Whistle while you work: Thoughts on music and writing

People, and writers especially, tend to have quirks. Some of us find it hard to work unless the conditions are just right. When it comes to writing, sometimes extra attention paid to little details in our environment can make the process a little easier. It might seem bizarre to somebody who hasn’t spent their time authoring a story or poem, or even a song, that sometimes a room can be too quiet to work in.

For me, listening to music doesn’t seem to help all that much. I’m too easily distracted, and perhaps that comes from being a musician myself. I can’t help but be drawn in by lyrics and my own thoughts get put on pause. Instrumental music is better – acoustic arrangements, classical or jazz guitar for me – but it still tends to draw me out of the creative process, rather than ease me into it.

What I have found to be helpful – especially for longer projects – is noise. Not radio, not music, but straight-up background noise. People talking. Wind. Rain. Cars driving. Crowds. Busy places. It’s something about being alone in a coffee house, park, or library that I really find inspiring. It can also be distracting, but in an entirely different way. Sometimes I catch snippets of people’s conversations, or even them talking to themselves. Other times the smells of food or dusty books or a warm breeze will put me in the scene I’m writing. There’s something about the noise in those places that helps me to concentrate, even though I feel like it should have opposite effect. If I can’t put myself in those situations physically, I’ll load up a Youtube video of ambient noise that varies depending on the mood I’m in or the piece I’m writing. Anything to break the silence and put me in that environment.

For me, it’s the music of everyday life that helps the most. Being around people while still being in my own little world. Maybe it’s simply that sitting with a laptop in a library or cafe makes me want to look busy, and if that truly is the case – what the hell? It’s working.

Cheers

Advertisements