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Quiet or Chaos?

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I have three children four and under and I have to work while they are around or I can't work at all.

Maprilynne, I bow down in deference to your skills of concentration and having it togetherness.  What do your kids DO?  I am presuming your five year-old daughter doesn't whine at you in increasingly high pitches and volumes until only dogs can hear her while your one year-old son bites the tops of a whole box of crayola hopefully non-toxic markers.  Uh, hypothetically, that is.  My kids would never do that, I mean, um. 

#61 - February 26, 2008, 10:50 AM


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!

Me, too! A friend of mine has a panoramic view of the great outdoors while she writes. Literally a wall of glass. Although I'm slightly envious, I know at the same time that I wouldn't get any work done at all that way. I'd be too entranced by all the goings-on out there - every bird at the bird feeder, every deer that wanders through... :bunny :bee :frog

The only way I can stay focused is to sit facing a corner in total silence with spouse SO elsewhere.
#62 - February 26, 2008, 12:15 PM

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Depends where I am and what's causing the chaos. If I'm at home and His Highness is whining at me (that's my dog, not my husband) I have to pay attention. My musical choices are based on what will make him fall asleep or be calm, so I can have writing time.

Writing away from home I can ignore all kinds of noise around me because no one expects me to control the chaos or take them for a walk or feed them.
#63 - February 26, 2008, 12:26 PM

Barb  :owl



Exactly. I'd prefer to work in quiet but if I waited for it to happen ... :coffin

My iPod/music is my defense against my 9 and 5 year olds. I don't hear whines for juice boxes. You know, the 9 year old would stop the 5 year old from dying of thirst if it got that desperate. I wrote when they were younger too, just not as much.

A great way to get quiet is send them to their rooms with neighbor kids. You'll have tons of destruction to deal with later but sometimes a new chapter is worth it. Oh, waiting with a sick kid at the pediatrician is gold, too. Take a paper and pen. An hour's wait means another chapter gets drafted. They'll be thankful someday that I left them alone with their friends and didn't poke and prod them in the doctor's waiting office, so we're all good.

I grew up in an extremely noisy house next to railroad tracks. The train whistle couldn't outscream my father, brothers, or random neighborhood dogs. Quiet is extremely relative. As Owl just said "I can ignore all kinds of noise around me because no one expects me to to control the chaos." This is the magic key!
#64 - February 26, 2008, 10:20 PM

I need quiet when I write, however, I like my house in chaos: dishes in the sink, piles of laundry, papers all over the place, a stacked schedule with the kids.

#65 - February 27, 2008, 04:01 AM

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Quiet writer, except for music. I used to write only accompanied by opera--it was my little superstition--but I've branched out. People who can write in coffe shops and cafes fascinate me. I would stop writing and people-watch.
I can kind of sympathize with, who was it--Victor Hugo? Who had to be locked naked in a room with nothing but pen and paper? I bet he couldn't have written in a cafe either.  : ;D
#66 - February 28, 2008, 02:37 PM
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I'm a mixture of the two.  I need quiet in the house, but I have to have headphones on with music playing pretty loudly.  Even if I can't hear it, if there's stuff going on around me, it distracts me from what I'm doing and pulls me right out of Writer Mode.
#67 - February 28, 2008, 03:05 PM


Generally quiet--but 'comfortable' is actually almost more important.

Although, I did have an interesting experience on one ms I was working on several years ago...

I was using headphones and one particular mellow, non-vocal cd on an endless loop to drown out the noise of construction behind the house every time I sat down to write. After a while, I discovered that all I needed to do to get into "the zone" was to put on that cd, and Voila! I'd be writing happily. It must have been some kind of Pavlov's Dog reaction and probably only works if the writing is going well when repeating the music over and over in the first place.

Plus, I tend to be the kind of person who gets new music and listens to it over and over and over, then stops listening to it completely; later I always associate memories with what I was listening to at the time. Kind of like smells triggering memories, songs or sounds can sometimes trigger a creative state of mind for me.

