Montaigne wrote in one of his essays that he once met a wealthy man who he found studying in a corner of his great hall, with only cloth hangings partitioning him from the noise and bustle of his servants. He told Montaigne
that he derived profit from this racket, as if, battered by this noise, he withdrew and concentrated in himself better for contemplation, and that this storm of voices drove his thoughts inward. While studying at Padua, he had for so long a time a study exposed to the rattle of coaches and the tumult of the square that he trained himself not only to disregard the noise but to use it for the benefit of his studies.
Have you had that experience? I’ve read of several writers who would write in cafes, but others who find such a buzz too distracting. Montaigne himself was one of the latter –
I am quite the opposite; my mind is sensitive and ready to take flight; when it is absorbed in itself, the slightest buzz of a fly is the death of it.
Since Montaigne’s day we could add another scenario – studying, or reading, while listening to music. Again I think there are some of find this beneficial, and others who just find it too distracting.
When I was studying Medicine in Edinburgh there were two places where I studied best. One was in the Botanic Gardens, and the other was in the Anatomy Museum! Well, what does that say about me??
How about you? Do you need peace and quiet? Or do you find a hustle and bustle around you conducive?