Listening while Writing: Music or White Noise?


I’ve tried listening to music while writing and for the life of me, I still haven’t managed to do it successfully. My mind wanders and I begin to sing along with the lyrics or humming the tune when listening to a instrumental. While listening to a podcast the topic of ‘white noise’ came up. The author mentioned that he had started listening to a ‘white noise’ generator while writing and found it to be beneficial not only to his creativity but also to his word count. When I started doing a little digging around on the subject I found a lot of people have really good things to say on the subject.

In one article ‘Is Noise Always Bad? Exploring the Effects of Ambient Noise on Creative Cognition’, it was found that low to moderate volumes of ambient noise had a positive effect on creativity while loud volumes negatively affected creativity. A news article from The Wall Street Journal talks about hospitals using ambient sound for their patients to mask normal hospital sounds, which I can personally say can be pretty intense and stressful.

With a little more reading around the subject and finding out that there are various colors to ambient sounds I decided to give it a shot and was really surprised with the result. I used a site called Simply Noise which has a free ambient sound generator. You choose from White, Pint and Brown noise. On the site you can read about the various reasons or activities associated with each color. White I found awful at first but with a lower volume it seemed to work for me. I worked faster and came up with cleaner rough draft. Pink and Brown relaxed me more and still helped while writing but white noise definitely gave me that extra push. In around 1 hour 20 minutes I wrote 1500 words of clean draft. Ideas seemed to become clearer in my mind as well which was a nice change.

So as listening while writing goes, I would say ambient sound works but I’ve only written this way a few times so far. I plan to continue on this was. I’ve read about other writers listening to cafe sounds, rain, thunderstorms and even heavy traffic.

It’s a nice change for people who can’t listen to music.



  1. I do listen to music while I write, but it has to be very low. Otherwise it’s distracting. The connection between ambient noise and better productivity is very interesting. All I know for sure on the subject is that I need the fan to sleep.


  2. I like “silence” when I write although I can put up with a certain amount of noise, more when I’m really feeling good and focused, less when I am tired or having a hard time with my work and am more easily distracted. I can do music, but is has to be wordless. I stop noticing it after a while; my brain just shuts it out. Sometime I use listen to classical music when I’m in a cafe and the ambient noise is too distracting.


  3. For me, it depends. For the most part, I prefer just music soundtracks (no songs, just music score) . But it has to be at a certain volume. Not too loud, not too quiet. One of my favorite ‘white noises’ is the nature cds with music that melds with the environment. It almost melts into the walls and becomes part of my environment…again, so long as it’s not too obvious. 😀


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s