How to Train Your Brain (Maybe)

I ran across an interesting blog post last week about a website called Brain.fm, a tool that’s supposed to help us focus.

Like many writers, this is help I need, as when I sit down to write, I’m as susceptible as anyone to OOOOOH SQUIRREL! and thinking about things like how the gerbil cages really need cleaned, or how I haven’t yet done the daily challenges in Microsoft Solitaire. So anything that can help me focus without icky side effects? I’m so there!

Image via Morguefile.com

Image via Morguefile.com

Brain.fm offers seven free sessions, so I jumped right in that night, selecting the “Intense Focus” option. They tell you to wear headphones or earbuds, and then you get a half hour or more (you can pick your session length) of what’s basically electronic ambient music that mostly fades into the background, but blocks out other noises, like my gerbils’ wheels, the bubbling of the aquarium filter, or the TV in the next room. I was especially intrigued by the comments on the above-linked blog post, where several people tried it and found it really helped them, even one who admitted to being skeptical.

I gave it five tries, plus one at my day job, where I also have trouble focusing (probably because the projects I’m currently working on are just not that interesting). So did Brain.fm work for me?

Uhhhh, maybe.

It did block out other noise effectively. And since I like electronic music to begin with, was decent listening. But I still wanted to do things like go pet the gerbils, or see what my husband was watching in the next room. If I had more free sessions, I would give it more of a chance, but it didn’t work well enough for me to pay $6.99 for a month, or $47.88 for a year.

I mentioned this to my daughter, who was home yesterday. She hadn’t heard of Brain.fm, but she uses a competitive site, mynoise.net. So I tried that one out.

The sounds on the sites seem fairly similar, with the main difference being that Brain.fm’s music includes percussion, while those I’ve tried so far on My Noise did not. There are a bajillion different settings on My Noise, too, so I spent much of my writing time last night fiddling with it. I did find some sounds I liked, and it had about the same effect as Brain.fm – and a one-time donation of as little as $5.00 unlocks all the advanced features. So I tried those out too.

I’ve only tried My Noise once, so not enough to decide how well it works. I’ll update you when I do!

What I’ve been Reading: Still working on the same novel as last week. It’s long, and I don’t get much time to read, but it’s very good. I’ll talk about it next week.

ROW80Logo175ROW80 Update: My goal last week was to finish the next scene in my WIP. I wrote probably half of it before I realized I was padding because I was not in the mood to write what comes next. So I skipped to the next scene, and got it about half done, too, so I’ll consider that a win. I also completed the writing workshop, and the instructor said I totally nailed the assignment with my scene from the Blizzard of 1950. So another win! My goal this week is to finish both, which should be doable as this week should not be as busy as the last one.

What about you–have you ever tried focusing aids like Brain.fm or mynoise.net? Did it help? Or if you haven’t tried them, does it sound interesting? These aren’t just for writers, but anyone who wants help focusing, relaxing or even to get to sleep. How are you doing with whatever goals you might have, whether writing or otherwise? Please share in the comments–I’d love to hear from  you!

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.

11 Responses to \

  1. Good going with your Blizzard of 1950 piece, Jennette, and getting parts of two different chapters written. Yes, both a win in my book! I’ve never heard of those focusing aids. Now you’ve got me curious. It doesn’t seem like something that would work for me, but I’m going to check it out just to see what it’s like. Have a great week!

  2. Nice work this week!

    I’ve never used brain.fm or mynoise.net. Both sound intriguing. I typically write with music but I always have trouble editing with music because it distracts me. I found a heavy metal-type band called Apocalyptica that is essentially instrumental (with a few songs with lyrics which are great) and I found that to work pretty well. I will definitely give those two a try, though. Anything that helps would be awesome. 🙂

  3. Never heard of those sites and probably won’t ever try them. (Might I point out that spending time on those sites takes away from what you’re really supposed to be doing?) Okay, I’m done scolding.

    Once I get into my “zone” I’m not easily distracted. It’s the getting into that “zone” that’s the hard part. I have to make sure everything is done before I go, otherwise I will be distracted by all of the things I should have gotten done. It’s a weird two-edged sword I guess.

    And now I must go fold laundry. (Or is that just a distraction from what I’m supposed to be doing? Hmmmm.)

    Have a great week.

    Oh, and, the book I’m currently reading is really long too. I read every night and I’m barely halfway. What’s up with that?

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

  4. Thanks, Lynn! Let me know how those sites work for you?

    Erin, that band sounds like something I would like. I’ll have to check them out!

    LOL Patricia, I confessed! But I have a really, really hard time getting into the zone. That’s what these sites are supposed to help. There isn’t much to distract on Brain.fm, and once you learn which settings you like on My Noise, that distraction should go away.

  5. Congrats on reaching your goals.

    I can’t see messing with something that requires me to wear headphones. I just plug my iPod into my speakers and just play my own music. I like it better and it sometimes jumpstarts my creativity.

  6. I haven’t tried either of those sites, but I do try to meditate daily. I find that really helps with my focus, and if I miss meditating for several days in a row (or sometimes weeks b/c I’m not super consistent), I start to get distracted and unfocused, and then I know it’s time to practice again.

    I’m in-between books right now–reading, that is. 🙂

  7. One of the oddball effects of ADHD is that, if I already have a distraction, I can focus. Which is why I write or code with music going. There are limits. I listen to podcasts at work, but I can’t listen to an audiobook since I’m “reading”. OTOH, I just did a training class with Pandora running the Bowie station. (It’s all Bowie and now Glenn Frey this week, isn’t it?)

  8. Stacy, great that you have something that works for you! Sometimes music does well for me, too. But not always.

    Sheila, I’ve never been able to meditate. I either fall asleep or think about all kinds of things I need to do!

    TS, ADHD is not all bad, huh?

  9. Congratulations on meeting your goals! I’ve never tried those kinds of focusing tools… But that’s likely because when I’m really into {insert whatever it is here}, people can have whole “conversations” with me and I don’t even notice. Mostly this works best when I’m reading a good book, but because of that experience I wouldn’t generally consider myself in the target market. 😉

  10. Squirrel? Oh yeah. Although it wasn’t always that way. When I first started writing, I was totally immersed and had no idea hours had past. Now, I’ve done so much editing and rewriting that my mind, I fear, is stuck in that mode. I should try the focusing aid. Maybe that would help. Although I am getting myself organized to fast draft. So no fear my friend! 🙂