Writing and Music

I know a lot of people who enjoy listening to music when they write. They find the lyrics soothing and the rhythms inspiring. Many of these people are also ones who listen to music constantly, giving themselves a soundtrack while they complete their everyday tasks, whether it be work, school, a commute, or just relaxing.

I hWriting and Musicave never been one of those people. I am a lover of silence, and of the sounds that exist when everything is calm. I adore the sounds of rain, and sometimes even snow. I find it peaceful and safe and conducive to intricate thoughts and musings. I don’t listen to music at home often, unless it’s Christmas music during the season. Anything else just distracts me.

When I am at work, though, in my lonely silent office (with no windows), I need something that will distract me. I need something that reminds me of the outside world, of the sun and the rain and the wind. I need something that takes me out of my own space into one that exists in my mind. This is where I use video game, movie, and TV soundtracks. I listen to Assassin’s Creed, The Hobbit, Celtic music, and many others, without lyrics. They remind me of things that I enjoy and with no lyrics, I can concentrate on writing. Which is what I do all day long. My job literally consists of writing for hours on end, and I quite appreciate it. But it does get lonely when all you can hear is the humming of your computer tower and the occasional buzz of your phone.

If i listen to music with lyrics I do one of two things: I will either block it out completely in order to concentrate, or I will accidentally start writing the lyrics into my latest blog post or onsite content. That doesn’t bode well when you are supposed to be writing about investment real estate and you start putting in words from one of Bing Crosby’s songs.

I’ve never understood the pull that many have to music, although I know it exists. I appreciate certain kinds, but I have to be in the mood. Just like I have to be in the mood to play a game or read a book. I have never been able to grasp the continuity of music in the lives of others. To me, it’s another way to pass the time, or to enhance a tedious task.

I think many have the misconception that if you are in artist in one way, you must be artistic in others. I don’t necessarily find that to be true. I cannot paint, and I can only draw if I really set my mind to it. It takes me ages to actually complete anything (and I have trouble drawing the left side of anything, though the  right side usually turns out alright). I can’t sing at all. I tried playing various instruments and just didn’t find any interest in it. I have no desire to take up sculpting or dancing.

I am a good writer, and that’s where all of artistic energy goes. Even in terms of hobbies. I write, I read, I play video games (they’re basically just interactive books), and I bide my time doing other tasks that I favor as well. None of them are particularly artistic.

How about you? What do you listen to when you write? Are you also artistic in other areas? Where do your best talents sit?

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21 thoughts on “Writing and Music

  1. I’m one of those people who listens to music, or some kind of background noise, pretty much non-stop (I even have to run a fan at night all year round because I can’t sleep in total silence!) My musical tastes run the gamut, and while I’ll listen to pretty much anything on my playlist when I’m at work, I have found that when I’m writing I lean more towards the movie and game soundtracks rather than something with lyrics. I think there’s something about the deeper emotional feeling I get from instrumental music that helps the words flow easier.

    I guess I’m also one of those folks who has multiple creative outlets. I’ve jokingly said for years that I have a severe case of ADOS (Attention Deficit…Oooh Shiny!), so I need a lot of things to keep myself out of trouble. I do everything from drawing, reading, video games, baking, sewing, quilting, jewelry making, and embroidery, but writing is always the passion I return to time and again. Besides drawing, writing is the one passion that I’ve loved to do for as long as I can remember, and as much as I like drawing, the enjoyment of it doesn’t stick with me the same way my love for writing does. Writing is my only passion/hobby/whatever that can withstand my rampant ADOS, it’s one of the few things I do (almost) without fail every single day. My fiance can always tell when it’s been more than a day or two since I last wrote anything because I start to get increasingly crabby until I sit down and write something, and then I’m back to my usual self. It is a part of me that must be constantly fed else I’ll go crazy and take out a whole city block with me ;o)

    • Basically, we are complete opposites, hahah! I know people who sleep with the radio or TV on and it drives me up the wall. I need silence, even the furnace will bother me when it kicks on at night. But it’s good that you understand and feed that within yourself. You sound quite busy with your hobbies, which would be too much for me! Good on you!

  2. I used to listen to classical music a lot while writing, which is something I’m trying to get back into the habit of doing. Strangely, if I don’t have headphones in my ears, I feel uncomfortable working unless something else is going on in the background. I guess I like the idea of listening to something while I work, even if it’s nothing.

  3. I love to listen to music, but I can’t do it while writing. It’s too distracting. I mostly listen to it while cooking or cleaning, or those days where I’m home alone with the baby and I just need something playing so I don’t go crazy talking to myself.

    It is kind of funny that people assume “artistic” means “artistic in every way.” I’m musical and I love writing, but drawing and painting are far beyond me. I don’t have the patience to develop drawing, because all my patience and diligence goes into my writing and music.

    • That’s funny, I prefer it when writing as opposed to cleaning or cooking. Christmas music, however, I could listen to anytime. Especially the old stuff from the Bing Crosby or Nat King Cole. 🙂

  4. I, too, ‘operate’ better when there’s nothing but quiet around me. I taped a sign on my door that states don’t disturb me between 1:30 through 4:30 pm. I reside in an assisted living facility, I, generally, don’t have many dis ruptions of my writing, that’s of ourse a huge blessing.

