I used to play music when I wrote letters, short stories, and articles. Then when I became an editor, and started proofreading or evaluating manuscripts, I continued this practice. Big mistake. When it comes to editing, I definitely need to focus on one thing at a time.
Now I turn off the TV, ignore incoming text messages, and close my Facebook page in my browser; the only windows I leave open are dictionary.com and a search engine if it’s related to what I’m researching.
Some people feel more creative writing with music playing in the background, and aren’t distracted by answering the occasional text or e-mail. That’s fine, but know yourself and try it both ways. If you’ve been accustomed to doing three or four things at one time while you write, try eliminating them all and just write.
Conversely, if you sit in total silence, experiment with playing something soothing, stimulating, or edgy and see if it improves your story. But definitely downplay your distractions when you’re proofreading your work.
Sigrid Macdonald is an editor and the author of three books, including Be Your Own Editor. You can find her at http://sigridmacdonald.blogspot.com/ .