This blog won’t be entirely about writing, but it’s all I’ve been doing lately. So here we go again: Yesterday it was writing and time of day. This time it’s writing and audio. Do you write with music? If so, what? Some people say they can’t write to anything with lyrics, others have a specific genre (classical seems to be the most common answer, from what I assume to be fancy gentleman that must don formal Writing Wigs before settling in for the day’s work).
I spend easily half the day listening to music. That’s because both my day job and hobbies revolve around writing, and the two are tied intrinsically in my head. I can’t write without music. Which is odd, because I wouldn’t say I’m a fan of music. I love it, I need it, but I don’t pay any attention to it. I couldn’t tell you the names of half of my favorite albums, much less songs, much less name the members of the bands. I just know that when I want something atmospheric, I type a seemingly random string of words, like a password or a spell – Do Make Say Think, Todosantos, Mogwai, Explosions in the Sky, Godspeed You Black Emperor, Lower Dens – and I am rewarded with interesting sounds that distract me from my own exceedingly loud keystrokes. I beat the shit out of my keyboards (that’s why my column’s named ‘word puncher,’ incidentally), and I’ve conditioned myself to always be listening to music instead of, say, my wife complaining about the machine gun noises coming from my office equipment.
For some reason, musical choice is a much less covered ‘writer’s poll’ question. A lot of talk about time of day, about environment, about reading preferences – nothing about music. So let’s do this in two parts: First, do you listen to music at all? Second, if so, what do you listen to? I’m all for at least trying on other’s routines and seeing if part of it helps you. Switching to writing in the morning, much to my surprise and the surprise of everybody I maul savagely for talking to me before 10AM, has helped. Maybe a musical shake-up will, too.
For example, this study insists that silence helps creativity – even though most of us avoid it at all costs. The last few days, I’ve tried writing at least these little blog posts with the headphones off, and it’s having a strange effect. Silence is like an echo chamber for my thoughts. I hear the sentences bounce around in my head for a bit longer than if I had typed them with music playing. On the one hand, that’s great for editing – it helps me make fewer passes, because I catch the mistakes quicker. On the other hand, it’s not so great for first drafts – they come slower, as I get caught up on wording before I’ve even gotten the full thought laid down.
So your turn: A vote for silence? For atmospheric tunes? Or do you cast your ballot for something else? Screaming death metal, perhaps — because nothing helps you focus like loudly condemning society to hellfire for frowning on your lifestyle choices.