For a long time, I would see writers sit in loud and obnoxious coffee shops and tap away at their laptops and wonder how they could possibly get anything of value written. To be sure, there are many writers who endlessly write in a coffee shop but never actually produce anything, using the shop more as a way to gain attention (look at me, I’m a writer) than to write. But there are just as many who are amazingly productive and in fact, prefer the coffee shop’s chaotic environment.
I’ve tried writing in public places like coffee shops with little success. I am easily distracted and each person that walked in forced me to look up at them and lose my train of thought. I’d find myself people watching as much as I wrote (if not more).
Personally, I’ve always loved peace and quiet for writing. Sometimes I’ll turn on some classical music but most of the time, I do my best work in silence. But I’ve met just as many writers who can’t work without music (including music with lyrics). They’d say they found it hard to be creative without some kind of background noise.
Ambient Sound & Creativity
Recently, I discovered that there might be some science behind the benefits of ambient sound. The Journal of Consumer Research did a study in early 2012 that found a correlation between ambient sound and creativity. It turns out the truth is somewhere in the middle. Loud, chaotic noises and complete silence produced less creativity than dull random ambient noise.
Specifically, ambient noise around 70 dB produced the highest creativity. Silence produced the second most creativity with loud sounds over 85 dB hurting creativity the most.
Coffitivity: Ambient Noise Generator
Coffivitity is a simple piece of software you can install on your Mac, iPad, and iPhone that plays random ambient noise while you work. The app couldn’t be easier to use. Just start it up and choose from one of several ambient noise types including:
- Morning Murmur (morning sounds from a coffee shop)
- Lunchtime Lounge (a moderate lunch rush with indistinguishable voices chatting and plates clanking as people eat)
- University Undertones (like sitting in the commons area of a university during a break between classes)
After trying out all three tracks, University Undertones worked the best for me. It didn’t get in my way and still provided enough noise for me to know it was there.
You can get Coffitivity from all the Apple App Stores. Links are provided on the Coffitivity website here. There’s also a way to play the sounds directly from Coffitivity’s website.
Does It Work?
While it’s hard to exactly measure my creativity, I like the writing I produce while I use Coffitivity. I use it as another tool in my writer’s toolbox. Breaking up writing sessions with silence, some background music, and Coffitivity provides a nice change of pace and keeps things flowing. If you’re looking for something to help you break through a creative barrier, Coffitivity just might do the trick.