The sound of silence - Karen Bush

It's a well known fact that dogs prefer Bach.
Yes, really. They've done studies on it.

When I was surrounded by noise I longed for quieter, more tranquil surroundings: how much easier it would be to concentrate, I thought. How much more productive I would be ...

Well, dear reader, it turned out that when my wish came true, that wasn't the case at all. I found that I actually missed the background noise. And without it, the need to grimly enforce a bit of concentration on what I was doing evaporated: without the background distractions, ironically I became more easily distracted.

I tried to artificially reproduce it by turning on the radio. Music stations didn't always play selections I liked, and the chat ones were a disaster as I found myself listening to them rather than working, and during phone-ins often shrieking outraged retorts at it. Playing CDs wasn't much better as I tended to slow down and listen to the music - well, it was stuff I liked, after all.
Going to the pub or a café was out - the tables are never big enough for my clutter (I'm not a stripped-down 'my Notebook is all I need' sort of person) and anyway the likelihood of my knocking a pint or a frothy coffee all over it is pretty high, given my clumsiness.

But I finally found the perfect solution: TV. But not any old programmes - there must be just the right amount of noise, and not be so absorbing that I stop everything to listen. The perfect programme, I have found, is Time Team. I've seen them so many times before that I virtually know the script off by heart, so no danger of downing tools in favour of goggleboxing. It has a certain cosy familiarity, like my previous noisy working environments, and fortuitously is on for at least three hours during the day at around the time when I try to get a bit of work done.

Heaven help me if they ever take it off: I suppose I'll have to buy the DVDs ... 

So what works for you? Silence or noise? Empty house or bustling background?

Midsummer Eve will see the publication of our third collection of stories ... more news soon ...


JO said…
I can't write or read with the radio or TV - but can write in cafes! Music - I find music seeps into the writing sometime, which is useful if i want to freewrite and just see what happens. But I don't need the Ride of the Valkyrie if I'm trying to write a soothing scene of marital harmony.

And reading? At home I need quiet to read. But then I can read in cafes and on buses.

As for dogs - we had a dog that used to sing when I practised the piano, but only when I played a scale of Emajoy!
Bill Kirton said…
I could never write with any of the things you mention going on, Karen. Distant lawnmowers, isolated shouts, even builders, painters and so on doing exterior work are all OK, but only if there's silence i my immediate surroundings. I suppose it's just the usual pathetic male inability to multi-task, but music, conversation, telly would drive me crazy and I'd give up.
Anonymous said…
A low background murmur is OK, even helpful, in the way you describe. That's why I find writing on trains often works. Interestingly, if conversation becomes one-sided, i.e. some idiot near me is boring their traveling companions rigid by droning on and on about their favorite subject, that becomes too noticeable and wrecks all concentration for reading and writing. If that happens I just have to move carriages! It's funny how the mind can dismiss normal conversation but not a single voice. Maybe that's why people making phone calls on trains are so irritating.

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