How to write: cutting down exterior distractions

Right now, as I type, there’s a siren going past outside.  My cats are trying to kill each other.  The phone has been ringing all morning (the dentists had to cancel my partner’s appointment – apparently the surgeon quit).  My own surgeon canceled my appointment (again), I’m mulling the benefits of a one-on-one vs. class action lawsuit, and my partner’s alarm clock is going off.


Why yes, I’m a bit stressed. Why do you ask?

Yeah, this is what happens when I try to write during the day.

But it brings up a good point.  Writers write because they must.  It’s not a calling, it’s a necessity.  It’s not like I can stop.  However, there are days when I suffer not so much from writer’s block as from serious brain frag (pause here to comfort the little frightened cat who just jumped into my lap).

It’s time to pull out a few tricks, designed to keep Drear Mundania at bay.  Incidentally, these are honest recommendations – I don’t profit from them.

1. Noise cancelling earphones.  This was a gross indulgence – I admit it.  I got an amazing deal on a professional pair of Koss headphones nearly 20 years ago.  I almost cried when they finally died.  It took a long time to settle on a replacement pair.  Ultimately, I decided to go with the Bose QuietComfort 15.  They’re targeted to the business / commuter crowd, designed to block out airplane noise.  But they also block out sirens, cats, doorbells, telephones, televisions alarm clocks etc. etc.  When you don’t have the luxury of solitude, this is the next best thing.  If you want to listen to music in addition to blocking outside noise, the sound quality is amazing!  Just what you’d expect from Bose.

2. Ambient sound – I know most writers have a soundtrack for their stories, which is a grand idea.  But sometimes I prefer a different type of mood.  That’s where the ambient sound generators come in.  My favorite (by a long chalk) is “Relax Melodies” from Ipnos Soft.  I’m so enthusiastic about this product I really should work for the company!

One of several pages of ambient sound choices from Relax Melodies

One of several pages of ambient sound choices from Relax Melodies

The basic package for a computer (vs. a smart phone) comes with nearly 100 different sounds that you can combine, depending on need.  Feeling cheerful?  Let’s combine bird song, children’s laughter and some water sprinklers.  No, I’m feeling drama coming on.  For that one, how about slow rolling waves combined with the sound of a distant fog horn.  Maybe some seagulls.  Wait, I’m writing historical romance!  Punch in a crackling fireplace and a harpsichord.  Wait, it’s set in the winter.  No problem!  Fire, harpsichord and sleet hitting the window.  Got it!  And so on.  The combinations are nearly endless!

In addition to the sounds, Relax Melodies also includes six “binaural beats”.  These are not intended to be heard, you layer them under the sounds you’ve selected.  When listened to in the headphones, the binaurals promote different brain wave activity ranging from “pre-sleep” and “Deep meditation” to “Concentration”.  I’ve found that the “Relaxation” setting is the most productive for writing, but YMMV of course.  It also can be set to a timer if you want to use the program to sleep to.  Nice touch!


3.  If heavy duty headphones or binaurals aren’t your thing, how about a distraction-free word processor?  Many packages come with a minimalist environment setting to help you focus.  I personally like the “OmmWriter” by Dana.  This software starts with a blank screen, artfully decorated with a scattering of trees in the background.  You have the option of turning on ambient noise such as keyboard clicking, and there are relaxing musical tones such as chimes that can repeat softly if you wish.  It’s inexpensive and the company just upgraded to work well with the latest OS packages.

These ideas won’t keep all your problems at bay, but they can certainly help improve your writing environment!


2 thoughts on “How to write: cutting down exterior distractions

    • Hi LaToya,

      When I bought them I couldn’t afford them and they were $100 more than they are now. I got ’em anyway, and they were worth every single penny. The audio experience is so important when writing, I considered it a great investment!

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