I’ve always been hypersensitive and can get overwhelmed by thinking.
I can be wholly incapacitated physically, even though a party’s going on in my head.
So I like to work in cafes and public spaces to avoid losing my mind by myself in my room.
But in these places I can get fidgety and distracted, with various noises, talking, laughing and loud music (especially here in Thailand) poking their way into my awareness.
I sometimes listen to music but have found that even though I enjoy it, I tend to work faster and more efficiently without it.
Sometimes I allow myself to be distracted; people watch; to get lost in the racket, movement and chaos of reality around me.
However, I don’t put much to paper that way.
Some time ago I tried listening to ‘white noise’ to help me focus.
It seems like a radical and primitive solution, but it has worked for me, notably.
It can be the warm and airy recorded whoosh of an aircraft cabin in flight. It can be tinkling rain in an exotic forest. It can be pure static.
*crackle* *crackle* *crackle* *crackle* *crackle* *crackle*
It is calming and helps me get into ‘flow’ more quickly.
The problem with general environmental noise is that anything jarring, like an overheard conversation or the crashing of cutlery, can pull you out of this state.
As a writer, I rely on being in flow, even more so than when I was working as an illustrator because I find there is more conscious, problem-solving thought required in writing, and white noise gives some room for that.
When I go out to work, and even when I am working from home, I play white noise through my Sony Extra Bass noise-cancelling headphones. These have the extra benefit of cutting out additional background noise.
I download the audio to my laptop or phone, so I can work without being connected to the Internet.
I enjoy the sounds of rain or the sea, though I find I am most productive with the aeroplane cabin sound on loop.
White noise creates a uniform, buzzing thread of sound that covers up surrounding noise, calms me, intercepts endless rumination and spiralling thought, and through this calming effect, stimulates my subconscious mind to bubble up ideas more easily.
What’s interesting about white noise is, on top of acting as a cushion of sound to help you relax and focus, it can stimulate creativity.
I find that sounds of thunder, sea, wind and rain, or waterfalls, take me to a new place, triggering new ideas and thoughts just by being in a seemingly different atmosphere or world.
White noise might not be as exciting as music, but it is enjoyable enough, and I get far more done when I listen to it, and I mean business.
Using white noise is no guarantee of being more productive, nor will it necessarily lead to better, more creative work.
But I dare you to try.