Like a lot of authors, I listen to music when I’m writing. It’s a way of short-circuiting the internal editor, which has trouble shutting up. When writing first draft, I don’t want my always-vigilant editor yammering at me about how I just inserted another Oxford comma, that the sentence I just wrote is passive and that adjective really is sucky….
Music is one way of getting in the creative state that Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls the “flow state” or “the zone.” Of course, not any ol’ rock and roll will do. Lyrics will break my concentration, so I go for music without lyrics, and tend to heavily favor movie soundtracks because depending upon the track, they can inspire emotions all by themselves.
Sometimes, however, the best sort of sound to help induce a creative state is some sort of white noise. It masks external sounds that might blow your concentration, but don’t call attention to themselves, either.
Nature soundtracks are great, especially if they feature running water. The sounds of waves are very soothing. Forests and rain forests, rain storms…they’re all great.
For years now, a common phenomenon among writers has been the claim that they write best at their local coffee shop…something about the sounds of people all around them helps them knuckle down and get to work.
There has been some research that shows that coffee shop sounds, which are mostly the sounds of people having a nice time, so are therefore quite positive, are creativity-inducing and at the same time, a form of white noise.
It’s not always convenient to haul your butt down to the nearest coffee shop, especially when it’s below zero or above thirty. Besides, not everyone can afford a cup of even basic coffee every day, not at gourmet prices the coffee shops charge.
Recently, I came across a neat little website: Coffeetivity.com. They’re the ones that have done the research on coffee shop sounds and creativity. They also offer a range of different coffee shop soundtracks. Yes, you can listen to a busy coffee shop at home! It’s a neat idea and I’ve tried it once or twice and may use it more often, although I was never a proponent of writing in coffee shops in the first place.
If you love hanging out at coffee shops and have a creative hobby or vocation of your own, give Coffeetivity a try. For readers, it might be just the thing for listening to as you settle into a good book, too.
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