Ring that bell... I'll crave  :chocolate1
#68 - March 07, 2008, 07:37 AM


I have four kids (6,5,4,3) and though I can work amidst the chaos, I work much better with silence. They must (every single day) go somewhere together and play for at least a few hours...that's when I write (though I can still hear them, it helps that it's muted). I'm able to go to a coffee shop sometimes twice a week for a few hours (my husband is a saint) and when I'm there I NEED my ipod and headphones with only instrumental music. It is impossible for me to write when there are other conversations going on around me...I guess I'm too much of a snoop!
#69 - March 07, 2008, 10:12 AM

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I prefer solitude for first drafts, but when I'm line editing chaos works, too.   :flowers
#70 - March 19, 2008, 06:02 PM

Shelly Lynn

I've been thinking about this and right now my fifteen year old is playing Halo 3 at top volume. Tomorrow he is having ten of his friends over to play Rock Band and more Halo 3. My daughter is having friends over for a karaoke day, this is my life. I can write either way, but if there isn't anyone around to make noise for me I just put on some background music. My husband has decided he needs to be near me at all times, so I set up my computer between the kitchen and living room so I am by everyone at all times. It works. I have learned to tune everyone out, including the tv and the whining dog!  :oncomputer
#71 - March 21, 2008, 05:02 PM

It's so great to hear about other writers with kids! My two oldest (5,3) watch a movie everyday and then I can get some writing done (if the baby is asleep) otherwise they're climbing on my lap, asking me to read whatever's on the screen or running around like banshees.  :taz

I am learning to sleep less and jot down a line or two when I get the chance. Ahhhh, the life.

#72 - March 25, 2008, 11:55 PM


I've just found this discussion, and how interesting and varied everyone's answers are!

Although I crave quiet and tend to write best when my husband and kids are out of the house, I have grown used to writing with them around and like others here, can cope as long as no one tries to engage me in conversation.

Two years ago, a friend called to offer me the chance to spend a whole week up in the Highlands at an isolated cabin she was renting. Her boyfriend had cancelled at the last minute, and she needed a companion. My husband and kids were fine with this, and I was thrilled: a chance to write in peace for a whole week, in a beautiful area!  When we got there, the place was fantastic. Utterly quiet, in a secluded area, surrounded by nature. I got out my laptop and got right down to writing.

I think I managed about two pages, and I had to delete them afterwards because they absolutely sucked. Clearly, I needed the noise and chaos of my family in order to manage decent prose.
#73 - March 26, 2008, 08:25 AM


Not too long ago I would have said I need quiet.  But, now that I have 3 small children things have changed a bit.  I didn't realize the change until I went to a writing retreat.  About 4 or 5 of us were typing away on our laptops in a work area and I found myself thinking "I need to put my headphones on!  I'ts way too quiet."  The quiet was getting on my nerves!!!!  I couldn't believe it!  I"ve never had that happen before.  One of my buddies at the retreat even askedme how I could work with all that noise.  LOL!  Funny how things can change when we don't even know it's happening.  There are certain noises that I can't work in.  Revisions take more concentraion, so noise is a little more limited the more I have to concentrate on problem areas.  but even when I'm in my office and the kids have gone to bed, I still, at the very least, need the sound of a fan or some music.  I can't do absolute silence anymore.  Weird.  There was a time when any noise whatsoever  was too distracting. 

#74 - June 15, 2008, 07:18 PM


Total silence.  I prefer the house to be empty of all life.  I can write with some noise but I'm easily distracted... ADD for me!!! 
#75 - June 16, 2008, 06:11 PM

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I can write in many places, but I seem to need quiet to research. I can't keep the pieces straight if they are coming out of the book, and onto my notebook if I'm being asked questions -- as I am right now. what i need is a lack of responsibility to everyone else, then I can write. Like at a soccer game, when I don't really need to worry, or a baseball game...

but at home they ask me questions-- so i learn to not get in depth while they're  here.
they have camp next week it will be quiet for a little while.
#76 - June 27, 2008, 01:15 PM
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Noise isn't a crucial factor for me, but I do have to be able to enter the world I'm writing about without the threat of being pulled back and forth.  This usually means quiet is best, because if someone is making noise, sooner or later (usually sooner) he or she is going to want my attention.  I never play music when I write or research, but I love it when it rains while I am writing.   :yup
#77 - August 01, 2008, 06:24 PM


I need activity in order to think...not a lot, just a little, but I also like it quiet.  So, I turn on the tv, and mute it.  Don't know why, but it works for me!   :oncomputer

I've found that I don't need it perfectly quiet, however.  I get lost in "writing-land" and don't even hear other noises going on outside my home.           :radio   :duel   
#78 - August 06, 2008, 08:33 AM

Put me down for white noise/quiet. I often write after 10PM for the quiet.
#79 - August 06, 2008, 08:51 AM
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We had a tropical storm blow through yesterday so I got to stay home from work. I was line editing while the wind and rain were howling. Once the storm passed by, I realized it was too quiet and turned on some music.
#80 - August 06, 2008, 12:04 PM

Brookie Wookie

Quiet, but not silence. I like to write on the commuter train.
#81 - August 07, 2008, 06:24 AM


They say that Robert Burns did almost all his writing sitting among his (many) children, allowing them to scramble up his legs and sit on his lap and make all the chaos in the world.

