A recent Sunday morning found me on the couch, my child on the big chair watching Minecraft videos, and my husband playing his guitar. Should be no different from the chatter of a café or a public square where I sometimes go to write. So why did the words seem to bump into the back of my brain before they could exit? I felt as though someone had taped heavy cotton batting over my muse’s inner ear. I couldn’t hear my own words.
The noise of our families is like a perfect key matched to the lock of our brains; it’s able to get right up inside the mental barrier that normally allows you to write in a public spot despite the espresso machine running full tilt and a team of real estate agents conducting business elbow to elbow with you.
For many writers the writing mind requires anonymous noise or silence. Focus follows when you have the right amount of inner quiet. Without it, you might find your muse choking up, the words pinging around your brain, locked away from access.
It’s important to set up even the smallest stretches of deep mental quiet. If all you’ve got is ten minutes to write, then find the space where you can get solitary to do it, and you’ll make something of that ten minutes.
Many writers and artists I know forget to carve out this quiet, and then wonder why their muse is sitting out in protest. But I also know writers work and parent and more, so here are a few quick tips:
- Bathroom Break. Take your notebook to the bathroom. I’m serious about this one. Preferably one with a lock on the door. At work and at home, no one can argue with time in the loo.
- Earplugs. I laughed when my cousin told me that she used to put cotton in her ears when her son was young and crying. Then my own son was born. If you have to be at home with kids or in a public place, stick in some earplugs—you’d be amazed how much white noise you can cancel out.
- White Noise. If you’re writing somewhere like an office at work, in a slightly public place, or anywhere that background chatter or other noise is bothering you, check out one of a dozen apps for White Noise—the noise that therapists often play to keep your session confidential. The brain doesn’t perceive white noise as noise.
- Aloneness Date. Try to schedule yourself an aloneness date once a day. This can be as short as 10 minutes (see: bathroom break) and as long as you can muster. Writers need alone time.
If you like what you’ve read, please subscribe to this blog or sign up for my newsletter. Also check out my books: Make a Scene: Crafting a Powerful Story One Scene at a Time and the suspense novel, Forged in Grace. And check out my Online Writing Classes, as well as my Plot & Scene Writing Retreat with Martha Alderson at the Mt. Madonna Retreat Center in May.