When I was a lad of a junior copywriter, I found myself chained to a cubicle in an open concept office with my back to an intersection of two aisles, and over the wall in front of me, a table at which every buyer in the company would approve or, more vocally, disapprove of the work we were doing.
Now, this situation occured before the Internet (as if such a thing is possible) so I didn't have to worry about my boss seeing my Facebook page or anything. But it drove me nuts to attempt any work in that position. For some reason, I can't stand people seeing my work before I'm ready for them to see it. I don't want to share the process of how I get to wherever I'm going. Okay, honestly, I don't want to jinx the thing.
(It was actually easier to write on a bench in the middle of the Eaton Centre. Which I did occasionally.)
On top of that, all the sound that comes from sitting in the middle of a floor of a hundred people simply didn't help me get consistently in the creative groove.
Thus I turned to headphones and a Walkman.
With CFNY (or 102.1, or The Edge, or whatever they're called) blaring the alternative hits of the early and mid '90s, I was able to create a space in which I could focus. I could hear the music without actually listening to it; it provided welcome drive and energy, and handily blocked out external distractions.
This weird totally illusory space in my head turned out to be the perfect place in which to get things done.
And if I got startled by people standing behind me, amusing themselves for minutes on end, or tapping me on the shoulder and watching me jump, so be it. It was the price that had to be paid.
Later, when I got an office at Wunderman, I thought I could at least unplug, close the door and crank the tunes a bit. But after a few hours of being unable to get down to work, I realized that I physically needed the headphones in order to get the necessary focus. (Which might be why the headphone-free writing portion of this video is so bad.) I had trained my brain to need the enclosure. I was hooked.
Still am. No matter where I am, no matter how much privacy I have, I still need to be wearing headphones and be listening to poppy nonsense music – ideally that of the '80s and '90s – in order to get anything done.