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Close Your Ears

Silence is golden for creativity.

Photo by insung yoon on Unsplash

Advising people to close their ears...sounds a little narrow-minded in the context of creativity. Counter-intuitive even. But...hear me out.

Sorry, but I do love a pun.

I've long been someone who listens to music whenever I'm working, particularly when writing. I know lots of people like this. As a young man, my partner's dad claimed he could only study for exams with music played at a volume that shook his pictures off the walls. I speculated it was a way to distract him from the pain of studying for something so utterly tedious. The jury's still out on that.

But I've since discovered that when you shut off the sounds of the world, you can just hear the sounds of yourself. And I don't just mean your tummy rumbling.

The concept sounds a bit drippy-hippy, admittedly. But let me explain.

I'm not saying that we should all turn off our music if we want to be more creative. Music helps to grease the wheels in countless circumstances. A great one for me is when I'm writing a script in a particular genre, and I play comparable movie soundtracks to get into the same headspace.

Music is also a defence against my noisy neighbours, squawking birds or the sounds of the city.

But to find silence, is to find a way to tune much more readily into my other senses.

This is hardly a new thing. On a much more significant scale, we're all aware of how people who permanently lose their sight or hearing gain more heightened awareness in their ears and eyes respectively.

And in my own experience, by shutting out the sound, I can tune much more readily into my thoughts as well.

Not thoughts like: 'Why haven't you written that blog yet?' I'm talking about creative thoughts.

To close yourself off to sound in this context means no sound at all. Total quiet. Something many of us can find hard to achieve. If you live in the middle of nowhere you can probably get close to silence, but it may get punctured with the sound (and smell) of a muckspreader at some point.

Farm machinery aside, have you ever been alone in the countryside and there was total silence? Everything felt still didn't it? Like the silence somehow indicated that time had stopped moving. You were able to linger on the sights for longer because they were your only cues to life and movement.

I'm getting all tie-dye and ethereal again. The point is though, the silence opens up the creative brain. In particular, if you're looking for visual inspiration, cutting out sound is a great way to 'see' things you haven't seen before - even if they're actually in the mind's eye.

If you live in a big city, you may have access to places where you can get into an isolation tank. These are pod-like flotation tanks, full of body temperature water with Epsom salts dissolved in at extremely high salinity. You float in the water in total darkness and silence. And without any sensory input, your brain begins to wander, allowing the creative part to come out and play.

Trouble is, you can't take a laptop/easel/potter's wheel in with you. Tends to get soggy.

But back to the matter at hand: shutting out the sound.

The answer is earplugs, obviously. But they need to be good ones.

Silicone are the best type for sound blocking, and you can get them at most pharmacies and online.

Of course, headphones with Active Noise Cancelling are the absolute business - because you can switch between music and silence at the touch of a button.

Anyway, now you've had an earful from me, you probably want some quiet.

My work here is done.


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