Do you need total silence when you write?

This entry was posted on Tuesday, July 24th, 2012 at 10:45 AM

Our neighbours are having their garden landscaped. They’ve had a team of gardeners working flat out for the better part of a month and that means lots of sawing, banging, angle-grinding, and music.

I’m rubbish at shutting out noise – especially when it’s intermittent. During the silences I find myself waiting for it to start up again. So I’ve abandoned my little writing hut in the garden and retreated indoors where it’s much quieter.

I really wish I could find a way to block out noise and wondered if other writers find it so difficult, and if so what they do to get around it.

Friend and fellow copywriter Sarah Turner, of Turner Ink, works in a busy studio – something I just couldn’t do. So how does she focus on writing?

“I stick on my noise reduction Sony headphones and crank up the classical music to get in the zone,” she says. “Also the headphones act like a ‘do not disturb’. So no-one comes and talks to me!”

Carole Seawart, another copywriter friend works from home like me but has a different set of noise distractions.

“The main sources of noise where I live are loud goods trains hurtling past (short-lived noise, so I just get up and close the window) and the gardener, who looks after our complex, using his electric hedge trimmer and leaf blower.

“Those two are really intrusive so I shut all the windows and try and block to block the sound out. (His leaf blower is going as I write this!)

“If there is work going on in our block, like a neighbour having a new bathroom fitted which involves loud banging and drilling, then I usually decamp to a café or try to fix up meetings.

“A friend blocks out noise by putting on headphones and listens to the sound of the sea.”

Mmm. I can’t write with music in the background so I can’t use Sarah’s method, although noise reduction headphones worked for me when our next door neighbour had the builders in. And I’d find it impossible to work in a café, so Carole’s approach doesn’t work for me either.

Rachel Giles, freelance arts writer and neighbour (not the noisy one), finds meditation useful.

“I took a mindfulness course recently, and it really does help to train the mind not to run off after every distraction, like a dog chasing a rabbit. I try to do a ‘three-minute breathing space’ a few times a day, which clears out the mental clutter and makes me less susceptible to immediate distractions, whether they’re noise, worries, or thoughts about what I’m having for tea. It helps me to focus on the here and now, and that can only be helpful for writing.

“Mindfulness also helps you to develop a different attitude to noise. You learn to notice sounds come and go, but don’t judge them as good or bad; they just are what they are. But of course, if I’m trying to write and the noise is impossible, the only solution for me would be to head somewhere else.

“When I’m really excited by an idea, I’ll get into ‘flow’ mode, and the words are flying thick and fast. At times like that, I don’t really hear anything at all. It doesn’t happen every day (I wish!) but when it does, a lot of noise fades into the background.”

So would meditation train me to block out distractions I wondered? I asked business coach Kish Modasia of Lead Your Life. Kish works with individuals and teams helping them to make a big impact from small changes.

I know that meditation is a big part of her life and I asked her if she uses it to block out external interferences. She made a very interesting comment:

“The sounds around us are what we refer to as noise, however the greater challenge is the noise of our thoughts. Does the mind ever go quiet?”

That’s so true. And unfortunately, those little voices in my head lead me to another distraction totally of my own making: procrastination!

What do you do to block out noise or other distractions? Or do you find that you need a buzzy environment to be productive?

In the meantime, for those of us who need peace and quiet, here are some tips from Kish to help us to ‘get in the zone’ as Sarah would say.

Kish’s meditation tips

“There is no right or wrong way to meditate or quieten the mind. You will find your own way. Trust and work with that.

Start with one minute or two.

Consciously concentrate on your breath.

Slowly breathe in and breathe out.

Notice the quiet and silence.

Increase with time.

My suggestion is do this three times a day and make meditation your medication.

Have no expectation and no outcome. Just relax.

If the mind wanders, as it does, just focus back on the breath.

Other ways you may prefer include repeating a word like OM, Lord, Oneness  - whatever appeals to you.

Or you may prefer to listen to a guided meditation.

Try different things to find out what works best for you.

Let your aim be to relax, become quiet, raise your awareness and connect within.”

Thanks Kish!

For more on the mindfulness technique that Rachel recommended, visit and the ‘three minute breathing space’ and sound-based meditations can be found at

And if you have any tips on blocking out distractions – let me know.




Are You Ready to Write Your First Book? Guest post by writer’s coach, Leda Sammarco | The art of translation – guest post by Rachel Giles

Print this page

Hello. I'm Elaine, I'm a copywriter and this is my blog.

It's mostly about words and writing - things that inspire me, entertain me, and make me smile. Sometimes it's about things that horrify me so much I want to scream and shout!

I hope you enjoy it and find it useful. And speaking of useful - scroll down and take a look at the Oxford Dictionaries tool.

Click here to find out a bit more about me.

Word Alchemy Blog