Optimum Distraction: A Dissent

Apr 20 2011 @ 5:51pm

Unlike Conor and Dish readers, Josh Green isn’t a coffee-shop writer:

In my early freelance days, I tended bar with an aspiring screenwriter who’d been counseled by an actual, successful screenwriter to force himself to write in a noisy bar–because if you can train yourself to write with loud music and drunk people around, you can write anywhere.

That struck me, at the time, as a brilliant insight. We worked in a loud, cheesy college bar, and as bars go, the noise/commotion level doesn’t get any higher than at cheesy college bars. So this briefly struck me an added advantage, a stroke of good fortune. Guess what? It didn’t work. I mostly sat there like a moron with laptop and developed a pounding headache. The noise made it impossible to concentrate. So did the drunk people who stumbled up and asked, not unreasonably, what the hell I was doing. I stuck it out for an hour the first night. The second night, I lasted five minutes and quit. I don’t recommend it.

He recommends various ear-plug strategies. My ex, a cognitive psychologist, once told me of a something called the “cocktail party” effect. Those most likely to overhear their name in a cluster of people adjacent to the cluster they were talking to revealed lower levels of intelligence. The ability to block out surrounding noise when you need to concentrate is highly correlated with “g”.

Make of that what you will.