It drives me to distraction

We’ve been without a landline or broadband connection at home for two weeks now, apart from one brief and glorious day when it functioned before dying again.  So I’ve been trying to work in a variety of different environments this week (and I’m not just talking about the “lawn-mower hotel” we built in the garden during our enforced down-time!).

It’s made me realise how difficult I find it to concentrate when there are other people moving and talking all round me, and how lucky I am to have an office to myself with no view out of the window*.  It’s definitely harder to work with all the distractions than without.Distraction

I’m guessing that people in busy offices learn to zone out the noise around them, but your brain is still multi-tasking (i.e. zoning out as well as working) and psychologists say that there’s inevitably a reduction in effective thought when you’re multi-tasking (yes, even for women!).

That got me wondering whether some people have trouble writing simply because there’s too much going on around them, too many distractions, to be able to write comfortably.  It’s a long time since I last worked in that sort of environment, and your memory softens unpleasant recollections after a bit, so I’d be interested to hear what you think: do you feel your environment affects your writing or do you thrive on noise and bustle?

I know some students feel they can only work when they have their music playing (what do they do in exams?); I could do that as a teenager but the ability seems to have left me in the past 20 years or so.

Right now, behind me there’s someone talking about pensions and another person discussing her friends/colleagues, the baristas are chugging out coffee and clattering crockery, there’s a chap wandering around tidying up the house-plants, and the man next to me is tapping at the keyboard of the resident computer.  Oh yes, and muzak chuntering away just above audible level.  (This probably less-than-sparkling edition comes to you courtesy of the Apex Hotel, Dundee).

That’s way too much for my country-quiet brain to cope with!  So I’ll stop wittering and hope that BT will have restored the service as usual by next week (though I have my doubts: their idea of “urgent” is not the same as mine.  The call-centre staff are very charming and apologetic but the engineer never appears).

Meanwhile, if you need to get in touch – and I’d love answers to the questions above – please either email me at or phone my mobile, 07718 593057.


* When we bought the school, our neighbours had had nobody next door at all for 7 years, and only had anyone around during school hours for 16 years before that, so they weren’t keen on us looking out the window at them.  Consequently all our downstairs windows on that side of the house, including my office window, have opaque film on them.  It certainly cuts down on distractions!

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