Shelley Widhalm

A Quiet Writer who Likes Noise

In 52: A Writer's Life, Shelley Widhalm, Writing group on May 5, 2013 at 11:00 am

The writing space is exterior to and, for me, opposite of the interior process of writing.
Mine has to be noisy, though I’m an introvert who likes quiet.

I need downtime from my day job as a reporter, avoiding scheduling too many social things after work, because without time to myself, I cannot put on my cheerful, confident persona the next day. I become exhausted, daydreaming about when I can next hang out alone.

So, why I need noise to write seems like a contradiction.

The noise I need is particular – that found in a coffee shop.

I’m not singular in this need, as I’ve read accounts of many other writers who treat coffee shops and cafes as their come-and-go-as-you-please office spaces.

Quiet, for me, is not stimulating, but peaceful for thinking, doing chores or reading. But too much of it is not ideal for creating. I can’t get lost in myself if it’s just me and the silence.
With noise, I might be distracted as I start to write, but after a few sentences, I lose the world and enter my created one.

The partially overheard conversations, the growl of the espresso machine, the hiss of the frothing milk and the barista’s “What can I get you?” floats in and out of the space around me, offering a stimulation that keeps the nosy part of my mind active.

It’s as if one part of my mind is processing the exterior world, while another activates the interior world. I have a setting outside of myself for the setting I’m trying to create within my story world.

In essence, I need the exterior noise and chatter to help me access my interior quiet as I straddle both worlds.

(Note: This blog was inspired after I read Susan Cain’s “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.”)

  1. Interesting. I don’t think I work the same way, though it’s hard to really get Silence in the modern suburban world I live in. Real silence might freak me out.

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