Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Control Over Your Writing Environment

One of the things I love about being a freelance writer is that the word free is in my occupational description. After a long career in ‘Corporate America,’ I am now free. Free to choose my own clients, projects and topics. Free to write what I want. Free to write when I want.  Free to write where I want.


I discovered something about myself this week. I’m not as free to write where I want as I thought I was. I need some measure of control over my writing environment.

This week I am out of my routine and out of my environment. I am with my parents, offering support as my dad undergoes a procedure. I have the technology to complete my writing assignments and stay on schedule, what I lack is the focus. Not because of my dad’s procedure or my mom’s worry but because of… noise, distractions.

To write about serious topics, I need silence. I’m not the ‘go to a coffee house and bang out a few articles’ kind of writer. I like to write in silence.

Sure, I’ve spent time in airports and coffee shops penning silly poems and jingles--but not the serious stuff. Not the real writing.

I was all geared up to sit in the hospital and catch up on my writing assignments, blog posts and maybe indulge in some fiction writing. Nope. Instead I surfed the internet, read trashy magazines and talked it up with the nurses and docs. No writing.

It’s late at night. We are back at my parent’s house and everybody is in bed. Dad is fine. It’s quiet. Now I can write.

What about you? Are you a crank-up-the-music and go kind of writer? Can you write in a bustling crowd or with kids running around the house? Can you write and watch TV at the same time?

Or do you need control over your writing environment?    
This post is in participation with the Group Blogging Experience, and this week’s topic is control. If you want to blog with us, go to the GBE2 Facebook page and request to join the group. Everyone is welcome.



  1. Enjoyed your thoughtful post, Langley. I am a writer who needs structure and deadlines or I can waste a lot of time. I lack focus unless I have goals to work towards and those goals need small steps and deadlines.

    I do need it to be relatively quiet to concentrate and when my kids and hubby are around, it's way too distracting. I don't mind the coffee shop though. A change of scenery can be very helpful.

  2. I'm very easily distracted, so I can't concentrate if I can hear loud kids, people talking, the TV, or music of any kind. Household white noise such the dryer or refrigerator doesn't bother me. Some outdoor sounds such as a woodpecker or distant lawnmower are also okay.

  3. I do expect and require silence when I am writing my fiction pieces. For factual stuff I don't need it so much. With everyone now retired/off work/home for the summer there is precious little peace and so I have had to adapt a little. Write early or late, depending on when other people are sleeping. I used to be quite freaked if my routine was shattered, but now I find I am happier to adapt, probably because I am trying to take out the stressers in my life.
    Cool post :)

  4. Hey! I was the college person doing algebra at the McDonald's play place when my kids were little. Noise is good for me. Too much silence and my mind meanders off too much.

  5. Yes, unfortunately, I do need control over my writing environment. I wish I were like above commenter Shelly because that would be so awesome for my production level. I need to get past it.

  6. When I'm writing fiction or screenplays, music helps to set a mood, but for serious writing, like you, I prefer silence. Which I seldom get, because I'm usually watching some of my grandchildren. I have to work through chronic interruptions, which is why it sometimes takes me several weeks to write one article ;)

    My GBE 2 Control blog: http://myheartblogstoyou.blogspot.com/2011/06/issues-of-control.html

  7. I so understand what you've written about. I'm like that to a certain extent. I can't have music playing while I'm writing, but I can have the television on, but turned down low. I can't imagine sitting in a coffee shop and getting anything done. I'd be too busy people-watching. I get my best writing done when most, if not everything around me, is still.

  8. I prefer silence, too. If I have to, I will bring up a playlist and put headphones on.

  9. I do best in a silent spot.


  10. I can't write in public, but at home there's usually music or TV in the background, and it doesn't bother me. Hope your father recovers quickly.

  11. With two kids and my computer in the heart of the house, the living room, most of my writing is done in complete chaos often to the beat of my favorite tunes. I definitely work well with noise. Even in the center of the night, I hook in my headphones so I can get my groove while I write. Loved reading how you control your writing environment!!


  12. ME TOO!! yesterday i was THRILLED hubby was out of the house, TV off and guess who is talking to me..MY BIRD!! i mean UNBELIEVABLE how he wanted so much attention; just worked 3 12 hr shifts. So fussed with him and then OUTSIDE he went! It was so funny..then i heard "what are you doin?" yup he was talking up a storm entertaining the neighbors.

