Driven To Distraction

The Miss Demeanors have previously blogged about whether or not each of us listens to music or other sounds while writing. I’m on the put-your-records-on side. Why? Because it helps me combat distraction. Sounds counterintuitive, doesn’t it? For most of my life, I’ve made my living by dividing my attention. I started out as a paralegal working on 150-200 cases at any given time. Once I mastered that balancing act, I got bored. I gravitated to a career where the landscape shifts constantly, where I’m challenged to keep learning. As a cyber crime investigator I’m required to pay attention to subtle nuances to identify anomalous dew drops in firehoses of information. It’s held my interest for nearly 20 years, a good chunk of which I’ve spent bombarded by distractions. That’s where music comes in. When I’m overwhelmed, frustrated, or having trouble focusing, I put on headphones and fire up my iTunes. At first I thought music helped because it relaxed me. Then someone asked me about my playlists. A lot of the songs are filled with driving beats and heavy guitars. I’ve been known to dance while I work. Fun but definitely not relaxing. So then I thought, aha, it must be a rhythm thing. Makes sense, right? But that seemed wrong, too. I usually shuffle songs. While I’ve noticed algorithmic patterns based on title and genre in iTunes’ shuffling, the beats tend to change from song to song. Because I’m the curious sort (i.e., easily distracted), I recently set out to understand why listening to music helps me focus. That’s when I learned about spatial intelligence. It’s how our brains transform and relate observations that are superficially or overtly unrelated. A growing body of research has found listening to music stimulates the creative parts of our spacial intelligence that help us solve complex problems and heighten situational awareness. Handy skills for my day job. Equally useful when working in reverse, like, say, crafting a mystery. If you’ll excuse, I have a first draft to finish. Now, where did I put my headphones?  

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