White noise for Writing

People ask, how long do you write? With what implement? How organize files? Research? When really the most important thing is one’s intention.

Nevertheless, let me share some new essential tools. I may have developed misophonia in the last few years or maybe it’s just the same old irritated me, but managing my sound environment has become critical to my well being.

Today? An abutting neighbor’s tree work. A nearby development project blasting at ledge stone. Not that unusual.

Monday? Five yard crews, all but one employing the gas-powered leaf blowers that are banned for the summer. There was no reprieve this year. (I attribute the widespread violations to the prevalence of shameful Karen videos. I certainly stopped approaching crews and telling them they couldn’t/shouldn’t).

And, did I tell you about the roofers who decided to saw up a twenty foot aluminum ladder over the course of two days? Such that the normally fairly benign rat-a-tat-tat of a pneumatic hammer was overlaid with an unbearable metallic percussive roar?


#1 — silicone swimmers’ ear plugs (thanks to Deb for this recommendation).

#2 — big box fan, running ten feet from where I sit.

#3– white noise maker. I mostly listen to rain. I probably could’ve used an app instead of buying a little device. Oh well.

Together, these three tools work amazingly well to shelter me from the absolutely endless noise of my neighborhood.

For the record, I write with medium Bic blue pen in college-ruled spiral bound notebooks or on legal pads. Then I type into a dedicated laptop, as is. Save original then edit a copy. I have saved versions of entire manuscript often. At some point, likely to be deleted.

Every now and then, it’s necessary to print out pages for a round of edits. Editing is just different on paper than on the screen.

Before I send “Edit Two” back to my hired publisher, I plan to print out at least the last 75 – 125 pages where I have made major changes. Just biting the bullet on (outrageous) cost of toner because I still don’t want to go into a retail establishment if I don’t have to.

Oh, and here’s a brag. One of my digital collages was featured on @thedianasblog on Instagram. It’s not the first time. It’s always a teeny thrill.

12 thoughts on “White noise for Writing

  1. Virginia Mallon

    Hey Dee. Great post. Thanks for noise cancelling tips. I never realized the racket till I was home all day due to the pandemic. Wtf these guys do with the blower mower is beyond me. And cutting up a ladder I would have lost it. Now we have the choppers from everyone cutting down their trees due to the last storm. It’s insane.

    Hey re printing costs. If you want me to print it at work and send to you I’m happy to do so. I’m there on tuesdays. I can send priority or FedEx. And will not read if you don’t want me to. I promise.

    Anyway just thought I’d offer. Keep up the great work

    Xo Ginny

    Virginia Mallon 646-641-8545 http://www.VirginiaMallon.com @virginiamallon


    1. deemallon

      Until K worked from home, he had no idea either. He just chalked it up to me being a complainer. I’ve seen those fucking yard crew guys use a leaf blower to blow a driveway clear of ten blades of grass. I get how essential the blowers are for fall clean up, but what’s wrong with a broom for ten blades of grass?

      And wow. Thank you for printing offer. Cause I’d really like to print the whole thing.

      1. Acey

        When I remember my favorite homes where we lived in town (Presentation Hill on the last street before Newton line and Allston adjacent to Ringer Park) I virtually never recall how noisy it was. For a while we lived on Comm Ave right at the Allston Street T stop. While the tracks were being repaired and the little side roads were clogged 24/7 with endless and yet utterly inadequate bus replacement transport.

        Yesterday I was thinking about that apartment in which it seems I spent far too much of my 24th summer doing little beyond reading New Yorker magazines while a hoard of neighborhood children on big wheels rode around and around on a cement covered back yard just beyond our bedroom windows shrieking at each other to kill ever single Daddy Long Legs spider they encountered. At the time both J and I considered that peripheral part of our lives the most effective birth control ever.

        I never really think too much about the ceaseless noise at all. I remember the diversity. The restaurants. The solid two dozen legitimately *good* women friends I had in the kind of way you just don’t have with friends who don’t live close enough for smooth implementation of spontaneous plans. And I’ve always found those are the very best times spent with the women who lives most enrich my own.

        Such glossy memories of our urban years that most likely weren’t at all like I mainly choose to remember them never take into count in the inexorable sound track and how little control I had over most of that.

        I ripped my book apart last week like it was a planned rather than spontaneous action. Cut the character roster in half, renamed the male lead and streamlined the plot point structure. Every day I get up and treat this endeavor like both a full time job and one of the biggest irrational bees in my bonnet that I’ve chosen to decide must be served.

        Every night I wonder equally why tf I’m writing fiction again and why I ever stopped. rinse lather repeat.

        1. deemallon

          Such interesting reflections about your personal history. I’ve also lived in noisier places (San Francisco, Dublin) but I don’t remember being bothered by sound. Which is why I think this sensitivity has come with age.

          The changes to your book sound very positive and also maybe frustrating to put in place. You totally capture the draw / resistance to writing in your last few statements!

  2. Michelle Slater

    Sound matters. As you know I live three floors up in an old apartment and Manhattan is busy. Last night 8.26 huge machines dug, roared and beeped for the preliminary stages of repaving the block from 10 p.m. to past 2 a.m. I used the big box fan, A/C fan and earplugs too. They will be back to finish soon. It’s regular. You have my sympathy.

    1. deemallon

      Are they done with the police renovations, anyway? Beeping trucks in reverse is one of my new least favorite sounds. I don’t know about in the city, but its piercing beep really carries — a quarter mile at least.

  3. ravenandsparrow

    I have spent some time looking at that picture of you…so young, so pretty, either angry or sad (I think angry). It triggers memories from my past, but they are all from inside myself. I am curious what I would make of them if I could look from the outside like I am looking at you. Being confronted by the passage of time is like a hammer on my heart. But thank you for showing it.

    1. deemallon

      A hammer on the heart — I feel that looking at pictures of the boys as little kids. In my twenties, I was furious about things a good amount of the time. My anger hid an uncertainty saturated with sadness: I wasn’t sure I wanted to be here.

      1. ravenandsparrow

        I, too, have always felt a reservoir of reluctance under the surface of my life. I am sure I was (am) angry, but was never allowed to express it so the required self-effacement congealed into a crust that occasionally blew. When I look at pictures of my boys as children I sometimes think of the times I blew up at them. Then I wish I had a WABAC machine (remember Professor Peabody and Sherman on Rocky and Bullwinkle?).


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