Tuning it Out


imagesCAN7BZYYIt’s difficult enough writing to Pandora with all those commercials interrupting my thoughts without my five-year old constantly going “mommy, mommy, mommy.” People ask me how I can write with a young child in the house. Same way I deal with any other noise. These days noise is constant, permeating even. Cell phones bleep, people babble, cars hum on the streets, televisions blare, and those inconsiderate little birds every morning with their peep peep. And don’t get me started if you live with someone who hums or whistles. This is one of my sister’s pet peeves, not mine. I’m guilty of being a habitual whistler and singer.

To be honest, I just got used to writing with noise. I hear the collective gasp of all of you who require aboslute silence (actually I can’t hear the gasp over my kid playing ninja and my cat knocking a toy under the fridge). I think it helps that I never developed the habit of writing in silence. It wasn’t a personal choice, I just wasn’t ever given a moment of silence.  When I started writing in high school, I always wrote to music. Though the noise was selected, it was still noise, and I used it to drown out more obtrusive noises, like my brother’s bad music, people talking in other rooms, and televisions. I grew up with three siblings and a mom who liked to watch the Lifetime channel and who was also experimenting with surround sound; there was no way I was ever going to have silence unless I smashed every radio and tv in the house and bound and gagged my family in the basement.

Now when I say I can write to noise, I mean the noise that isn’t directed at me such as Rylee playing pretend or watching a movie. I can’t however work when the noise is directed at me like when he ask me for snacks, to watch tv, drinks and other questions that require a response. Easy solution. Before I sit down to write, I give him a snack and drink and let him choose a movie (not a television show that will end in fifteen minutes). I tell him that I will be writing and if he needs anything he needs to ask now or wait until his movie is over. A simple timeframe helps kids resist interrupting because they know when it’s ok to see you again.

Sound cancelling is the key, especially when it comes to those annoying and loud tv shows. By now I have a system. It goes like this. I do laundry while I write so the washer and dryer cancel out his shows. I then play pandora to drown out the washer and dryer. In the end, all I hear is music.

I know a lot of people say they can’t write unless it’s perfectly quiet. I have to have some noise. On the rare occasion that my house is dead silent, I end up putting on a movie or music just to kill the silence. I also have a sound machine that plays white noise or forest sounds, though sometimes this puts me to sleep. By selecting the sounds I hear, I use noise as a positive stimulus to help me write.

So how do you like to write. Do you think noise is a positive stimulus or a hindrance?