The Sounds of Writing

Connecting sound with writing is probably not immediately obvious. Intense mental struggles over finding the right words, getting in the right mood, feigning determination to free oneself from writer’s block…all those connections come forth easily, but the sounds of writing? Except for occasional screams of anguish from the struggle of the process, the influence of sound is not usually noticed.

Photo by Gary. All rights reserved.

One of my daily reads, moleskinerie, has an article today on The Sound of Paper. After reading that, I realized that a writer not only deals constantly with sound during the process, but some of these audile distractions can be like comfort foods to someone under the weather. I find it somewhat relaxing to write to the steady cadence of my fountain pen scratching across paper, much more so than the staccati fits of keyboards keys that seem to resist my true intentions. During particularly intense writing sessions, the sound of my breathing strangely blends with the pen scratches to merge into a strange symbiotic relationship. At times that mini-symphony is distracting enough to lose the purpose of the moment.

Since I spend a good deal of time writing at places like Starbucks (admittedly more for their wifi connection than their burnt coffee, but the maple oat scones are killer…), ambient white sound seems to help me write as well. For whatever reason, the music, rustle of patron’s papers, mixed conversations that blend into a rhythmic track, and the occasional sounds from behind the counter all combine to provide a rich background upon which I seem to be able to focus and concentrate. Can’t quite explain it, except to say that it works well for me when writing blog entries and other light works (business writing works well there too, but then, that’s autopilot writing). The scant few times I work on the novel, however, I seem to need a more perfect quiet that’s harder to find. Maybe I feel that serious writing requires structure, whereas more conversational work evolves nicely under the coziness of a blanket of masking sounds.

I have a dream to travel and write, but more specifically, to write a major piece solely in coffee shops/caf

7 thoughts on “The Sounds of Writing

  1. Like you, I do the vast majority of my writing at Starbucks. Interestingly enough, though, the noise forces me to focus: I literally “yell” the words inside my head. (This particular branch is very popular.) That’s a good thing; I find it hard to quickly slip into writing mode when it’s quiet.

    Lately, though, due to the same said crowds, I’ve been working at home. There, I use instrumental music (usually piano) as “white noise”. To focus my attention, though, I have to journalize extensively before I can start any work on my WIP (as opposed to Starbucks where the forced focus helps me plunge into the WIP almost immediately.)

  2. The best way to accomplish traveling to all Cafes is to Full Time it in an RV. I am writing this while sitting in my RV in Brownsville TX. In a month I will travel up north, first to Manhatten KS, then to Ann Arbor MI, then to Lake Superior and will visit the coffee shops along the way that are in bookstores.

  3. I avoid Starbucks like the plague. Maybe it’s because all the Starbucks in this town are located inside of Barnes and Noble. I like the idea of being able to find a place that lends itself to the writting process. The trick is finding it. For me, my favorite place to write is outside, preferrably where there are trees. Most of my writting growing up was done on camping trips or at the park. Being in Omaha, though there’s not many places to do that (especially when there’s 2 feet of snow on the ground!) Then there’s the day job. Maybe I’ll just get a chair, a warm jacket, some hot coco, and sit on the back deck looking over the valley.


  4. In my neck of the woods (The Woodlands, north of Houston), we’re getting a Borders this spring and a Panera Bread Company, both good places to hang out and write, as well as both offering wifi connections (Borders being part of the T-mobile HotSpot network, and Panera being…gasp…free access). Looking forward to spending copious amounts of time at Panera 😉 while trying real hard to avoid eating all the wonderful bread they bake…

  5. Panera!! Mmmm-mmm-mmm-mmmmm… Looooooove that Asiago Cheese bread. I never thought about going there to write. I like the one near my house here; it has a a HUGHE stone fireplace and Reeeeeeely comfy overstuffed chairs in front of it. Not interested in wifi connection (yet) since I still write (at least initially) the “old fashion” way (pen and paper.)


  6. re: I would prefer a coffee shop with bathtubs…You’re in good company, Ellie…Edmond Rostand (Cyrano de Bergerac) liked to write while in the bathtub…

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