nada.

However, it's not always that black and white.

When I'm really high on a story, I can write through a hurricaine.  But if I need the least amount of concentration to move it forward, silence is key.

Ultimately, even though it varies based on what I'm writing, silence is always best for me.

#15 - June 13, 2007, 10:13 AM

Reader, reader, reader...
Poster Plus
  • ****
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI Region rmc
I can tune most things out.  Kids bickering gets me every time, though -- so yeah, summer is tough!
#16 - June 13, 2007, 12:27 PM
Teen Books A Guide for Families (Vol. 1&2):
My Blog:


What Miss P. said.  It totally depends.  I can work with noise and activity--don't do *so* well with large dogs jumping into my face.  That's a little more distraction than even *I* can work through.
#17 - June 13, 2007, 04:42 PM

I need solitude and quiet to write and especially when I revise...but with 3 boys it's getting harder and harder to get it.  :!
#18 - June 13, 2007, 04:48 PM
Stephanie J. Blake
MY ROTTEN FRIEND (Albert Whitman, September 1, 2015)
THE MARBLE QUEEN (Two Lions, December 1, 2012)

What is this "quiet" of which you speak?

Something you thought you'd enjoy having when the kids grow up, but when it happens you don't. ;)
Enjoy the noise while you've got it Jaina. OK, I still have a 15 year-old at home, but he's pretty quite.

When I write at home I need quiet. If I'm out in a public place I don't mind some noise. When I illustrate I always listen to music.


#19 - June 13, 2007, 05:22 PM


Gail, I hate to say it, but I may never get the quiet of "kids all gone."  I don't think, given the situation, that I'll ever have an empty nest.  But it's okay, I truly work fine in chaos and my husband is wonderful about giving me a few hours here and there.

I used to do my most creative work in high school and college math class.  Something about having to tune out trigonometry really got me going!  ;)  And yes, my math grades reflected my devotion.
#20 - June 13, 2007, 06:10 PM
« Last Edit: June 13, 2007, 06:12 PM by Jaina »

Got me to thinking are you a chaos writer or a quiet writer? Do you have to have complete silence to accomplish anything or does the chaos in the backgroung react as a motivator?

If I'm in the story, chaos, quiet, it's all the same.  If I'm in fine-line revision, I need quiet . . . or, umm,my version thereof which is headphones with loud music :)  Fun question.
#21 - June 13, 2007, 06:57 PM

Poster Plus
  • *
  • SCBWI Member
Quiet as well.  Once upon a time, I went to bed regularly by 10:30.  Now, I find myself staying up hours later when nothing is stirring, not even the wife.

#22 - June 13, 2007, 07:02 PM


When I'm drafting, I can pretty much live through a tornado. Case in point, if I'm typing away, my husband can ask me ten questions, none of which I hear. Kids bring down loads of toys and set up the entire living room with a train tracks. Dogs tear apart the latest cheese wraper they found somewhere (usually where the kids threw it on the floor because I wasn't paying attention). By the time someone taps me on the arm to get me to look up ---- the tornado has hit in full force. You wouldn't believe what two kids, three dogs, and one husband can do to a house when "mommy" is distracted.

However............if I am reading, editing, revising, trying to work out the perfect wording for a sentence, or critiquing something, someone brushing their hair in another room is enough for me to scream, "Can you be quiet?" :D I don't actually do that, but I can't seem to concentrate worth a  :sb if anything is going on around me.

My favorite time to write is late at night when everyone has gone to bed.  :zzz I still do my best drafting when it's super quiet. Maybe that's because somewhere deep inside, I'm not worried about the tornado that is happening when the kids and hubby are in bed.
#23 - June 13, 2007, 07:14 PM


Quiet!  I study in silence, I read in silence, I write in silence.  I used to write in class, but it was always just one sentence at a time - get distracted - reread sentence - write another sentence - more distractions, etc. 
#24 - June 13, 2007, 10:35 PM

It can depend, but I generally have to have headphones on when I write and more often than not, a song that matches the mood of what I'm writing playing on repeat for as long as it takes me to finish that scene--hours, days--and then it's onto the next song.  The music helps me get involved in what I'm writing on a different level than I could with quiet, and the repetition of it keeps me there.  Or, if I have to break, going back to the song helps access that headspace more easily and keeps my writing consistent.  Also, it's fun trying to find the right song and making novel playlists.  It's a great partnership!  For me, anyway.  :)
Editing is a much quieter affair, though.
#25 - June 13, 2007, 10:54 PM
« Last Edit: June 13, 2007, 10:56 PM by courtney »

Poster Plus
Reading all these responses is making me feel a little guilty.

My son gets in trouble for not getting work done in class (grade 8) and then he ends up with way too much homework at night. His excuse is that he can't concentrate in the classroom with everything going on, and I tell him to just suck it up and get the work done (But I know darn well that I could never get anything done if you stuck me in a classroom and asked me to work).

How can I ask him to do that if I can't even do it?

When he says it - I see it as just an excuse for not getting work done.

When I say it - I'm a high maintenance, angsty writer who needs her quiet to function. I win.

Okay, that's fair.
#26 - June 13, 2007, 11:38 PM


Definitely silence, here. Glad to know I'm not alone as I've been feeling a little inadequate for not being able to stay productive when I have free, but chaotic time.

I have a hypothesis as to why this is the case for me- When I think, I "hear" a voice in my head much of the time- esp. when I'm thinking about words. I hear the same thing when I read a book. If I read a letter from my mom, I hear it in her voice. It's all very much like movie voiceovers. I think noise disrupts this voice in my head, and thus, my ability to process information. My husband, on the other hand, never hears a voice. He just thinks as an action and reads in a way he derives meaning without needing this translator. He can work in chaos with music blasting, car alarms outside and me banging pans and pots.
I've done informal surveys in the classes I teach and about half my students hear the voice; half don't. One way of coping that I've found is to listen to instrumental music (like soft jazz or classical)- it seems to stay in the background. Music with lyrics disrupts me (I guess, again, because it sings over the voice in my head).

#27 - June 14, 2007, 08:27 AM
« Last Edit: June 14, 2007, 08:29 AM by jadedmetaphor »

Global Moderator
Poster Plus
  • ***
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI Region carolinas
You explained that very well, Jadedmetaphor.  I, too, have voices in my head when I read or write ... and that's why I need quiet for writing. 

When I first started writing, I wrote at the kitchen counter for 15-20 minutes while my babies played on the floor and babbled or cooed (my first was a late talker). About the time they were 1 and 3 (that's when both of them started talking, one in baby-talk and the other in complete sentences with dependent clauses, respectively) I couldn't write with them around me.  It's all that interaction.  And it's the threat of interaction that prevents me from immersing myself into the story world even if they are playing nicely together ...


#28 - June 14, 2007, 08:37 PM
TEN EASTER EGGS (Cartwheel/Scholastic, 2015)
Author of over 40 books and 60 magazine pieces

Revisions I can tackle under any conditions (surprisingly), but the initial draft...must have quiet.
#29 - June 14, 2007, 11:50 PM

I can write with the #$&&@ lawnmowers outside going, or pretty much any outside "ambience" (although that's not the case when I'm trying to sleep in).  However, if there are dishes being done, I feel ashamed for not helping.  That's my main noise tick.  I can tune out fellow cafe-goers most of the time.

However, the key word in all that is "can".  I CAN do this.  I CAN do that.

What I PREFER to do is write (and do math homework) to music.  I generally don't have a problem with words/no-words, it's usually just whatever fits the scene. :)
#30 - June 15, 2007, 01:44 AM
- Victoria -

Writing Coaching:


0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.