Do you write in silence or surrounded by noise?

Do you write in silence or surrounded by noise?



I have discovered through the years that I write most productively when I am in complete silence. Without noises or voices to distract me, I can most effectively come up with the words I need to tell the story I’m working on for a client. I think I’m an anomaly, however.

In seventh grade, our social science class was given the option to have soft music on in the background as we took a final exam. The majority of the class, including me, voted to allow the music. At first it was really nice. And then I realized, almost too late, that I was supposed to be taking a test. I wasn’t there to listen to music, I was there to demonstrate I could write an essay on ancient cultures. With only a few minutes left in the class, I asked to sit outside the room, where it was quieter. Only then could I get back to listening to my own brain work, rather than hearing familiar songs I couldn’t help but sing along to.

Once in the work world, I grew accustomed to working surrounded by ringing phones and people having conversations. The halls at Kodak were bustling but eventually became white noise to me. I could craft memos and press releases and creative briefs in no time when I really focused.

But when I went out on my own and established a boutique marketing agency, somehow I thought we needed music playing in the background to be cool. My employee and interns thought it was great. I can only assume they were not working with words much because I had a lot of trouble concentrating even when classical music was on. Eventually I had to turn the stereo off in the name of productivity.

Now ensconced in my own home office, I can get quite a lot done in a short period of time when no one is around. I close my door and sit, staring at my computer, searching for words I know are lurking in my brain. And without the distraction of a loud lawn mower, or music, or TV, or neighbors chatting outside, I can generally find them fairly quickly.

Many of my friends, however, rely on music to help them get through the day. While I envy them, I also know my brain just isn’t wired that way. And colleagues who head to Starbucks to get work done have my complete admiration. The only thing I seem able to do when I’m sitting at Starbucks is to listen on the conversations around me. I’m not able to block them out, despite the fact that I wish my ears had never heard some of them.

Am I the only writer who needs complete silence to be most productive? What sounds do you like to hear while you’re writing?

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Marcia Layton Turner

Leave a Comment