We've got a full drumkit directly upstairs; my kids practice on it at odd moments. There's a keyboard right behind me and when the kids play Chinese checkers or Quiddler it always has to be next to me, at top volume. Not that I'll ever be as successful as Robert Burns, but I tell myself if it worked for him, the least I can do is give it a go.
#82 - August 08, 2008, 11:21 AM

QUIET??? What's that??? hahahahhaaha.

I guess I'm with Chaos, but with three kids (4 if I include hubby) in the house my life usually doesn't include quiet.

Of course I'm counting down the days til school starts. (buwaaahahahahahaaaahaaa) Only two days left. Then maybe a little bit of quiet will come my way. ;)

But really. I've learned to go either way. The kids know not to try and kill each other or tie each other up while "Mom is working". And I seem to get a little done here and a little done there. Of course when I do have quiet I usually go looking to see what they are up to. :ohno :hahaha But I get it done one way or the other.

All I really know is in a few short years I'm going to miss all the chaos my life has been. *sniff, sniiff*
#83 - August 11, 2008, 04:50 AM


hmmm. somehow, over the past few months, i've morphed into someone who can only write in quiet. i used to write with the tv on, or headphones (and sometimes both!), but i've found that it just doesn't work for me lately. also, i like to read dialogue and certain lines aloud as i go along, so other people talking/singing can be a bit distracting.
#84 - September 13, 2008, 01:23 PM

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I need some kind of noise -- I wouldn't say outright chaos, but I always have on music or the TV in the background when I write. The thing is, if everything is quiet than any little noise will have me jumping to see what it is or what's going on -- and my building is rarely silent, so there's lots to jump at. With something steadily making noise in the background, all those little distractions get drowned out. My favorite things to write to on TV are baseball games (lengthy -- I can get at least a thousand words done in an average game!) because there's stuff I can look up and watch when I need a second for my brain to relax, but they're pretty steady and not too demanding of time otherwise; and "How it's Made" on Discovery/Science because that's kind of hypnotic, but also fades to the background really easily.
#85 - September 22, 2008, 06:25 AM
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I must have absolute silence when I write.  The weekends are the worst for me to get anything accomplished because the phone rings around the clock.  Everyone is back at work today so I’m on cloud nine.  :woo

#86 - September 22, 2008, 07:32 AM

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When I first started writing I lived with a roommate, a dog, and three cats.  Television was almost always on, dog loved to chase the cats, cats loved to tease the dog and usually they ended up running over me.  I ended up with the bruises and scratches to prove that; nothing like a 10 pound cat bouncing off you followed by a 100 pound dog.  Then either a cat or dog would decide I made a good bed. 

At that time I had only my bedroom and my laptop and tended to do a lot of writing laying on my stomach at times.  Yes, somewhere there are pictures of the dog trying to use me as his bed.  He sat up for his photo. Yikes!

That book was an adult mystery which is in storage.

Then I moved on to kid's stories and living with just the dog.  What do you do when a 116 pound dog starts bringing all his toys to you?  You start to play with him until he is tired or you will never write another word! 

The one thing I cannot do is write with music that has lyrics or I end of singing to the songs and forget that I am supposed to be writing.  I may even begin to hum to classical music or think what a lousy selection of music the station picked.  I do not own an Ipod or MP3, probably wouldn't get my moneys worth out of one of them anyway.  I have a thing about earbud and earphones. 

I definately cannot write when a Cubs game is on!  YEAH CUBS!

#87 - September 22, 2008, 08:37 AM
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I prefer absolute silence.  If I can't get that, then I at least need to write in a language-free zone.  Spoken words from the outside world klang with those that are trying to bubble up in my head, and that just won't do.  I can sometimes write with music, but it has to be voice-free and mellow (classical music without too many crescendos). :writing3
#88 - October 03, 2008, 04:06 PM

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I've found that the older I get, the more quiet I need. Isn't that sad?   :hairpull
#89 - October 03, 2008, 07:00 PM

Traci Dee

I like music when I write, but it has to be mellow (or at least "feel" mellow), but I can't have the TV on or have people talking around me unless the talking is indistinct like at a coffeehouse or something. 
#90 - October 03, 2008, 08:50 PM


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