When Real Life Interferes With Creativity

This is an oldie, but goodie originally posted on my former WordPress blog in August 2011.

Over the course of the past year or so I’ve experienced an increase of abhorrent behavior on the part of some of my neighbors. At first, this frustrated me beyond measure. Then I learned to cope. If you’re going through a similar situation, don’t feel powerless. There are options when it comes to dealing with a noisy environment and even working peacefully amidst the chaos.

If the noise level is serious or extreme, throttle politely talk to your neighbors

Quiet please! (Photo credit: m_bartosch)

A perfect example would be when my former next door neighbors blasted rock, heavy metal and techno during all hours of the day, I’m talking ungodly hours like 12am, 2am or later. How loud was the music? It not only filled the public hallway, but it could be heard two floors down. On one occasion the superintendent tried knocking on their door so he could inspect their plumbing and he nearly had to kick the door down to get their attention. Sadly, I’m not exaggerating. I think I was the first to inform the noisy tenants of the inconvenience they were creating. I politely asked them to keep it down. It worked for about a day or two. Then it started up again:

BOOM-tsk… BOOM-tsk… BOOM-tsk… BOOM-tsk…

When a different neighbor addressed me about the issue (thinking I was the culprit), I decided that further action was needed. No, I’m not talking murder, though some nights the thought was tempting. Several neighbors on my floor came up with the idea to leave them a letter on behalf of the whole floor. In it, we civilly requested that they consider the other tenants (some with newborns), and keep the noise down. We also voiced our confidence and desire to resolve the manner respectfully, but that we’d alert the authorities if given no other choice. As an added bonus, I included the NYC Noise Ordinance and highlighted the section pertaining to loud music. We decided against throwing in a pair of headphones, figuring they should buy their own. Even so, the noise immediately stopped. Although I think I heard a collective sigh of relief from everyone else on the floor. Much to my shock, they moved out by the following week. We saw signs shortly thereafter that arose suspicion that they had been living there illegally, but that’s pure speculation.   

If the problem is more of a nuisance than a major issue and can’t be resolved, try not to sweat it
More recently one of my neighbors, who lives two doors down from me, has developed a habit of slamming his door whenever he enters and exits his apartment. The force reverberates through my walls and can be quite startling when it ruptures the dead quiet of the late evening hours. Now, at least a few others have begun to follow suit. I guess it’s a new trend, but I’ll pass. Anyway, I realize that though it’s annoying, there’s not much to be done other than politely ask them to mind their doors. I understand that sometimes it’s not possible to prevent door slamming when a person has their hands full once in a while, but this behavior is frequent. Anyway, I’ve learned to accept that:

  1. The soundproofing in the building is subpar and seemingly non-existent at times.
  2. Not everyone places the same value on manners. Sad, but I can’t change what should have been instilled in them during their upbringing.
  3. The frequency and duration of the noise created by the slamming is relatively short compared to the problem we used to have on the floor.
  4. Sometimes you have to choose your battles wisely and know when it’s a lost cause to complain.

Headphones. Gotta love ‘em! (Photo credit: Michal Marcol)

Oddly enough, the most irritating, obnoxious people in your life sometimes lead you onto a path to personal growth. Had I not experienced the above issues I wouldn’t have met the wonderful people I encountered while seeking advice from my fellow writers on Twitter on how to better combat these distractions.

My online friends and fellow creatives mainly suggested what I had already done or was currently doing, namely drowning out the noise with my music via headphones. One of the people I met as a result of the whole ordeal is Lisette Brodey, a fellow author and an all-around great woman who would later set up an interview with her lead character, Molly Hacker.

My advice to you is that no matter how distracting your environment is or may seem, you ultimately have the power to determine how you react to it and how it shapes you as a person. Rather than remaining angry or upset, convert that negative energy into something useful and channel it into your craft. It takes practice, and it won’t always be easy, but you’ll be amazed at how much you’ll fuel your determination as you retake the helm of your inner-focus.

Have you experienced similar issues that have threatened to hinder your creative process? If so, what were they and what did you do to resolve it?

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