Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) is a trend that has been experiencing a massive rise in popularity on the internet in the past few years. It’s defined as, “a feeling of well-being combined with a tingling sensation in the scalp and down the back of the neck, as experienced by some people in response to a specific gentle stimulus, often a particular sound.” There is a growing community surrounding ASMR on YouTube, podcasts, and other forms in which creators evoke stimuli, commonly known as “triggers,” in an otherwise quiet environment which are intended to spark this tingly feeling in the viewer. Oftentimes, these are gentle, repetitive sounds like pages turning in a book or a knife slicing a stalk of celery on a cutting board.
If the filmmaker speaks in the video, it is done in whispers, sometimes engaging in roleplay situation, for example cutting a wig while the viewer is put in the role of a client getting a haircut at a salon. There are special techniques that have evolved for capturing the sound in a way that makes the viewer feel like they’re right in the middle of the scenario.
ASMR videos come in a great variety of sorts, from cooking or people eating to costumed roleplay. It seems to be the kind of interest where there is something for everyone.
However, I haven’t gotten immersed in the trend.
With ASMR videos, I don’t really experience the tingling sensations that are most commonly associated with it. I love watching videos of paint being mixed, rolled ice cream being made, or kinetic sand being layered and sliced when they pop up on Facebook, but it’s more of a fascination aspect. It’s intriguing to watch, almost hypnotizing as the colors blend or the sand crumbles. But I don’t have a physical reaction to it. I’m not made sleepy by them. I don’t experience those frissons many others do.
At the same time, there are sounds that do stimulate me, though in an unfavorable way. The sound of people chewing, for one, especially when the food is moist. In fact, I find the majority of bodily sounds make me uncomfortable, though I don’t mind the sound of knuckles cracking.
Despite my own reservations towards ASMR, I have developed a system of my own that is similar to ASMR but designed to help me make progress with my ongoing writing process.
ASMR is considered to be helpful for those dealing with depression, anxiety, or insomnia because of its calming aspects. While not much information is available as to why this occurs, there is a growing effort to discern the physiological reason for it and how it can be useful for these disorders and others.
For me, however, it helps more with concentration, especially in my writing sessions.
I like having instrumental music playing in the background via Spotify while I’m working some scenes, and I’ll often combine this with a white noise video in a separate tab. My favorites include coffee shops and rainfall varying from a light drizzle to a full-out thunderstorm. Having these videos on helps me focus because it drowns out other noises that could distract me like cars in the parking lot or my cat clawing at his scratching post.
ASMR is also helpful for me when I’m struggling to dive into a specific location in a story. As I’ve mentioned a couple of times, one of the things I’m working to improve in my writing is the way I describe my settings.
A while ago, I stumbled across a post that directed me to a website called Ambient Mixer. The site contains a collection of sounds that can be blended to create any atmosphere you can think of. Some of those featured on the homepage include Common Rooms from each of the Hogwarts houses, a Dungeons and Dragons tavern, and Mr. Tumnus’s House from The Chronicles of Narnia. Additionally, there is a search bar where you can look for something specific, say the setting from a favorite film or television show. There’s a good chance the ambiance you’re looking for has already been created~and if it hasn’t, it doesn’t take long to set one up.
I’ve used this feature to step into the worlds I envision. Not only does this let me hear it, the list of sounds users are able to add in are a great source for ideas I might want to add into my description of that place because there might be things I may not have considered being there in the first draft. Little details like that are just the kind of thing I’m aiming to enhance not only in the revision process but in first drafts moving forward, so being able to listen to the settings as I’m creating them has become a good method for capturing their essence on the page.
For example, this link will take you to the soundscape I created for the ball held at the manor house in Guises to Keep. It consists only of crowd voices and footsteps, as I prefer to listen to a playlist in Spotify that contains a number of pieces from the Regency Era as well as some newer ones suitable for the kinds of dances that would have taken place at such a party.
Even though I’m not completely enamored with ASMR, the concept of it is one that is intriguing. I would personally love to know more about the science behind it. Maybe then I can figure out why I don’t experience the same tingly sensations that make ASMR so immersive or enjoyable for others.
Maybe I just haven’t found the trigger that really works for me.
But if there is one sound I love, it’s the sound of fingers moving over my laptop or the tip of a pencil scratching across the paper as I’m writing. Maybe that in itself is its own form of ASMR.