Setting Up Sonic Environment for Productive Writing

All you need is a headphone.

Stephen King once said that you should close your door and your mind and don’t let anyone in. This door can be imaginary. And many writers have suggested similar feats, advising that having a specialize corner, table set up, a consistent time of the day, or an opening routine can help set up the right mood and mindset. The whole point is to eliminate distractions and stay focus. But with internet n our hand, our world is pretty much open 24/7.

The space can be humble … and it really needs only one thing: A door you are willing to shut. The closed door is your way of telling the world that you mean business. Stephen King

Setting up your phone and/or laptop on Airplane Mode is, to me, the simplest and most impactful way to regain the control back from our devices.

But when your mind is running around like a 2 year old, put your headset on and turn on this calming water sound. At least for me, I’ve found this works. There are good varieties of natural aural sounds you can find on YouTube, from this calming forest sounds to truly hypnotic wind sounds. Some may prefer minimal bird songs, others prefer the crackles of fireplace over bubbly water sounds or haunting snow storm music. It may take a while to find the right one, but of course don’t let it paralyze your primary mission.

Like your bedroom, your writing room should be private, a place where you go to dream. Your schedule — in at about the same time every day, out when your thousand words are on paper or disk — exists in order to habituate yourself, to make yourself ready to dream just as you make yourself ready to sleep by going to bed at roughly the same time each night and following the same ritual as you go. Stephen King

I’m not generally sound-sensitive in the sense that I can work in a pretty loud coffee shop or a serene Balinese village, so I never thought about designing the sonic environment as optimal as possible. However, without going into the scientific details, I feel that the rumbling watery noise somewhat mimic the noise in my brain and mask it away. Funny I know. But I’m sure there’s something about the consistent pace and plateau-ic noise within a contemplative environment that shoo, or at least hide away, the ringing thoughts in your head.

It could be that the sound of water mimics the sound of blood rushing through mom’s veins when you were still in the womb. Perhaps it’s also the biological memory that centers around water as life source and survival factor or it’s just the meditative quality of water that makes us so peaceful whenever we are around it.

But I personally feel it’s the steadiness of the gushing sound that almost acts like an anchor; a reassurance you can hold on to while you’re focusing on more important matter. So when you’re feeling slightly distracted, try to hang on to the gushing sound to regain your momentum.

Other options will be alpha sound, the frequency that puts you in meditative state. On this state, around 10 hz lower than our day-to-day anxiety-infused Beta phase, is where your creativity pool sits in.

Dip in, bask in the noise, and feel the right daydreams start to slip in. Hmm.

As someone who lives in Bali, an idyllic tropical paradise in Indonesia, afternoon and morning writings mean being accompanied by sound of birds, frogs, and various insects humming in response to each other. And a lot of digital nomads, writers, and artists are paying big sums for this perfect work-cation environment. (Not to mention apparently it’s known that Bali is one of the central vortex in the world).

But really, to me all you need is designing your physical or memesis environment to fit your own creative haven. Clean your room. Wash the dishes. Set the right lighting. Turn off your phone. Find or make your own writing corner. Do a short but mindful ritual. And set the right frequency in your brain with sounds for extra help of focus.

Then write the day away.

Illustration by Elouise Renouf

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