In Search of Elusive Quiet


Although it’s cloudy today, the weather is a mid-seventies mild and there’s a light breeze, perfect for having my doors and windows open to the fresh air while I settle down to write this blog post. The problem is that there’s noise everywhere and it’s difficult to concentrate.

My neighbor behind me has decided today’s the day to repair his yard-separating fence, which requires cutting fence lengths and posts with an electric saw and his German Shepherd dogs are barking at nosy crows swooping from trees to lamp posts and cawing back. The house across the street is having new tile put in a bathroom, so the tile cutting motor is grinding its song to join in the cacophony. And somewhere high above there is the rumble of distant airliners approaching and departing Tampa International Airport.

I’ve been staring at my computer screen waiting for the usual easy to find idea for a blog subject and I can’t even hear myself think. Am I more sensitive today than usual? Or is it just that it’s one of those noisy days that happen now and then? And what can I do about it?

Classical music is something that usually helps me concentrate, so I am now basking in 18th Century music. There’s a little change, but not enough. As I sit here in my office looking around the room waiting for an idea to hit me, I’m remembering an article I read a while ago about a rather famous Florida author, whom I admire. In the article, there was a photograph of him in his writing space. He was wearing headphones. That intrigued me and I read on. The photograph showed a body of water and a boat through a window beyond the headphoned author.

We writers are often accused of having little voices bouncing around in our heads as we write and I can attest to that, so wouldn’t it make sense to be able to “hear” them? Hmmmm. I decided to test that theory and I made a trip to my local box store and found some noise-canceling headphones in the hunting department. I tried them on and Voilà: quiet! This was a eureka moment for me, an epiphany. I bought them and came home to test them out.

I think it actually turned out to be a cosmic experience or something. The moment I put on the headphones, everyone quit making noise. The birds flew away. The dogs quit barking. My neighbor stopped working and went inside and the tile guys packed up and went home for the day. No sign of airliners either. Removing the headphones didn’t make any difference. The silence was almost palpable. Now there’s a gentle drizzle falling, perceived only by light reflecting on the tiny drops against the dark trees.

Was it the coming precipitation that caused this lack of noise, or did the famous Florida writer have some sort of karmic secret? I don’t know, but I now have my blog post written and I’m happy and calm and ready to relax.

Do any of you have a way to acquire the quiet you need to write? Or do you even need quiet? Share your secrets, please.


Coco Ihle is the author of SHE HAD TO KNOW, an atmospheric traditional mystery set mainly in Scotland. Join her here each 11th of the month.


Filed under musings, writing

16 responses to “In Search of Elusive Quiet

  1. This made me smile because I am the complete opposite. I grew up in a large family doing homework and writing papers around the kitchen table with all kinds of noises surrounding me. When I went off to college, I found I had to study in the common areas of the dorm or the student lounge because my own room and the library were so quiet, I couldn’t function properly. I’m still alone quite a bit and usually work with music or the TV on to dull the overly quiet house. Not that some noises don’t drive me crazy. Do not cut down trees when I’m around. I hate the thought of a tree being cut down, plus, it sounds like a drill at the dentist’s office. Double ouch.

    • Funny you should say that, Sherrie. My son called last night and I told him what my blog was about and he said he is the way you are. Then I remembered my mother always made sure, when I was a child, there was silence in the house while I was studying. That became a challenge for me in college, so I purposely made sure there was always some noise while my son was growing up. How interesting to remember this. Thanks so much for your input!

    • greeneagle888777

      I have an advantage-disadvantage. All I have to do is turn off my hearing aids and all is quiet!!

  2. Linda

    I am in Sherrie’s camp. Grew up in large noisy family and learned to tune out the chaos around me. I get up in the mornings and hit the button on the coffee maker and the radio in one motion. I need the background noise and my dog has grown used to it as well. I leave the radio on for her when I leave the house. She is more comfortable than when there is total silence. When I am doing gardening though, it is just me and mother earth. I tune out everything and would probably just step over the crack and keep working if there were an earthquake.

  3. I love a musical background a long as someone else is in the room choosing the soundtrack. Other than that I tend to ignore all sounds except the phone or the doorbell, and can’t always guarantee to hear even them. Can’t even guarantee to hear my husband offering coffee.

    • Surely, Sheila, you, too, have a gift. I can’t imagine not hearing every little noise. It’s amazing to me. I certainly would perk up if i heard the offer for coffee! Thanks for sharing and for your comment.

  4. I remember tramping in the woods of our Pennsylvania farm after a heavy snow. This was in the days before airliners criss-crossed the skies seemingly in an endless parade. There were no tractors about, or chain saws or the hollers and shouts of human activity. The silence was almost absolute, and otherworldly.

    Have you kept your headphones Coco – to try on another, noisier day?

    • Yes, Chuck, I remember the silence of youth, too. That may also have an influence in my noticing noise now. Yes, I’ve kept the headphones, but interestingly enough, haven’t had to use them since my first day of ownership. I don’t know if that means anything, but at least I’m prepared. Thank you for chiming in!

  5. Joanie

    Your Sister Joanie,

    Yes, my dear sister, I am haunted with the same difficulty/nightmare…..and you won’t believe it, but on my list of things to research and shop for are EAR PHONES. I need them at home and in the car. My husband is VERY hard of hearing as you well know and with two very expensive hearing aids he still has both radio and television on high volume and I cannot think straight. I keep telling him to turn down the volume and for some reason it sounds like it gets louder. I definitely know where you are coming from. Please let me know what kind of successful earphones you have purchased and then I will not have to research them.

    You have my sympathy! Enjoy those earphones!


    • Bless your heart, Sis! Several years ago, my friend Cynthia got some earphones that she used for watching TV so she didn’t have to have her TV volume up so high. I think they worked remotely with the TV volume somehow. Have you tried those for hubby?

      I got my headphones from Walmart. I don’t remember if there was a brand name on them. I just went to the hunting department and tried on several until I got some that completely covered my ears, were comfortable and shut out the noise in the store. Any store that sells electronics most likely has headphones you can try out. I feel for you, too!!!!! Good luck!!!

  6. Pat Gordon

    Hi Coco,

    Your article is so well written; you are truly a blessed author.

    I have no words of wisdom to impart. As you are aware, I live by myself, so I have quiet all the time and I enjoy it. I never have need of background music to keep me company. I enjoy my own company, so guess I am always on Cloud Nine, as my Mom used to tell me. I have outside interests to balance my quiet homelife.


  7. Very interesting idea, Coco, especially looking in the Hunting department! I never would’ve thought of that. (Then, again, WHY do hunters want them if they can’t hear anything? The animals can then sneak up on THEM!)


    • My take on your question is that the headphones are only used when shooting, to protect the hunter’s ears. Not being a hunter, that’s just my thought. If someone else has a better answer, perhaps they’ll share it. ? Thank you for commenting.

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