Give me 20 minutes, and I'll write a few paragraphs of something, anything--a scene, an article, a blog entry, anything at all.
It seems sometimes that the only time I can't write is when I'm wrapped in a cloak of quiet. I know lots of writers crave silence--I really don't. Silence stifles me.
Or, at least I should say--human-made silence stifles me. Give me a nice park bench with some birds trilling, or some waves crashing on the beach, and that's quite nice. I'll take that any day.
But the sounds of human beings not talking can make me crazy. A tapping foot, a rocking chair, really heavy breathing, sniffling, the slight hum of an iPod, or the two worst sounds in the world--cracking knuckles! snapping gum! ARGH!--all can distract me more than an entire room of coffee drinkers chatting at once.
Why am I thinking about this? Because on my flight just now from Montreal to Toronto, I experienced the most irritating sound imaginable.
The flight began quite well, full of promise even. The engines were soothing, I had tuned out the flight attendant's hushed comments, and my seatmate wasn't trying to make conversation. So I pulled out my empty tablet, and began thinking about what I felt like writing. Blog entry? Article? Scene for my second novel? Plot for my third novel? What to do, what to write. I had a glorious hour ahead--unfettered by work or other obligations.
Yet, as my pen hovered over that empty page, the most disruptive awful sound emerged from my seatmate. He was crinkling his empty plastic cup between his forefinger and thumb. In doing this, he created an elongated screeching that I can only equate to fingernails on a chalkboard. I didn't even know a plastic cup could render such a profoundly disturbing sound.
I glanced at him. His eyes were closed, his headphones were on. To all appearances, he seemed to be drifting into sleep. Surely the sound was an accident. I stared at the cup, willing it to slip from his relaxed fingers.
But no! He made the cup screetch again. And then again! And again! What was wrong with him?! Each time, his fingers carefully strummed the cup as if he delighted in the cacophony that emerged.
Egads, man! I inwardly shrieked. I know you're a nice Canadian and all (eh?), but you're torturing me! Torturing me, I tell you!
(Well, okay, maybe my internal monologue was more like "Boy I wish he'd stop making that noise." I'm not actually a lunatic, you know. And because he looked like he was sleeping, I really didn't want to wake him up).
Thankfully, there was a happy ending. Eventually, the flight attendant came by to rid him of that plastic kryptonite. By that point, we were landing, and all was right in the world.
So now I'm sitting here at the Toronto airport, waiting for my delayed flight, finishing my tale of woe. But who should sit next to me? I kid you not...one woman crunching popcorn, and on the other side, someone eating chips! I'm completely surrounded. Fate, today, is against me. (Or it's dinner time, and people are hungry.) Whatever.
But I'm curious...How do you write or think best? With silence or noise?