Friday, April 25, 2008

Cacophony and creativity

Whilst waiting for my car oil to be changed (one hour and 15 minutes) I read an article in" Poets and Writer's Magazine" about the influx of noise and information in our current times. The article asked whether 24 hour information access limited one's flow time and ability to allow an "unconscious intelligence" to be at work. Unconscious intelligence would be what the mind thinks about and works on whilst another part of our mind and selves is doing the dishes or running or vacuuming or whatever.

Several writers were mentioned with regard to their moving to remote places in order to get away from the distractions of constant television, cell phones and so forth. Even before the glut of mechanical devices to disseminate information such writers as J.D. Salinger retired to bucolic environments to work. But others claim the availability of information does not distract them from their creative purpose.

Is this just a personality thing? Some of us need quiet and lack of distractions to create? Others aren't bothered by the cacophony and/or can ignore it? I am one of the former. However, my personality is such that regardless of my creativity or not, I do better in a quiet, calm, orderly environment.

How about you? What is the best environment for you to work in? Do you feel overwhelmed sometimes by the accessibility of information, is it too much information? Or does it flow off your shoulders like water?


Kim said...


You pose lovely questions here.

I absolutely need quiet in my life. I am so sensitive and so bombarded by noise, I can just collapse sometimes. One thing which has helped is to use my MP3 player to get the sounds of my choice in my ear when I don't have control over my environment. I absolutely get to the place where I can't think or sometimes even function at all due to the noise factor.

As far as other people...I think most of us need times of quiet, but I am not sure if the levels are the same. I know it is not the same for my husband. My children need more quiet time than my husband needs, but probably less than I need. My daughter, who is a writer, requires quite a bit of quiet. She has no television and no car by design...and she lives in Los Angeles! LOL

So I do think it is a matter of levels, but I think everyone benefits from prolonged periods of quiet. Maybe schools should take that into consideration? What do you think?

Thanks Suki! Great thoughts to ponder!

sukipoet said...

I remember going into an elementary school to do a short-lived substitute teaching job. The noise level was incredible. I do think children would benefit practicing quiet time. They do this at the nursery school level but every level could do with some practice.

I agree that different people have different reactions to exterior stimulus. Often, introverted people, such as myself, are the ones who get easily overwhelmed and need to find ways, like you do with your MP3 player, to rest from the cacophony.

That is cool that your daughter is a writer. Fiction, non-fiction? Wow, LA that is some noisy place I imagine.

Be well, Suki

human being said...

oh Suki, what a wonderful post... your works -- written or visual-- always present something to us to ponder upon...
i'm with Kim in saying it's a matter of levels...
i like quiet ... but remember since my childhood too much of it made me more distracted!!! i prefer to have some living beings around me and some sounds... but not addressing me directly!!!
and if i'm absorbed in something i read or write or think about, i am simply disconnected or unplugged from the world around me...
so i may not answer the person talking to me or just mumble some unrelated words.... forgetting about the food on the cooker... or missing the station i should get off!!
i love the picture on your header ... it was my favorite when you posted it... very very artistic and good for meditation..

marianne said...

Wow Suki, interesting post this is!
For painting I need quiet, I use music but I wait until everyone is sleeping here in the house.
I know I need to block out things sometimes. I know meditation is good for me, but on the other hand I tend to do a lot of things at the same time, I guess just like my kids I have ADD. My head can be so busy sometimes that I really need to unwind.
Meditation is so good for me (for everone...) it let's creativity flow again. Painting mandalas in solitude is one way for me to quiet my head.
I'm sure people nowadays have too much impulses noise and information to cope with.........

Cris in Oregon said...

Quiet, definitly quiet time for me.
I grew up with quiet around me and I crave it now.
I like to listen to music when painting too, but over all I hate the bombardment of NOISE that isnt nature. Phones or news coming from the TV bring bad news or untruths that unnsettle one.
But I have known others who cant stand having quiet around them. they do much better living and creating with lots of K oss and noise.
I like to hear myself think, the birds sing and the frogs croak. Much nicer then planes, trains and automoblies and someones loud drummers beat blasting thru my body. It does you know.. go right thru one.
Good post Suki.

Cris in Oregon said...

PS thanks for the nice comment on my quilt pictures today. You should ask about that babys quilt. Who knows they might have it. pigs could be flying to but one never knows.. Grin

Elizabeth said...

