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Quiet or Chaos?

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Chaos for creativity.  Quiet when I'm under deadlines.

#31 - June 16, 2007, 02:47 PM


After starting this thread I have been paying attention to when I get my most productive writing done and this is what I have concluded.

Music- No way. Can't do it. Music takes me into a totally different place. Olmue I think you were right on with your thoughts on music.
NO MUSIC. I think I use different and competing parts of my brain to create words and to process music.

TV- Doesn't bother me unless it is on a program I am intersted in. (Rarely ever happens with 3 boys in the house!)
Kids- Don't bother me unless they are fighting. Even catapulting bouncy balls are okay.
Husband Talking- He is usually talking to me so I can't write AT all!

Quiet- Doesn't usually work for me. I think my body is trained for all the noise it is surrounded by that when it gets quiet it thinks I should be sleeping. 9 times out of 10 if I try to work when it is too quiet I will fall asleep on the keyboard.
(Of course this could have something to do with trying to fit a weeks worth of work into 24 hours. That is part of a mother's job title is it not?)
#32 - June 16, 2007, 07:10 PM

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For me, it depends on how the writing's going, I think. When I'm stuck, even the birds annoy me. When I'm in the flow of things, I can tune  most things out. I try not to let my tolerance threshold get too low, as it's a bit of a slippery slope - once I get tuned in to 'annoying' noises, I can get irritated by the beating of my own heart, which is never likely to be a good thing!
#33 - June 16, 2007, 07:17 PM


I'm another one for whom the threat of interruption is the problem.

I can write in public with people talking around me, as long as I feel anonymous (i.e. _not_ in the cafe where everyone I know goes and I'll be expected to say hello to half the people who walk in). I can write with lawnmowers mowing, snowblowers blowing, wind whistling, whatever. I just focus and tune it all out. But I can't do much more than minor revisions and jotting down ideas if my husband and son are in the house - unless they are asleep.

It's that sense that I might just wade in deep enough to feel the undercurrent and - wham! - I'll be dragged back to shore by someone who needs me. I _hate_ that feeling. Because of that, my best writing is done either late at night or when I'm home alone for an extended period of time.

Wait a minute! That's right now! I've got about about five hours left! Gotta run!

#34 - June 17, 2007, 06:16 AM

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As some others have said, if I am in the flow of the story, I can deal with tv/talking in the other room, the noisy street outside, etc. I can't deal with people (or, more commonly, the dog) moving around me -- I find motion more distracting than sound. And if I am really struggling, the quieter the better. As for music, I usually am in favor of it, though on occasions I have needed even that off. Then there are the times I turn on the speakers, start up iTunes, and forget to click play, then don't notice because I get so into the story I forget all about music until it's time to stop and I suddenly realize nothing is playing.
#35 - June 18, 2007, 07:08 PM
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I worked in radio for eight years so I can successfully tune out almost any noise. When I'm on deadline, I can write and nothing distracts me. I have worked from home for years and most of those years were filled with lots of noise because I had kids running all over the house, their friends and the television all going at the same time. My mother used to come over to watch the kids while I worked and she was amazed at how I could tune everything out. In fact, I usually work on my book sitting beside my husband as he watches television. Most of time, I don't even hear the program.

What I have trouble with now is getting started. I do everything I can to keep from working until I can no longer put it off because I'm going to miss a deadline. So I'm giving myself a deadline to finish my current work in process. I want to have it completed so I can mail it to an agent by Sept. 15.

#36 - June 18, 2007, 07:23 PM


Good Luck with the deadlines! I work best with deadlines also. I am such a procrastinator!
#37 - June 18, 2007, 07:26 PM

Quiet for the initial draft, unless the character is absolutely demanding that their story be told.  Then I can handle noise and distractions, but not chaos. 

Music when revising and editing.
#38 - June 19, 2007, 02:48 AM
Sarah Blake Johnson, MFA
Crossings (2017, Cedar Fort)

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I live alone, except for Oberon.  Sometimes when I sit down at the computer he will immediately come into the room and bark at me, but mostly he's very patient when I'm working.  Otherwise, I have total control over the noise around me, except for the telephone.

I need something in the background when I'm writing, but usually this means something in another room.  I love classical music and I'm an opera fanatic, so often I'm listening to something like that.  Music is a great filter.  If it's music I know well, I can listen with one ear and it erases all the other sound distractions, so I can focus mentally on my writing.

Another noise of choice is The West Wing, my favorite TV show of all time.  Many times when I'm writing I'll just run the series on DVD all day long.  I know every episode well, so I'm not distracted, yet when I need a mental break I can leave the room and watch a few minutes of a favorite scene and sometimes even draw a little inspiration from it.

Chaos?  I know I could NOT handle that.  I grew up in a house where by necessity the piano and the TV sat side by side (and still do in my parents' house); and growing up they were often both in use at the same time.  Consequently, even though I'm the only human in my house, to this day I refuse to put a TV in my living room.
#39 - June 19, 2007, 04:35 AM


I'm a quiet writer. Even the noise of my husband bumping around behind me is bothersome. On the other hand, I prefer going to Borders or Barnes & Noble coffee shops to write over the library. I can tune out a bunch of conversations (as long as people don't have really loud and high voices) better than one or two conversations.
#40 - July 06, 2007, 02:43 PM


I can't work on something specific if I am around places where people chat. I can however get great character info. I hate to admit that I am an eaves dropper....but.....
Listening to people and taking notes on how they speak and respond...Museums are great for watching people.
#41 - July 06, 2007, 02:48 PM


QUIET 4 sure
#42 - August 18, 2007, 01:25 PM


Quiet........It can take up to an hour for me to get back on track sometimes.
#43 - October 26, 2007, 08:03 PM

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I crave quiet but usually work in extreme chaos.   Molly:)
#44 - November 10, 2007, 12:30 AM
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For first drafts, I prefer quiet. For revisions, I prefer quiet but usually work in chaos of having children.
#45 - November 15, 2007, 09:14 PM

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I got so irritated at DH today! When he's not traveling, he often works from home. This morning I was trying to dive into a new WIP and I can hear him yelling into the phone all across the house (okay, he was talking to Africa and the line was bad, but still) so I barricaded myself into our room and was considering retreating into the bathroom when he slunk in an asked "too loud?"

