Deep Focus While You’re Writing (or Plotting!)

empty hallway
Photo by Ivan Bertolazzi on

Only a short post this week as I’m seriously behind.

Cal Newport has a long and interesting post about the use of ASMR in Immersive Single Tasking. (Along with a retro image of Bob Ross painting, which was what caught my attention in the first place.)

Immersive Single Tasking is the new sexy in productivity, but we writers have known about it for a very long time. We call it writing in flow, or sinking into or getting lost in the story.

ASMR is a way of entering that state, which uses technology (actually, it IS the technology). If you’ve always had trouble settling into your writing, you might find some of the ideas in Newport’s post worth researching.

On the other hand, you don’t have to go nearly that far to get the same effect. I stumbled over something just as good, years ago: Sound-cancelling earbuds.

Or earphones, if you can find a set that don’t make your ears ache after an hour of wearing them.

A good set of sound cancelling earphones or ear buds, especially if they’re wireless, will set you back a couple to several hundred dollars (and if you’re in Canada, the low four figures is not outside the realms of possible prices for a good set–ouch!). If you are willing to put up with the inconvenience of wired (and your laptop has the plug-in), then a decent set of high-end earbuds will cost you far less than that. I’m still using my Skull Candy ear buds that I got for Christmas over five years ago.

They must be sound-cancelling, though. That’s key.

It’s important that when you have your non-lyrics music volume up loud enough to be comfortable, you can’t hear the clicks of your keyboard. Sorry to the tactile keyboard folks, but not hearing yourself type helps distance you from the act of writing, so that the only input is the music (which soothes–and if you listen to Mozart, it’s argued that the music also enhances your creativity), and the story on the screen in front of you.

You forget you’re typing and end up watching the words appear on the screen, and you are truly lost in the story.

You don’t have to listen to music, either. You can also listen to natural sounds, coffee shop sounds (Coffetivity), or white noise. There are also sites edging into the ASMR range of thought enhancement such as Brain.FM.

Warning: If you are susceptible to seizures, avoid Brain.FM and other sites like it. Be wary of other ASMR devices, too. Do your research. If you’re in this boat, do as I do and keep it low tech: Sound cancelling earbuds and lots of film soundtracks to enhance the mood.

Let me know if you try any of these new technologies or aides, and how they worked for you.

Happy Weekend.


Scroll to Top