I am an input freak (where freak uses the current meaning of aficionado, junky, addicted person, etc.)
There is almost always something on… TV, Radio, music. And, if you think that is distracting, I am also prone to ear worms, a sort of musical meme that can rush in to fill the void when all the regular input channels are off.
In other words, if there is no direct input, I make my own.
Do you know anyone like that? You perhaps?
Having a need for constant input has to do with the world we live in, today. At this end of the evolution of man (take evolution in any way you like), we are bombarded constantly with sound bites, snatches of music or smatterings of conversation. We are used to having a radio on, or an MP3 player.
Even those of us who write are often drawn to playing music while we toil over their keyboards.
The phrase, “…with a song in my heart…” actually refers to the ear worm concept. There will be those of you who will admit to having a song playing in your head even when you are sick, sad, unhappy or distraught.
So, what’s that all about? And what in the world does it have to do with writing?
Hmm. It should be obvious that while we might be more “comfortable” writing while being distracted, that having background noise might not be the optimum platform for writing.
Those of you who have developed a method for doing your work, one that includes music of some kind or another, blaring or whispering in your ear while you write will be up in arms about this topic. “It works for me,” you’ll say. But I wonder if it is really needed, or is just a crutch.
Mostly we don’t want to be alone with our thoughts. Again, there will be protests, but only you know the difference between what you publically proclaim, and what you privately feel… or what you have made yourself believe in order to stay comfortable.
But, try this.
Get yourself immersed in your writing. Do it any way you normally would. Music on, TV talking to you, kids in the other room fighting. Write yourself into a corner, or into a place where you need to make an important decision about a character or plot point. Then stop. Do not put any more thought into it.
THEN, get into your car and take a drive. When your hand reaches for the radio—automatically—slap it away (figuratively—keep your hands on the wheel, please). Then, as you drive, start thinking about the plot or character point you want to deal with. Why driving? Because the rest of you is kept busy. You cannot be distracted by something in the house. You are your own captive audience. (Yes, yes, there is a bit of a dichotomy here. You may find yourself asking how is driving different from music?)
Do something you don’t do very often, listen, really listen, to yourself. Yeah, yeah, I know, you protest that you listen to yourself all the time. I say you don’t. I say what you (and this means me, and all of us) really do, is listen to ourselves the same way we listen to the radio, with only a small portion of our attention.
That is, shut up and listen to yourself without distraction. This will allow your need for constant input to work in your favor. When it gets quiet, you can allow yourself to fill in the blanks with information you want. Story development. Oh, just don’t forget your digital recorder. Working it all out, and then having it washed away the first time someone turns on the radio can be… well, it can be a painful experience.