Thursday 24 June 2010

Amid the noise and haste, go I

The New Author has posted an interesting entry about the types of environment in which writers write best, and it got me thinking about my own creative process. Indeed, my very good friend Thomas D. Szewc asked me a very similar question over on my Formspring a couple of weeks ago.

I've always been the kind of person who works best amid some kind of noise. When I was at school, I did all of my homework lying on the living room floor in front of the TV. At uni, I'd write essays while watching movies (I had an excuse, I was a film student) but this would severely hamper my essay-writing ability during exams. After all, I could hardly ask for the invigilator to make a lot of noise to help me concentrate! It's therefore not really surprising that as a writer, I like some kind of chaos around me in order to write.

I've written many of my flash fictions on the way to work, surrounded by colleagues on my lunch break, sandwiched between tourists on the tube, or in a noisy coffee shop. I've even been known to write flash a couple of sentences at a time while tidying my flat. It's very rare indeed for me to sit down quietly and work on a piece. The closest I've come to that was my contribution to this year's Chinese Whisperings anthology, which was written at home while I listened to Alkaline Trio and talked to my lovely boyfriend, Jimmy Misanthrope, on MSN.

I find that if I'm sitting quietly at home, my mind wanders too easily. I'll waste time on Twitter, or decide to sit and draw yet another robot, or grab my knitting needles and carry on with my woollen work in progress when I should be writing. I could argue that at least the latter two distractions are still creative, and I've already discussed the merits both of drawing and being crafty, but it's still not writing. Yet if I'm surrounded by noise and distraction, my brain focusses on what I should be doing - writing. It's as if I need the white noise in order to have something to 'tune out'. Without the external interference, that focus just disappears!

It's rare that I do decide to sit down and write, but when I do, I'll either have a movie or some stand up comedy on in the background. Occasionally I'll listen to music, but not religiously so. I'm not entirely sure what effect, if any, the music that I might choose to listen to has on my fiction. On those occasions when I do write and listen to music, my media player is continually on shuffle so the same piece could have been written during punk, 80s glam, classical and country. Can you tell?

I guess it doesn't really surprise me that noise appeals to me so, considering what a chaotic and frenetic person I am anyway. I'm very restless and find it difficult to sit still for long periods of time, and I like to do several things at once. Some people might think that this is somehow splitting my focussing, or that i means I'm not serious about my writing, but what can I say? What is good for one is not always good for another. I'm incredibly serious about my writing, I just cannot help the quirk of personality that means I work better across a range of tasks when I'm juggling them, as opposed to completing them in some kind of sequential order.

Still, like any writer, I do daydream about taking myself off to the middle of nowhere, and settling down in the peace and quiet to write my little heart out. Trouble is, I know for a fact it would be the kiss of death for my writing! After all, look what a writer's retreat turning into in The Shining...

What do you prefer? Silence? Noise?


kathrynjankowski said...

I've written in noisy newsrooms and can shut out the extraneous, but quiet surroundings help me focus. Whatever works, right? ;-)

Laura Eno said...

I prefer silence but many people I know like to listen to music. I agree that twitter and the computer in general are distractions - most of my writing takes place on my patio with a pencil and yellow pad. :)

Icy Sedgwick said...

I think that's why my Netbook is handy - I can't always get a wi-fi connection so the Internet isn't an option!

Benjamin Solah said...

I'm sitting here in my quiet house, having not written anything this morning, and can totally hear you.

I wrote most of my #FridayFlash's at work but am loving writing at home immensely. Perhaps when my housemate wakes up, I'll get some music on or put a Tim Burton movie on in the background.

Anonymous said...

The idea of space and isolation appeals, but I need distractions. I work with music on and off. And for some reason, whilst I'm doing the washing up, I think of lines of dialogue, or plot resolutions or directions, character traits. All this means is I have to go and write it down before I forget it. Percolation of the senses and the need for a waterproof laptop.

Icy Sedgwick said...

I usually end up getting ideas when I sat knitting in front of a film. I've got patterns with lines of dialogue scrawled across them.

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