Have you ever gone to a coffee shop to get some writing done and found yourself blasting through the pages, knocking out more words than you’ve managed in the entire rest of the week?
Most of us have.
But have you ever wondered why?
It may well be the power of ambient noise!
Ambient noise (sometimes called white noise) is the stuff going on in the background while we’re concentrating on something else. It’s birds chirping, cars passing outside, people talking around us in the café, the clink of cups, the hiss of the espresso machine.
While sounds that attract our attention, like focused conversation or music with lyrics, can interrupt flow and distract us from our writing, studies have shown that ambient noise can actually increase creativity and productivity!
Coffee shops are, basically, the perfect white noise machines—all those different background sounds blend together to create a soothing, gentle hum or buzz that helps boost our productivity and increase our focus.
Sometimes, though, we don’t have access to a coffee shop—or don’t want to spend $5 on a pour-over, or don’t want to risk getting dragged into a conversation with the weird guy at the next table who smells like cheese.
So what’s a writer to do?
Harness the power of technology and try an app or website that puts the power of ambient noise to work for you, anytime and anywhere!
Try one of these tools and see if ambient noise can help you up your word count.
Coffitivity is a free site that’s actually based on that study linked above. It has a variety of different “environments” you can choose from, from a busy restaurant to a quiet-ish university setting. For $9/month, you can unlock more environments that take you virtually to a teashop in Texas or a charming Parisian bistro.
Designed especially for writers, OmmWriter combines a distraction-free writing experience with ambient noise to help you focus. If you like writing in a plain text editor or enjoy having beautiful screensavers and backgrounds, OmmWriter might be your perfect writing experience—with the added bonus of adding productivity-enhancing white noise! You can download the software for Mac, PC, or iPad with a pay-what-you-want model, although the developers suggest chipping in $5.11.
Want to try ambient noise but don’t care for the clink, rattle, and chatter of a café? Give Noisli a go! This fabulous site lets you choose whether you want to boost your productivity or relax and then lets you customize the blend of sounds that works best for you.
Wind, rain, fire, traffic, thunder and lightning—you can switch up the sounds and change the intensity. Noisli even features classic noise ranges like white noise, brown noise, and pink noise that have been shown to have a variety of different effects on the human brain.
Brain.fm is a particularly focused ambient noise generator that claims it can improve your productivity and performance in as little as 15 minutes. Like Noisli, it lets you select what you’re looking to do—focus, relax, sleep, etc.—and then lets you tweak various soundscapes to help reach that goal. You can use up to 7 sessions per month for free, or pay $6.95/month for unlimited sessions. Brain.fm works through a web app or on iPhone.
Although it’s promoted as a way to help relax and get to sleep, Rain Rain is a great choice for people who want an ambient noise app. Available for iOS and Android, this free app lets you fine-tune the blend of sounds that works best for you. It offers some in-app purchases for special sound packs or to go ad-free, but you can use it for free just fine.
YouTube is an amazing resource for ambient noise! Just search for the kind of noise you’re interested in—thunderstorms, maybe, or calm cafés—and you’ll get hours upon hours of background noise perfect for your next writing session.
White Noise Machine
If you’re in one place, like your office, but still dealing with Audible distractions like traffic noise or someone watching TV in the next room, a white noise machine might be just the answer you’re looking for.
These portable little devices use fans, air currents, and sometimes electronic sound generators to make pure white noise, the kind that helps cancel out other sounds and provide a soothing, distraction-free work environment. They’re often used to help mask noises at bedtime, but they’re also great for letting you tune out the rest of the world when it’s time to get writing.
Do you work better in total silence, with ambient noise in the background, or with some kind of music playing? Let’s discuss!
Try an ambient noise generator to boost your creativity and productivity through the power of sound.
For more ways to increase your writing focus and productivity, check out these articles:
- The Best Writing Tip Ever: How I Doubled My Daily Word Count With One Simple Change
- How to Type Faster with a More Efficient Keyboard Layout
- 15 Success Habits of Professional Writers and Authors
Kate Sullivan is an editor with experience in every aspect of the publishing industry, from editorial to marketing to cover and interior design.
In her career, Kate has edited millions of words and helped dozens of bestselling, award-winning authors grow their careers and do what they love!