While writing in private, alone, is often a necessity, doing so in a quiet location is another matter altogether. Sure, I don’t think people write well while a television or the crackle of video games is in the background, but I know some enjoy writing with music in their ears.
And my opinion on this matter has changed over time. As when I first began, I tried not to listen to music while I was doing the actual writing—but thinking about the topic beforehand was fair game for tunes. And then, later, I came to rely on it, as my writing location got more and more distracting. I had noise-canceling headphones and a preset playlist.
But, once I could move to a spot where I had a quiet place to write, I tried to do it with the music not in my ears, but around me from speakers. For a little while I did it without music at all. But, this, due to whatever reason, flowed into listening to music with headphones yet again.
I’m listening as I write this, in fact. Some pop punk anthem. My favorite type of music. Fast and punchy and full of drums and guitar. When people ask me what kind of music I like to listen to, I usually respond with something like: “Pop music. Pop punk music. Rock music both old and new. Something with a fast tempo, something that makes it hard to hear my own thoughts.”
But that’s just me. But if I had to give advice on the topic, here’s what I might offer to the person questioning. A pro and con list. Short and to the point.
- If the music fits the mood of the thing you are working on, it might make it easier to picture the movement and rhythm of the scene.
- If, like I was, you are in a situation where it’s loud around you, the structure of a song—especially one you already know all the lyrics to, or a song that has no lyrics—will make it easier to think. Random noises are way more distracting than predicted ones.
- It makes writing feel like a faster activity. The word count jumps as you get lost in the sensation and the motion—at least from my experience. Almost like a trance.
- In the same vein at the last bullet point, it might make you type quicker. I realize that sounds somewhat silly, but if the music is fast enough and my body is getting into the process of writing, I find I’ll speed up to match the rhythm of the song. Which, on occasion, got me to write 1500 words in only 45 minutes (my current record). It might work for you as well.
- If you like the currently playing song enough, you might sing along. And though humans, nowadays, can juggle a lot of plates, singing and listening and thinking and writing all at once is not easy, and out of all the plates, you might drop the writing one. This also applies if you begin to dance a bit in your chair—which can happen, trust me.
- It’s hard to keep your mind on the volume of the song, and it’s too easy to crank it overly loud for your ears.
- Getting distracted and trying to find the proper song for something, or flipping through a playlist does Having an updated, and well-curated playlist can help, but it’s still going to be an issue.
- It is much easier for a person to sneak up on you if you do this. You are not, I repeat: not, aware of your surroundings. Just keep that in mind if you are expecting someone. Or a delivery. Or if you are inside a coffee shop or similar.
Well, there, all the data I can think to give. Use it to help decide what works best for you. But just remember that though rituals can help, never rely on them to get creative. Music can be an inspiration, but should not be a crutch.
I’ll see you guys on Saturday. Have a Happy Thanksgiving!