  5. Wait, you’re saying that some people will accidentally type in the lyrics to the song they’re listening to as they write? That’s ridiculous. I can’t imagine how someone could possibly HEYYYYY SEXY LADY!!!! OP OP OP OP OPPA GANGNAM STYLE do that, I mean, don’t they have any willpower?

  6. What an interesting post! Thank you for sharing.
    I love music and am almost always playing it around the house, in the car, and even in my classroom. When I write though, I prefer ambient sound or music without lyrics. I don’t write lyrics, but they do distract me. There is a website my daughter turned me on to called rainy cafe which I’m beginning to like to listen to when writing. My favorite writing sounds are on a musical CD called Zen, I bought it at a Hallmark store probably fifteen years ago.
    I’m not really artistic other than writing…I used to sing as a girl, but I’m out of practice and when I do now I don’t sound as nice as I once did. I’m creative when it comes to interior design, though I’m not sure that counts.

    • I only really listen to music when I am writing or at work. I don’t need it in the car, or while I am cleaning. I’ve just never been a musical soul, although I almost envy those who are! Thanks for sharing, it’s interesting to see everyone’s preferences.

  7. Hah, I love that you view video games that way. I’ve not met someone else who thought of them as quite similar to books.

    I don’t like to listen to music with lyrics as a general rule. I don’t want to have to make sure that the words are clean, the actual message is clean, and the singer actually has talent and doesn’t burn my ears. Too much effort. Even just the first two, too much effort. A lot of times I feel a song is ruined by someone’s stupid voice and their stupid lyrics over what is otherwise beautiful music. Most all of my music is from Final Fantasy and Homestuck, with other soundtracks mixed in, Apocalyptica, a smidge of Muse, a little Jpop from my middle and high school days when that was what I liked. (Are the lyrics bad? Doesn’t matter! I don’t speak much Japanese! Also when I can’t understand the words, the voice becomes another instrument to me.)

    I love to come up with a movie soundtrack for my writing, especially when I get stuck. Last time I had trouble with a chapter about a scummy city the protagonists were passing through, so I made a soundtrack for that city that helped me feel immersed in the city. Heroes fighting? I have so much battle music.

    I do find myself artistically inclined to other things but…not in the way most people would assume. I have some ability to play the violin, and I got to be decent with it, but I did not expend the energy or time needed to become good or great. It now sits in its case, unused and I’m very rusty with it, if I ever bring it out. My singing could be good if I ever took lessons or something, but mostly I’m decent and usually not off-key. I have put a lot of effort into art and can sketch and shade quite well, though only better than most people, hardly as well as most artists meaning people who have chosen drawing or painting as their passion and have prioritized developing the skill. However, I would not say I had any natural talent with drawing, my skill is pure practice. I just wanted to sketch things badly enough that I kept trying until I could. I do consider myself naturally talented with storytelling, if not wordsmithing, it [storytelling] is something I have been doing ever since I could talk, and incessantly. However, I’m only very good at it because I have made the effort to become so. I’ve devoted myself to developing my ability to tell a story and elegantly. So what it boils down to, so far as I can tell, is I could do really well at any artistic endeavor I wanted to, but I won’t do well at it, even if I have a little natural talent, if I don’t want to ergo don’t put in the hours of practice. I have tried my hand and I’m not bad and I could be good but I’ve focused on writing (and drawing a little) and so that’s where my talent really lies. (I can’t get any better at drawing at this point unless I take some anatomy classes or something and I apparently don’t want it badly enough as I’m not willing to put forth the time/energy/other resources to find/take one.) Course, I firmly believe anyone could be good at anything they really wanted to be good at if only they make a true effort to be good at it, artistically inclined or no. If they don’t have the inclination or talent or whatever, they just have to work harder, but they could still do it.

    • Even when I listen to music with lyrics, it usually isn’t the words that move me, it’s the sounds. I suppose that’s different from most. I’m also glad that you think of video games in the same way, I enjoy them so much, especially RPGs where my decisions can change the outcome. Think Fable, Dragon Age, etc.

      I could probably draw if I wanted to put effort into it, or maybe even sing (probably quite doubtful), but writing is what gets the most attention from me. It’s what I want to put my time into, but you are right—enough effort and time can help anyone to at least be adequate at something.

  8. I actually find instrumental music more distracting. Somehow I build stronger connections with instrumentals and their scenes than songs with vocals. I can fall asleep to snow patrol, but the pride and Prejudice soundtrack will rivet me awake with images from the movie. But, I’m one of those people who constantly has music playing, and if that isn’t an option, I’ll sing myself, out loud and unashamed. Got have it.

    I create playlist for each novel I write, and certain songs will become anchored to scenes I write, forever carrying the images and emotions with them, and sending me back to the moment I wrote it.

  9. Really like your post. I love music, I love how you portray people as listening to music as becomes. Part of their soundtrack to their life. However, I can also relate to it distracting you too from when your trying to focus. I listen to lists of genres of music but if I’m focusing I either listen to home or simple piano soft music. Generally the music I listen to depends upon my mood and what I’m doing. Thank you for sharing!

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