Ambiance and Writing

Hey, SE Readers. Joan with you on this September morning. Here in the Northern Hemisphere, we’re only three days away from the beginning of autumn—my favorite time of year. I love the cooler temperatures, the changing leaves, migrating birds, and fall fairs and festivals.

While the stores are already putting out Christmas decorations, and at least one friend has already decorated her house, I like to enjoy the fall. IMO, Christmas decorations don’t belong in a house until after Thanksgiving, but that’s another story.

I do enjoy the Christmas season. I’ve often toyed with the idea of writing a collection of short stories set during that time of year. I think about it each December, which is always a busy month, and by then it’s too late to write the stories, much less publish them. After Christmas, I don’t even like to think about the holiday, so once again, the project gets put on the back burner.

Unless you’re like my friend, who wants Christmas in July? It’s hard for me to get excited about mistletoe and holly when the outdoor temperatures are in the 90s, or like this summer in Texas, triple digits. Maybe setting the thermostat to the sixties and putting on some Christmas music might help to summon my writing mojo.

A peaceful scene that inspired one of my short stories. I imagined hearing the call of loons as I looked at this photo. Image courtesy of Dreamstime.

For me, having the right ambiance is essential, not only for seasonal fiction but for the setting. I’m a big music lover, and music has inspired many of my stories, but I can’t listen while I’m writing.

Ambient sounds are different. They help to place me in a particular season or setting. It isn’t always possible for writers to visit the areas in which they set their stories. Fortunately, with today’s technology, there are several options available.

Ambient Mixer is a website that offers almost all types of ambient sounds—weather, wildlife, in the home, and coffee shops to name a few. Although I haven’t tried them, there are also various sporting events such as soccer and figure skating. If you need to write a scene and are unsure how to describe the sounds in your particular setting, this site is extremely helpful.

Spotify also has a number of ambient sounds. I recently listened to a clip of the calling of loons so that I could capture the right atmosphere for a story. Thunderstorms, desert winds, and nocturnal creatures have also been beneficial to me.

These sounds are not only helpful when writing, but many of them help to relax you. This is especially important after a long, hard day. They can help set the mood for writing.

Do you use ambient sounds? If so, have you found them beneficial? What are some of your favorites?

62 thoughts on “Ambiance and Writing

  1. I have to have silence when I write, but I need the ambient sounds to support the scene I’m writing. I use drives to the location, my memory, internet searches for sound clips, and freesound.org. Thank you for the additional resource. I’ve saved it for future reference.

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  2. Pingback: This Week at Story Empire – Joan Hall

  3. I’m almost ashamed to say I’ve never thought like this, Joan. I can definitely understand what you’re saying. How our atmosphere can greatly impact our writing. And the ambient sounds… a genius idea to help get into that mode. Whatever goes along with your story. Thank you for sharing this. I think I need to rethink my routine!

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  4. Like you, I write in silence, Joan. And like you, I occasionally have to search for a sound for a story – never knew that reindeer sound like creaking wood. Lol. I agree totally about the general ambiance. It’s hard to write a Christmas story in summer without getting in a wintery mood… or the other way around. Thanks for the links, and enjoy the last days of summer.

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  5. Loved this, Joan – though I’m still reeling from the notion of someone already having their Christmas decorations up! We have a family rule about waiting until December 1st – otherwise it loses its magic and impact for us. I can’t listen to music when I write, If it has words, they pop up randomly in the middle of a scene, and if it’s something classical I pull away from writing to revel in it. I have used white noise if something noisy is going on in the background but I’ll explore the ‘ambient’ catalogue because it does sound like a good idea. I was given an eye mask once that came with tiny speakers and a choice of sounds – they were all on such a short loop they were too irritating to use – literally ten seconds of the same waves/rain/birdsong etc. 🙂

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  6. Mu office was across from the kitchen or the copy center at work for decades. I always had music playing in the background. I have a playlist called “work noise.” I can write with almost anything in the background. Maybe as that wears off, I’ll try the ambient sound. It sounds like a great resource.

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  7. Great post, Joan 🙂 I’m a huge fan of fall too. I love listening to rain or the ocean. I have one of the original ocean sound vinyl albums. I will check out the site and agree it is important to get that sound just right.

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  8. Interesting post, Joan. I’m a spring and summer guy. I like fall–for a minute. But that usually means snow and sub zero temps aren’t far behind. I like your idea of a short story collection with a holiday theme. To get into the mood during the summer, perhaps you might set up a room that is decorated for the holidays. Play seasonal music, crank up the A/C, and get in the mood. I also believe there shouldn’t be any Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving. I like the idea of ambient sounds when writing. I’ve been know to employ that trick from time to time–though I usually require silence when writing.

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  9. Fall is my favorite season. The turning leaves, the smells, the crisp air.

    I love Christmas and do listen to the music when it is on at work. My boss plays it all the time. I was one of those who liked to get my decorations up right after Thanksgiving. I hate decorating when my fingers can’t move. That won’t be an issue this year.

    Any background noise is necessary for me when writing. Music, ambient sounds, television, outdoor noise. I can’t function if I have silence. When I have total silence, I go into what’s wrong mode and can’t get anything done.

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  10. Like you, no Christmas decorations go up in our house until after Thanksgiving. I’ve never tried listening to ambient sounds while I write, but I can imagine they’d be helpful for certain scenes. I’ll have to give them a try. Thanks!

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    • They are nice, especially when writing a scene during a different season. As many crickets, tree frogs, and cicadas as I’ve heard over the years, you’d think I would remember. But these are nice to have. And relaxing as well.

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  11. Like you, I cannot write with music going, even instrumentals. Otherwise, my mind goes into the music and away from the scene I’m trying to craft. However, ambient sounds would be beneficial, especially for setting the mood for a scene. I will have to check out Ambient Mixer. Thanks, Joan. Great idea!

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    • Music inspires but also distracts me. Like you, I tend to focus on the music, not what I’m writing. If I get stuck, I’ll stop long enough to listen to a few songs, then go back to writing. Ambient sounds are nice, however.

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  12. I love listening to music when I write. However, it has to be instrumental only while I’m editing/proofing … just the way my brain works! The ambient sounds site seems like a great resource. I meant to visit after Staci recommended it, and now you have too, I really must check it out, lols.

    Thanks for sharing, Joan 💕🙂

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  13. I’ve used the one Staci recommended and it’s kind of fun to make your own. My go-to is YouTube these days. Their clips are much longer so I don’t have to interrupt my flow to reset or change. I play them on my phone to headphones, then write on my iPad.

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  14. I love Ambient Mixer. I didn’t know Spotify had that option. Thanks for mentioning it.

    My daughter would celebrate Christmas every day of the year if she could. She listens to the music all year long. I bet she could get you in the mood next summer! 🎄

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  15. Pingback: Ambiance and Writing | Legends of Windemere

  16. HI Joan, your comment about hot weather not allowing you to get into the Christmas spirit made me chuckle. December is summer here in South Africa and the temperatures are over 33 degrees Celsius every day and often higher. I agree about decorations. I never put mine up until 16 December at the earliest. Otherwise they become a little tiresome.

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