A writer can do all kinds of things to not be distracted, but I think most will agree a quiet setting is important. One playwright I know, while living in a roomy penthouse, could not assure that her spouse would not interrupt her frequently while she was trying to compose. Her practice was to get in the car with pen, paper and headphones, and find a nice parking lot or children’s playground at which to station herself. It worked. Another playwright friend says he too does best if his apartment is empty.
I find even the kind of music I listen to impacts my ability to write. Instrumental works best, particularly if it is melodic and not too loud. I favor classical. While I enjoy rock and roll, lyrics of any kind make me think about the words. That prevents me from composing any of my own.
As far as distractions go, spouses may be the worst of offenders if for no other reason than they are in close proximity and so more likely to step on the landmine of disturbing the (creative) peace. Artists who marry one another are especially guilty, for one will want a cuddle or a conversation while the other is immersed in a project. Unless they want to resent each other for the same reasons,they have to learn to tell the signs and hold back.
Telephones and the internet can both be distractions. Writers writing on computers that can be connected to the internet (only 2.5% of all world writers, correct?) have to do a lot of psyching to not trawl the web right after looking up a historical fact. Nor should we care if our friends have posted a funny note to Facebook. Self-discipline must be cultivated.
Cats and dogs can also distract. Everyone’s got the cat who parades back and forth in front of the monitor. Dogs have their needs too, so a careful writer will see to those needs or psyche herself not to be irritated if she has to stand up and see why someone is barking.
Neighbors’ dogs are less manageable, as is the volume level the neighbors’ music speakers are set at. Our newest next door neighbor used to be prone to playing his music at a volume to shake walls. That is, until he got a cute little puppy. When the neighbor wants, I don’t know, to go shopping or take a nap, he leaves the dog outside. The darling little creature comes to the steel fence nearest our house and barks his head off in between trying to chew the steel wires apart. I know he is just being himself. Luckily, headphones help.
Some distractions are as unavoidable as they are unexpected and unmanageable even with headphones. Yesterday’s party from hell, in which our overly exuberant diagonal backyard neighbors had an 11 hour fiesta outside complete with nonstop screaming and whistling, conjuring a probable scene of stripping competitions to a steady pulsating background ( I could feel it through any part of my body on the couch) of bass beats and who knows what the band’s name was, provided an excellent atmosphere in which nothing could get done without a headache.
Luckily I had nothing significant to do–just clean, cook, and write. My husband and I attempted to be politely tolerant and succeeded, although various personal physical manifestations suggested my tolerance, at least, came at a price. It was probably due to all those nasty thoughts of revenge popping up in my head–the idea of honking outside the party people’s house at 5 A.M. or releasing a virulent strain of extra-terrestrial bacteria on my neighbor’s front porch.
The enlightened will tell you that ugly thoughts can create conflict in the body and illness. I must work on thinking good thoughts.