One of the reasons we hide out in Marrakech is that no one - almost no one - telephones me.
We do not have a TV - unfortunately Robert has discovered podcasts.
I'd be lost without internet access.
However, we both get a lot of reading done.
So it's peace and quiet for me , if possible.

Anonymous said...

I mostly like quiet as i think and compose a new painting. But once the subject matter, image, color and composition, etc. are seeded... I turn on music and dance while I paint.

Kim said...

Suki, my daughter is a creative writer. She loves fiction a great deal and will be working (with a professor) this summer to translate a novel for an Off-Broadway play. While she is in grad school, she is only 21 and still trying to get her feet wet narrowing down the genre.

But she (and my son, too) both need quiet around them. They both do not like going to hear bands at bars or anything like that. Interesting, but it is all related to the noise. Here is a funny thing about my daughter, though...her boyfriend only has 1/4 his hearing and is a percussionist (loud music)...he doesn't often play around her, though! But she has gotten in the habit of talking loudly when she speaks. :) We remind her we can hear! LOL

I completely agree...schools need to have some time or some place for quiet! No Doubt! I wonder how many students would learn better if they had that opportunity?

Claudia said...

Thank you for your wonderful blog entry on this. Yes, I am a person, who longs for quietness and natural surroundings to be creative at all. I stopped almost totally seeing tv (I compensate that with being in the internet, where I still can decide what I w a n t to see and hear!) I, too, observed, that it is n o t necessary to hear /see the news. If something really important happens, your colleagues know;-))
Although doing all this, I still have not found the quietness I'm looking for. At the moment, we live at the suburbs of a big city, but we will move to the countryside again...

katie jane said...

Boy, Suki! This post really got the comments, didn't it?

Well, I need quiet to work. In fact, I wear earplugs at my job at the post office, as everyone else wants to carry on their own conversations. There are 25 of us trying to work in one large room and I have trouble concentrating. They used to play several radios as well. AGGGH!!

But my husband spends time in "his room" here at home playing computer war games with the TV and a police scanner all going at once.

Hard to find quiet, more and more. I go for walks to get away from it all. Or I read on my porch.

Lynn said...

I prefer the quiet of my own thoughts when I am creating/sewing.
I will close the kitchen door so as not to have to hear the TV in the living room/or take out my hearing aids. That is a boon!
I turn them off when going on my walks outdoors too, as the cars sound terribly loud, almost frightenly so.
I listen to people for a living so when alone it's nice to have quiet.
And we watch way too much NEWS, so a retreat from it is good too.

DH turns on the TV when he walks in the house; when I am home first I never do.

Honour said...

Fascinating questions and answers dear Suki. I find I need peace and quiet too ... though if I need to, I can work in a coffee shop, pretty easily, as long as the conversations aren't *too* interesting beside me. But, I find the accessibility to info distracting, I must say. I love the internet and blogging ... but I have to make a conscious effort to also get out in the world, trust in the other senses for enlightenment and also remember to connect to just --- me. Sometimes, it's easy to rely on others -- whether it be words, classes, noise, whatever -- to block out what we really need to listen to. Ourselves. Ahhh! and on that note, I should sign off :) happy nite to you ...

Patti said...

Great post Suki!

I prefer quiet, but sometimes I play music or listen to talk-back radio while I'm creating, it really depends on my mood. TV news makes my head go all foggy.

Funnily enough I am reading a book at the moment called 'The Seduction of Silence' It really is beautiful to have quiet around you.

Mary Richmond said...

I need quiet to work in. I love being social and I love music and when I work I need it to be quiet so I can hear myself.

I have been reading your blog over the last few weeks but not commenting--love your paintings and the way they are developing so organically.

sukipoet said...

Wow. So many varied and lovely answers to this question. Thank you all for responding. I hardly know where to begin in responding in return. I don't know how kim does that thing where she responds to each comment right after the comment. So I have to do it in one big note.

hb, forgetting food on the cooker reminds me of a post Lynn did awhile back where she burnt the casserole while engrossed in making a quilt. Probably we have all done this. Really it is a wonderful talent to be able to block out the noise whilst in the midst of it. I can do that if what i am doing is really engrossing, but generally am too hypersensitive to the distractions. I chose the header photo because you said you liked it.

