Hey, writers—do you like a little noise while you work?
Most of us find an optimal environment for creativity somewhere between total isolation and orchestrated chaos.
A surprising number of business writers say that silence in itself is distracting—they need at least some music playing softly in the background.
Sure, minimal sensory input such as soft background music may help your writing. However, multitasking (for example, trying to write an annual report while watching a YouTube video) will actually doom your writing efforts.
What Is Multitasking, Really?
In the case of writing, it’s trying to do other than writing: You’re at your computer or you have a pen in hand… and at the same time you’re using your smartphone to email a co-worker, while in the meantime you’ve got a browser window open to your Facebook newsfeed.
You get the picture.
Notice that trying is italicized above. This is because you actually are not doing all these things at the same time. You’re not even doing two of them at the same time.
Scientific studies have proved this: All that’s happening while you think you are multitasking is your focus is shifting with amazing speed between each of those tasks.
The more similar the tasks are, the more they compete to use the same part of the brain. Ultimately, conflict sets in. Then fatigue. You end up doing these tasks more slowly than had you worked on them sequentially. Or even worse, you do them all poorly.
Multitasking Has Another Downside
Our short-term memory can store only four or five things simultaneously. Multitasking can easily cause you to exceed that limitation—before your brain has had enough time to transfer it to long-term memory for recall at a later time.
So, if one of the things you’re doing while multitasking is trying to retain new or important information, you probably won’t be able to remember it. It has been lost.
How Important Is Your Writing to You?
If you multitask while you write, you will not write well.
Block off a nice chunk of time for writing each day and stick to it. No distractions. Turn off the cell phone and log out of Facebook.
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