Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Accompanying your writing

by Rick Blechta

I’m still working on my promised post (more research than I expected!), so I’m filling in with this post idea instead since it’s getting pretty late in the day to post.

I’m finding more and more that I like listening to music when writing. Somehow it helps to “grease the wheels” creatively-speaking. I have no idea why this is, but most days, I’ve got music on in the background as I work.

That being said, there are some very strict rules applied (through trial and error) if music is going to work its magic on my deathless prose:
  • No music with vocals in English! If it’s in a language I don’t know, lyrics don’t bother me; in fact, I listen to a lot of opera. But if the singing is in English I’m in trouble. On more than one occasion I actually listened a bit too hard and included a phrase or two of lyrics in my writing. It’s easy to spot the next day, fortunately, but it’s pretty jarring to see.
  • No music I’ve never heard before. I’m sorry. I’m a musician and it’s easy for me to get caught up listening to something new. Then I realize I haven’t written a goddam word for the past half-hour. That sort of defeats the whole exercise.
  • I have to pick out all the music beforehand. If the music runs out, then I start hunting for something else which means opening a browser window. Then I’m lost. YouTube is especially bad for this. All of a sudden I’ve wasted 15 minutes just looking at choices. It’s best to bring a few CDs into the studio with me. And no covers or program booklets to tempt my wandering eye! Just the CDs.
So that’s what works for me.

Oh, one more thing: it seems to help if the music I listen to is complimentary to the mood of the scene I’m working on.

And there are days I find I’m just too distractible so I remove the earbuds and work in silence.

Does any of this resonate with you folks? It doesn’t have to be fiction writing. Really, it can be any sort of work.

Let us know!


Sybil Johnson said...

I only listen to music occasionally when I write. Most of the time it's instrumental. I agree that songs with English lyrics distract me too much. I've found music with Hawaiian lyrics rather soothing (since I don't know any Hawaiian). In general I go with the soothing instrumental stuff.

Rick Blechta said...

I can be tempted by more bombastic fare. One week I listened to the first two operas in Wagner's Ring Cycle, although, being a French Horn player, I did probably pay too much attention to the horn parts!

Susan D said...

No lyrics. Period.

More likely though, just silence. Which means I have to turn off the radio and miss everything that's happening on the CBC.