Thursday, February 5, 2015

Sound claustrophobia

The sounds start harmless enough. Coughs, throat-clearing, nose-blowing, the crunching of apples. Later there will be a morning check-in with the wife and kids, and a quartet of blubbery sneezes, followed by harmonized giggles from a bookkeeping duo. In the afternoons, there’s a flurry of not-so-hushed personal calls and a heated talking-down from project leader to a team member who hasn’t delivered a deliverable. 

Japanese Gardens, Portland, Oregon, photo by Rick Mora

When I’m not writing, I hire out as a contract accountant. For the last year I’ve been working with a client on a long-term project, but this is the first time in my $%#*!!&? years that I’ve worked in a cubicle. Yes, I understand the cost savings of a footprint with cubes versus individual offices. But surely productivity has suffered. I’d like to see the numbers on that.

Most days my earphones are looped over my ears, blaring instrumentals such as the themes from Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings or Last of the Mohicans on Pandora, but sometimes even those masterpieces don’t drown it all out. Lately, I’ve alternated between the soundtrack and live scores of Les Miz, but often this leaves me in a weepy mess as each note returns me, thunderstruck and emotional, to a stall in a London theater.
Such a noise fiasco would torture most introvert writers (aside from maybe Jane Austen, who apparently wrote in a noisy room, with siblings, nieces and nephews carrying on around her.) But being crushed by noise from all sides ignites in me a sort of sound claustrophobia. Sometimes I clap my hands over my earphones, nod my head on the desk, take deep breaths and think of Japanese Gardens, my peace on earth. 

But it’s not all gloom and noisy doom – I’m taking notes and culling idiosyncrasies. Sound brings life to the pages of a story and many of these characters will show up in a book one day.  

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