Monday, 5 March 2012

How to cope with distractions for the stay-at-home writer

I don't know about you but I need quiet to write.  I need quiet just to think about writing.  Present me with on-going distractions and I slide into a morass of endlessly reading SEVEN THINGS YOU MUST KNOW ABOUT BLAHBLAHBLAH over and over.

I live with a baby.  I live with his mother too, for the record.  He's not a magic baby who can take care of himself.  I love this baby.  I do not love his teething.  I do not love the erratic surprises of something setting him off because he's teething and then wailing in nerve-jarring cycles until he decides he's been sufficiently hugged again.

Yes, it's kind of my fault.  I had some kind of idea of what I was signing up for when I moved in.  Not a real idea because I'm an only child/youngest entrant to an adult step-family but I knew, babies, like, cry and stuff?

I didn't know he'd cry this much.  I didn't know that it would wrench at my heartstrings, leading to a mixture of frustration, anger and maternal-y emotional pain.  I also didn't know that I would, one month after moving in, launch into my work-from-home freelance writing career (more on that later). I can't yet afford some lovely writing space in a creative quarter (but my goodness, I can't wait).  I currently can't even afford to get a cup of coffee so I can work in a cafe, all fancy-like.

So what can you do in these situations?  I've learnt that staring at the ceiling trying to stop the word "smother" coming into my head does not make for good writing sessions.  I've learnt that the wall is too echoey and hollow to quietly knock my head against it.  I've learnt that baby cries still penetrate fingers jammed in ears.

On the plus side, I'm learning how to cope with these distractions.  These sorts of audiological interruptions will always be present, particular for an urbanite.  So, what do we do, eh?

White noise

I love white noise.  And brown noise and pink noise too (yep, there's several shades!).  I like it best in nature sound format.  I used to use as many, many others do but listened to it so much that I started to notice it where the audo file restarted.

I now most prefer  They have some odd choices (Darth Vader breathing, holiday fireworks and kitchen noises spring to mind) but they have all the classic choices too.  This composition got me through a lot of things;  my ex-housemate's persistent nervous cough (8 months of throat-clearing every 5 minutes, anyone?), writing my dissertation at the university library whilst surrounded by the inane, squalling babble of underachievers and finally any public space. Because generally any public space is filled with people who somehow have never deciphered the value of blowing their nose with a tissue.  It's immensely soothing to the irritable scribe.

Get writer-related things done.

Working as a writer isn't just about writing.  You also have administration, accounting, marketing and networking.  If you can't write because it's too noisy, why not get on over to LinkedIn and nose around at what others are doing?  Or check Google for the local competition.  Make sure your social profiles have the appropriate keywords (mine are currently; Bath, Somerset, Bristol, copywriter and copywriting).

Ideally, swopping tasks like this wouldn't be your aim.  The more you chop and change, the more will-power and concentration will leak out and before you know it, you're stuck reading in the endless A BAJILLION PEOPLE WHO DO THINGS YOU MUST READ ABOUT NOW BECAUSE ITS GREAT AND YOU WANT TO BE GREAT SO YOU MUST REEEEEEAD cycle.  But you're already not working so that concentration cost has already there.

Go and make a cup of tea.  Open the window and look around.  Write a blog about it (...*ahem*).  Hide under the duvet and regress into snuggly mode for 5 minutes to plan your next move.

Go for a 15 minute walk

You're already not working so you might as well reap the benefits of a change of scene, a breath of fresh air and a break from being in front of your computer. Hopefully, by the time you return, you'll have walked off your pent-up frustration and the distraction will have stopped.

It would also be good for you. My favoured writing method is half-lying down with my knees drawn up with my laptop.  Sometimes I do this but on my side, which is even worse. I will then do this for hours. There's been quite a bit of chatter about how much your health suffers when you sit down for hours at a time.  I gather that very little movement is needed to reverse the effects of this - the important thing is that it gets done, rather than how much is done.

In fact, I'm going to go for a walk right now.  The phone keep ringing, my back is twingeing and I'm not sure what the next point is going to be.


Okay, my walk didn't inspire another.  But I did achieve getting a letter in the post and getting fresh air.  I didn't manage my arbitrary target of 4 things that help with distractions but instead I wrote a completely different post.  I started pottering around the internet and found Moodscope which was oddly reassuring (check it out!).

Distractions are legion and some of them are for good reasons (like my flatmate baby growing up into a happy, healthy, little boy).  As with most things in life, you need to take these incidents as an opportunity to take stock, change track and achieve in a different area of your life.

What do you think?  How do you cope with unwanted noise?

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