Marianne, it's true for me too that when I am painting or writing I feel I am in a meditation zone. And to actually sit and meditate, I find hard to do unless with a group but it is so valuable. I know my years meditation with a Buddhist group totally changed my life and way of being in the world. Although I have always be a quiet person.

Cris, the sounds of nature are so different from machine generated noises. Though not always soothing. The turkey's gurble is sort of distracting although maybe because it is new to me. An odd sound. I myself never watch TV except now at Mom's in the winter I watched Jeaopardy.

Elizabeth, that's marvelous, no TV. And how wonderful to have time to read and also walk in lovely Marrakech. Do you know the language? If not, I would think that would create a pocket of silence in some ways. But I've never lived in a foreign country so don't know.

Chewy, interesting. Silence to begin the project, then music and dancing, cool, later. I think visual artist can do music while doing art. When I was a writer, I found it very hard to write with music although as my neighbor was deaf and played his tv loud, I would listen to an ocean waves tape to block the distraction.

Kim you must be so proud of your children. How wonderful your daughter is pursuing a creative writing life. And in LA. Wow. I wish her great luck.Maybe her boyfriend needs loud percussion due to his deafness. I saw a video about a contemporary female musician who was deaf and she felt the rhythms. Interesting. Thanks for responding.

sukipoet said...

Claludia, I hope you get to move to the country soon if that is what you love. No TV is wonderful. I too do not have a TV except to use as a machine to watch movies on.

Katie Jane, how interesting, using earplugs at work. Were your co-workers offended at first?? Interesting about your husband having a number of noise things going at once. I have a friend who does that, maybe three noises going and then she wants to talk too.

Lynn well I guess it is handy in that sense to have hearing aids that can be turned off. Car noise--reminds me of Andrea's picture she painted of all the distractions and noise in Paris. Both my mom's roommates in rehab turned the TV on all day and half the night. Whereas mom would have no tv at all, just silence.

Honor I think it is true that silence brings us up against ourselves in a way we don't have to face when in the midst of noise, news and so forth. But maybe that is why people seem almost "addicted" to supernoise and busyness. That way one doesn't have to inner-think. I'd say you are doing pretty good to be able to work in a coffee shop. I love what you said though--if the conversations aren't too interesting. I love to overhear conversations myself.

sukipoet said...

Hi Patti. I love what you say about tv news making your head go foggy. Amen. Not to mention I think it makes me for one get riled up about things I can do nothing about. That book sounds great. I'll look for it.

Mary, good to hear from you. Do you listen to music though when writing? Do you think it's different for writing than for doing the visual arts?

Thanks again everyone for your wonderful responses. An interesting post even if I do say so myself. Namaste, Suki

Kim said...

Hi Suki,

As with all mothers, I think, I am extremely proud of both of my children, because they are both really wonderful human beings. I truly feel blessed to have them in my life.

I know the deaf woman you are speaking about...Glennis ???(and I cannot remember her last name). She is English, I believe. My grandparents were deaf people, so I have some insight there (another reason I think my daughter and her boyfriend get along...something about understanding the situation on my daughter's part). Deaf people dance and enjoy music like most of us, they only do it in a different way and also very loudly. Both of my grandparents participated in a deaf choir which to the untrained eye was very modern dance with the hands.

Suki, you write the most interesting posts...of course I can go on and on, but thank you so much!

Kim said...

PS I think you do great responding to everyone here.

I know some people do not do that and many do. My reasoning is I feel each person deserves my response as they have so graciously taken the time to make a comment.

Thank you for acknowledging my efforts, as well.

sukipoet said...

Kim, yes, I should have included your son, sounds like you love and admire both your children very much.

I only respond sometimes to the comments on my posts. Other times I get overwhelmed and don't. Anyway this has been a fun post with all the ideas popping around.

Interesting about your grand parents. Yes, I think it would take a special sensitivity to understand even a bit what a deaf person must go through. Maybe this is why you are so senstive to the nuances of people's feelings, growing up with two deaf grandparents. How lovely they sang in the choir. there have also been several fictional movies out in which a deaf woman acts, whose name or the movie names I don't recall. Now I feel insensitive identifying her as "a deaf woman" but her deafness was an integral part of the film too. be well, Suki