Writing Condition Experiment #1: Mucking with my noise levels

Writing, Gangnam StyleEverything moves way too fast.
— PSY

In a previous post, I announced my intention of experimenting with my writing conditions. I tinkered with the idea of just writing posts about the results.

But seriously, where’s the fun in that?

Instead, I’m going to post the actual writing so you can see where I get the results, which I’ll include at the end of each experiment’s post.

I don’t know how long these posts will be. I try to keep my blog postings between 500 and 700 words but for these experiments, I’m going to put it all out there. Anything over 1,000 words, I’ll post the results with an excerpt and a link to the writing.

For my first experiment, I stuck my ear buds in and played Gangnam Style by Psy. Repeatedly. For 20 minutes.

And away we go….

The Experimental Writing

What the hell does this song say? I don’t know the lyrics, I just know I like the beat. But okay, I’m supposed to be writing. Real writing. Creative writing. Because trying this experiment isn’t for when you have professional writing to do. Oh no. When you’re writing to put cookies and cupcakes on the table, you gotta make your writing environment as perfect and comfortable as possible. Really? I just used “gotta”?

This whole noise thing? Creative writing only.

What do I actually hope to accomplish with these experiments? I’m hoping that by purposefully making my writing conditions uncomfortable, I’ll train myself to write faster and with better concentration than I do now. And if I can do the creative writing with irritating writing conditions, I’ll be better equipped to focus on my professional copywriting when those writing conditions are less than ideal, too. Basically, I’m training to write when I’m uncomfortable so that if the demands are made, I can rise to the occasion.

Okay, that and I’m curious. And looking to stretch myself as a professional.

My first task is to mess with my noise input. Problem: I’m so used to my day-to-day sounds that unless there’s construction going on under my butt, I’ll still be able to tune it out. Fortunately, there’s a simple fix for that. Hit where hurts the most: the iPod.

Right now I’m composing as I listen to Psy’s Gangnam Style. Over and over again. I have no idea what the lyrics are (except for “Hey sexy lady” and “Gangnam style” obviously).

Have also found that it’s taken me a half hour longer than usual to get ready to write. There was more fidgeting with my hair, the position of trackball and where my iPod sits on my desk. A little to the right? No, stop. Down a bit. Even right now, it’s bugging me. And I keep pushing my sleeves up more often.

All in all, this is very disruptive. I’m also making a lot more typos. And not even any that make sense. Seriously, I’m going to have a doozy of a time cleaning this up so it doesn’t look like it was typed by a pigeon on a live wire.

So, here’s a big question…how am I going to measure my failure/success rate at “embracing” uncomfortable writing conditions? Would really like to have something measurable to report other than “This was typed by a person, not a bird in the throes of electrocution.”

First: word count and ROI. As in, out of the total number of words I get down within a predetermined amount of time, how much is actually useful?

Second: Will also track how many words I get down over the course of the experiment to see if my accuracy improves. I seriously hope so. Y’all are being spared having to watch me delete and (crap, why did I have to pick something so disco???) retype half of what I put down. And it’s not my internal editor at work; it’s basic decency as a writer and as a human being. I feel like I should have asked myself permission before I did this to myself.

Observation #1: I’m starting to turn to my notebook (physical, not computer) to write and it’s a little faster. Mostly because it’s actually a bit slower of a writing medium so I feel like I have more time to come up with the next thought. What did I write? A four-line blurb about leaving a message for my use. Will have to report that in my experiment notes and include in my findings. And maybe mark it down for a subject as a future blog post. I mean really, what kind of out-of-office message would the muse leave if we could hear it?

Observation #2: My inner filters that clean out some of the snarky comments aren’t working. Which is actually making for some entertaining thoughts and even making it to the page. So while my typing accuracy is in the crapper (seriously y’all, I almost wish you could see all the corrections I have to make as I go along just so I can freakin’ read it), my Voice is a lot more open. Kinda nifty. And something to keep in mind.

My 20-minute time limit is up. In the spirit of honesty, I’ll admit that I didn’t set the timer when I started typing; I just noticed what time it was. And I have to stop now before Hortense, my inner hamster, walks out on strike.

The results…

Total word count: 758
Not including results section or opening summary. Does include what I wrote in my notepad.

Useful content: 445
Calculated by copying and pasting into a separate doc, deleting my rambling and seeing what’s left.

Percentage: 58.7%
Will not get too excited since most of it was about what I hope to accomplish by doing this experiment and not really creative writing at all. But hey, it’s a start.

Anyone else ever tried this? Let me know in the comments.

5 thoughts on “Writing Condition Experiment #1: Mucking with my noise levels

  1. Never tried it, but I do notice that I’m much more productive with silence. Even classical music disturbs the flow of my thoughts (and fingers).

    When I was a teen and in my twenties, I used to think that I needed good music to get work done. What I’ve realized subsequently is that my work under these conditions was pretty terrible.

    Except for housework. Housework is always better with music. 🙂

  2. Yes, housework is always better with music, especially Elvis. 🙂

    As for writing, since I so often work in a corporate environment, I’ve always had to work with headphones and ear buds securely affixed. Silence has never been an option. (Bummer)

  3. I guess I missed this post. It’s an interesting experiment. Best conditions, I like it to be quiet, but not silent. Growing up in a home with five kids silence seems odd. I don’t mind some noises around me.

    I don’t do it too often, but sometimes if I’m really stuck, I turn on music and find that it helps. It may be a different kind of rhythm, but there is a rhythm to music and there is a rhythm to typing and sometimes it helps.

    If it’s too noisy (like construction) I have been known to use ear plugs, but I put them partway in so it doesn’t sound completely silent, but then again I’m strange.

    • You’re not strange; I can’t handle total silence either but for different reasons. Sometimes I just need something to ignore so I can focus on what I’m doing. 🙂

      • “…need something to ignore so I can focus on what I’m doing.”
        Makes perfect sense to me, Erica – just like sometimes, in order to “take in” somebody’s presentation, some people hafta be able to doodle or fidget a bit.

        I prefer my music to come from somewhere *other than* the computer speakers – like a radio on the shelf, or the TV in the other room. I have more control over the volume, and it feels less intrusive. Plus, I can watch videos if I want, at the same time.

        Looking forward to this series – always interested in hearing about “other people’s solutions” – to try for myself, or share with others. 🙂

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