    I am so thankful for this group..our lil assignments...its making me hungry for MORE silence ((hugs)) replenish.. pray dads procedure goes as planned. Great you are able to spend time with them! precious time

  13. I like quiet too, but it was (and still sometimes is) in such short supply that I've learned to adapt. My ideal writing environment is not too brightly lit and very quiet. Silence is good, as is a light rain tapping against the windows.

    My hubby bought me a really nice set of headphones the I sometimes wear when I really can't stand the background noise of our house (read: some crap coming from the TV). A little rainy noise through the speakers and I'm pretty happy.

  14. I can have music playing but no TV, and no one else can be in the room. I get paranoid they're constantly looking over my shoulder at what I write. Oh wait, they were.

  15. I'm the same way... I need it to be quiet for me to be able to get into the flow of my writing thoughts...

    I'm glad that your dad is okay and the procedure is done with!

  16. I like a bit of noise...i'm ok writing whilst the TV is on or a bit of background music but i never have it too loud. However if i start hearing dogs barking, people talking loudly, foxes fighting etc then i loose all concentration.

    Yet when i sit & read i can block out all distractions & not one ounce of noise will disturb my reading flow. Strange i know :o)

  17. I have discovered that I'm more focused when there's a bit of background noise, like a TV show. But I can't be too interested in it or I'll lose focus. I could never write with music on, I would never get anything done. lol

  18. Great take on this topic...I have to say...silence really does help with the writing...and I do enjoy it, however with 5 kids, I don't get much silence.

    The one thing I do well is write under pressure. I had some excellent papers turn out and I always waited til the midnight hour to bang them out. Same way with creative writing, if I set myself a deadline, then I'm sure to produce something better than if I tackled it nonchalantly.

    Great post on control :) Cheers, Jenn.

  19. "One of the things I love about being a freelance writer is that the word free is in my occupational description. After a long career in ‘Corporate America,’ I am now free. Free to choose my own clients, projects and topics. Free to write what I want. Free to write when I want. Free to write where I want."

    From one freelancer to another: SO TRUE (kinda lol)

    The Kate Escape: Control

  20. I also need silence. Come to think of it, I need it almost as much for silly vs serious writing.
    Dropping by from Julie's A-Z blog hop.
    Be well.

  21. I loved this blog! I too, need control over my writing environment. I like to sketch and paint as well, and that too, requires silence and a little music. If things and noises are going on around me, I'm too tuned into it. I can't shut it off unless it's shut off. Hope your Dad's procedure went well!

  22. I'm kind of a little of both. There are times when I can sit in McDonalds and tune everything out and get a lot done and then there are other times I need quiet and lots of it.

  23. I prefer to focus. I'm easily distracted. Sure, I can write in a public place or with things going on around me and I think I have sometimes produced some good quality output in those conditions. However my progress in those situations is typically slow. But when I have my druthers it is alone in a room with quiet or perhaps some classical music playing in the background.

    Tossing It Out

  24. Hi Langley! Nice to meet you, too. Thanks for stopping by and commenting at Life is Good.
    I'm a write anywhere, anytime writer. I scribble notes on napkins when thoughts strike. I use the notes app on my iPhone (when I have my glasses), I call myself and leave voicemails with my ideas. I used to journal by hand, a lifelong habit, but I now have a fused wrist with limited use, so the journaling is on my laptop now. It's just not the same, but I'm trying to get used it. I used to write my "writing" long hand first draft, but that's out. I'm not bothered by any of the distractions you mentioned, in fact I find myself very productive when listening to some of my favorite albums. My problem is that sometimes it flows and sometimes it doesn't. and that I don't know how to solve...but I think I'm in good company with that problem from what I've read at other blogs...
    Tina @ Life is Good

  25. I am the same way, if other stuff is going on my mind can't focus on what I'm writing and it turns out all jumbled.

  26. Totally a silent writer like you. And if I'm really, really wanting to write but there is noise, I go deaf to it, but I have to be extraordinarily focused.

    Odd, because when I was younger and had homework assignments, I needed noise or my mind wandered too much, so I always completed assignments with the TV on for background noise.


  27. When I'm writing, I like it nice and quiet. But when Im plotting--sometimes I like a little instrumental music in the background--like an epic movie score or something. Sometimes the music gives me ideas. :D

  28. I need quite too.

    I go out on the sun porch or on the patio and my husband will migrate there too. I like his company, but he often brings the laptop so he can watch a show. Ughhh. Then I have to be rude and change locations or ask him to.

    Maybe ear plugs would work?

    The Write Soil


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