What I want is an office that is all mine, built in the backyard in our detached garage with a very big and solid door. I want bookcases for all of the great books I want to read (and a couple of shelves for my snowglobe collection) and a big blank wall that I can fill with inspirational photos and quotes. Sigh. I guess I have to make a big sale first. Chicken and egg really.
#46 - November 16, 2007, 01:11 PM
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In theory, I have to have absolute quiet but the reality usually turns out that I write with the TV on or while listening to my ipod.
#47 - November 23, 2007, 05:45 PM

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I have to have quiet in order to concentrate. So different from college days when the radio had to be blaring the top 40 in the background to get involved. Now, I even turn off the phone because that little distraction breaks the concentration and it's hard to get back.
#48 - November 24, 2007, 12:52 PM
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I need quiet and solitude -- the husband must be out the door before I can settle down and get anything substantial written.

Sometimes I will put on a CD and tell myself to write until the CD is finished.  I've even made soundtracks for the story I'm writing, but in truth that was probably just a form of procrastination because I write best in total silence.

I'm kind of cursing my WiFi right now, though.  So easy to take breaks for Internet surfing.
#49 - November 24, 2007, 01:13 PM

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quiet, quiet, QUIET!  Usually I have a cat or dog snuggled up next to me - because I write on the couch (well - actually I write on my laptop, sitting on the couch!) Cannot have music playing, or the tv on, or any kind of distractions & I hate when the phone rings!  Well - unless it were an agent offering me representation or a publisher calling to give me gobs of money for my book! 
#50 - November 24, 2007, 01:25 PM
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I'm throwing in my 50cents worth (inflation, you know)  ;D

Absolute quiet, no music, no phone's ringing, no cat's meowing, or very large dog breathing deeply as he sleeps!

Just total silence, whether it's my first, second or one hundredth, draft or editing process.

Any noise distracts me to the point that my mind starts to create around the distraction.  :o

#51 - November 25, 2007, 07:48 AM


The thing that kills me is music lyrics. They take my out of my writing and into the song. Drives me crazy.

Everything else I can handle...within reason.
#52 - February 15, 2008, 05:57 PM

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I've got a teenager :drumroll and a "tweenager"   :tornado in the house as well as a dog that lives behind us and NEVER shuts up!   :bangcomputer  Quiet, which I need to write, is hard to come by. Soooo...I bought a white noise machine. It's fantastic! I don't even hear the phone half the time.

#53 - February 17, 2008, 10:51 AM

Catherine M

I used to be able to write in chaos--at ballgames, with the TV blaring, whatever--but the older I get, the more I treasure silence.
#54 - February 17, 2008, 11:02 AM


Growing up as an only child, I think I conditioned myself to be able to work in only absolutely silent environments. I can really only read and write productively when there's absolute silence. Now that I'm living in a college dorm, I've taken to wearing ear plugs when my neighbors jam on their electric guitars!  :band

#55 - February 17, 2008, 11:38 AM


What is this thing you call quiet?

Actually, my husband, who is also a writer, leaves the house and works in a coffee house during the day because he used to work in a news room and likes to have people around. I work whenever I can, so it can be house full of active boys and dog, 3 in the morning when boys and dog are asleep, you name it. I listen to music sometimes when I'm working: I prefer songs in languages I don't understand and I've amassed a delightful collection of that. When I'm doing something really boring, like formatting, I turn on the Sci Fi channel during the day--unless the day's offering is too infantile.
#56 - February 17, 2008, 11:56 AM

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Quiet. Since I read so much about writers who listen to certain kinds of music when they write certain kinds of stuff, I'm surprised everybody likes quiet so much. But it goes deeper than noise level. To really get into the zone I have to remove the chance of interruption. Since I am alone in the house during the day, this mainly means taking the landline off the hook. If it rings even once and the answering machine picks up, that's a break in concentration. Only my husband and kids have my cell number, and they call when they must but otherwise they email or text. 
#57 - February 17, 2008, 01:04 PM
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I need quiet (although my work desk looks like chaos!) -- which is a tough thing to get around here, hence why I need to be disciplined. I get distracted easily why there can be no music, no movement and nothing shiny nearby!
#58 - February 17, 2008, 05:51 PM


I agree with Courtney, who responded months ago, I think.

If I am really into the writing, I can write anywhere.  But the best thing is if I find a song that matches the voice in which I am writing, one I know well enough that the lyrics or tune don't surprise or distract me.  I put on my iPod and can "get into character" through the music.  Sometimes finding the song actually help me figure out who this character is I'm channeling.

So music within either quiet or chaos.  BUT, I require people to leave me alone.  I can have all manner of noise, except the voices of my children or husband asking me questions.
#59 - February 17, 2008, 06:05 PM


Chaos out of necessity. I have three children four and under and I have to work while they are around or I can't work at all. I did go to my mom's house a couple of weeks ago right after i got my ed letter and she kept asking me "How can you work with all this noise." and I kept saying, "Is it noisy? It sounds pretty quiet to me." :)

#60 - February 25, 2008, 09:01 PM


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