The Sound of Writing

Don’t be this writer. Writing is a lonely job. Distractions are distractions. Write at home or in an office, not in a place meant for coffee and conversation. (Image found at Hollywood and Swine.)

Since taking on the task of daily writing, I’ve found myself struggling through inspiration lacking moments. Something I never experienced prior to going full-time; since I only wrote when the mood struck. (Thus the culmination of many half-finished essays, stories and scripts in my nightstand.) Now when work needs to be done, a sticky moment can drag on and on and on.

I’ll stare at the wall, take a walk, clean the house, run errands, chat with friends and family, do everything I can to not think about the story I hate. I still haven’t found a break through for the block. Different things seem to work each time.

One suggestion that is continually made by writers, friends and others is music. Even in other writer’s guidebooks music is suggested as a source for inspiration and motivation. (Steven King’s On Writing and Robert’s Rules of Writing are my perennial favorites to turn to in moments of desperation.) Writers who claim music gets the ink flowing also love to suggest other writers listen to music.

I hate that suggestion.

Seriously, I hate it.

I can’t think when I listen to music, especially if there are lyrics. I need to know what this other person is telling me. Right now. It’s important enough they set the words to beat and put notes together and everything! Oh my god! What are they saying? Even Justin Timberlake’s inane Suit and Tie received an attentive listen from me.

An author suggesting music may as well suggest listening in on strangers’ conversations. But the truth is both are just distractions.

I need silence. Absolute quiet. It also helps if I’m feeling overly emotional about anything negative: anger, sadness, depression. Those are helpful writerly emotions for me. I suppose I could listen to music to get into that state of eloquence and anger, but usually just a simple scan through the day’s headlines will upset me enough to write. Music is distracting and takes away my focus from the main point of whatever it is I’m writing. Any noise that cannot be tuned out is too much for me to handle. If I need to tune the sounds out, why would I want them there in the first place?

Stop telling me to listen to music. It doesn’t work for me.

I can’t possibly be the only person who loves a quiet work place. The thoughts are louder when the room is quieter. The lack of noise is much better. Silence goes right along with turning off the phone, putting the pup down for a nap and closing all the tabs in the browser–the fewer the distractions the better the writing.

Besides living in the city, I get plenty of ambient noise with the neighbors, traffic and emergency services.

This isn’t to say listening to music doesn’t work for someone. Clearly many other writers love listening to music. (Although I can’t help but wonder how improved Twilight would be if Stephenie Meyer had ever put down the  headphones.) If listening to music works for your writing, then listen and write on.

Just please for the love of literature, stop telling me music will fix my writer’s block.

For your reading pleasure: This piece on breaking into science writing over at The Scientific American has me thinking. A blog restructure may be in order, y’all.

For your listening please: If you are a writer who insists listening to music helps you write along, then may I suggest some Kurt Vile. Personally I’m adding this to the “Backyard Summer” soundtrack of 2013 because there is nothing better than some folky tunes and a whiskey lemonade on the back patio in the evening. To each their own.

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2 thoughts on “The Sound of Writing

  1. I’ve been trying to comment since you posted this, but I love this.
    When I had writer’s block at my previous paper I would print out my notes and go to the back room where the printing press was. The smell of the ink. The sound of the press. The papers flying over my head. That cleared it for me. White noise, I guess, but really it has to be a change in scenery. Then I returned to my desk and it was like starting over.

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