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Saturday, September 06, 2014

The Secret to Creativity

By Michelle Griep
When I first started writing, my kids were younger, so I ran away from home one night a week. I met my muse each Thursday evening in the relative peace and quiet of a local coffee shop. Now my baby just turned twenty and I've got more time to write . . . but I still don't write at home. I just can't.

Why? Great question. I used to think maybe it was because of the siren call of the laundry and/or dishes pile. I mean, there's always some kind of housework staring me in the face, daring me to watch it grow larger vs. type another word. Or it could just be that my self discipline is out of whack. Or -- gasp -- maybe I'm a loser addicted to the taste of java and the sound of an espresso machine.

Turns out, though, that none of those is correct. I came across a recent study that justifies all those crazies out there who feel a surge of inspiration in a coffee shop. So . . . what's the secret to creativity?

Ambient noise. 

Seriously. And I thought I was getting out of the house to get away from noise. Sheesh. But it's true. Modest ambient noise kick-starts the part of our brains responsible for abstract and creative thinking.

No, I'm not making this up. Check out the study results here (taken from The Atlantic). According to one researcher:
"Instead of burying oneself in a quiet room trying to figure out a solution, walking out of one's comfort zone and getting into a relatively noisy environment may trigger the brain to think abstractly, and thus generate creative ideas."
So go ahead. Pack up that laptop and toodle off down to Starbucks. Science just gave you permission.

Michelle’s been writing since she first discovered blank wall space and Crayolas. Her recent release is A HEART DECEIVED, a gothic regency put out by David C. Cook (June 2013). If you’d like to keep up with her escapades, find her at or or stalk her on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.


  1. That's all the excuse I need. :)

  2. I've always worked best at Starbucks when I'm in the creative s/first draft stage. For editing, my office works perfectly.

  3. When I teach my "Personality Types for Writers and Characters" class, I encourage the extroverts of the group to try writing in coffee shops or other public places. Personally, I'm highly introverted and need silence to lose myself in the world in my head. I can't even listen to music when I write.

    1. Interesting...I'm an introvert but I need to go to a coffee shop to write or I end up doing laundry, washing the dishes, taking the dog out potty, plowing the back forty . . .

  4. Interesting... Could that be the reason for the beloved, "It was a dark and Stormy night"? No better background (ambient) noise than thunder, lightening and rain. :) But, I get ya. Our local Starbucks draws my creative brain like a ghostly voice at midnight!

    1. Ahh, the good ol' Siren call of the midnight ghosts! YES!!! Bring it!

  5. And I'm an extrovert, but in the coffee shop, the noise doesn't distract me. It merely energizes me and makes the creative juices flow. :) Plus i found the greatest new place, one Deb Raney would love. It's Sugar Hill Bakery. The owner is so creative if I slack off, she'll cut off my coffee!

  6. LOL, Ane. And hey, have you heard of ? You can take the ambient noise of your local coffee shop with you anywhere! I love it and use it often! You can play it over your favorite music on Pandora or iTunes, too.

    1. No, Deb, I haven't heard of that! I need it! I have Pandora (through your referral) but if I have music playing it has to be without words. If it has words, it's too close to me and I listen to the words. But coffitivity sounds just right for me. Thanks!! I'm on my way to find it.


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