For many writers, noise inhibits creativity. How do you reduce this potential distraction and focus on your writing? In just the same way you can ignore background sounds when you’re caught up in a good book or movie: You devote yourself to the story. To have the same keen attention, you must block out annoying racket and sharpen your concentration.
William Faulkner ignored the constant ear-splitting roar of a dynamo as he wrote “Sanctuary” during his midnight to 4 a.m. shift in a Power plant’s boiler room. Dr. Albert Schweitzer penned numerous articles and books amid the clamor of his jungle surroundings.
You can use a steady noise to cover up other abrasive ones. An air conditioner or fan drowns out practicing musicians, dogs barking or carpenters hammering next door. Many writers find that it’s easier to concentrate on their work with an inoffensive background sound.
Music helps, too. Certain types of music written by Baroque composers (Bach, Vivaldi and others) are particularly relaxing. The stringed instruments and the tempo of 55-60 beats a minute produce a conducive setting for writing.
Sounds aren’t the only noise a writer must deal with. Interruptions come in all shapes and sizes, but focusing on your work can help you deal with any distraction.
Trying a new approach to solving some of your old writing problems can boost your creativity and productivity. Your writing will become as Henry Miller said, “like life itself, a voyage of discovery.”
Sleep, Perchance to Write
To produce dreams that enhance your creativity, you must first conjure a mental picture of your writing goal and then create a statement affirming that the goal has been achieved. Then follow these steps:
* Get comfortable. Noise should be at a minimum. Close your eyes. Inhale through your nose. Take the air down to the diaphragm. Count to three. Exhale through the mouth. Do this three times.
* Imagine yourself within a pleasing scene. For me, it’s lying on a lounge chair near a pond on a warm fall day. The water reflects the colors of the surrounding tree leaves. All of nature is in harmony.
* Push your heels down on your chair or bed. Feel the tension; now relax them. Do the same thing with your hips, back, shoulders, neck, head, arms and hands. Push down against whatever surface they’re touching, then relax. Tighten and relax the muscles while taking three deep breaths. Repeat silently ten times: “I am becoming more and more relaxed.” (The main objective is to relax your mind and body so that the subconscious will accept your affirming statement.)
* If procrastination is the problem, picture yourself doing something you enjoy — gardening, reading, whatever. Immerse yourself in the activity and feel the pleasure that you derive from it. Next, see yourself going to your desk with the same enthusiasm for your writing. For other writing goals, picture yourself accomplishing them.
* Silently repeat this statement ten times: “Because writing is important to me, I approach it with the same interest I have in (name activity). Other things will be done after I finish my writing.” For other writing goals, repeat a statement that affirms that your goal is achieved. Keep the statement positive and in the present tense. If you do the exercise during the day, finish by saying, “When I open my eyes, I’ll feel great.” Otherwise, allow yourself to drop off to sleep.
One Character to Go, Please
To achieve specific goals for your writing, you must “program” your mind to work on the problem as you sleep. You may, for instance, want to develop a character for a story.
* Before going to sleep, review everything you’ve written about the character. Then do the first three steps above. When your mind and body are relaxed, the critical (conscious) mind becomes nonjudgmental and the inner (subconscious) mind will accept what you say.
* Picture your goal as achieved. See your character in detail as you’ve described him. Finally, say several times silently: “I see my character as a fully-developed person in my dream.”
* When you wake up, keep your eyes closed and try to re-create the dream. Then write down everything you can remember. Do this before you get out of bed; otherwise, you’ll forget the dream.
It’s best to do your dream planning when you’re not under a lot of stress and when you can wake up without an alarm clock (they can make you forget your dreams). It might take several nights or longer, but keep a positive feeling that you will have your desired dream.
You can use this method to help reach any writing goal. The point is to relax your critical, conscious mind and allow your subconscious to offer suggestions.