The accoutrements of writing. Part 1. The music.
There’s a bit of debate among writers: which is better, the sound of silence or a perfect play list? I vote playlist. Perhaps because silence is too distracting. After all, there is always some noise and while writing I don’t want to think about anything other than what is going on in my mind. This is not a time to admire the twittering of birds, or the thump of a hammer as the house renovation continues across the street. It is certainly not a time to wonder how the walnuts got to be so big this year. (Even the thought of this is distracting. There must be an answer. These nuts are – and I am serous – louder than any other walnuts, ever. It is possible that the clever squirrels have filled them with lead. We live in a late Victorian house and the sound of the crash of the nuts on the metal roofs of the porches is enough to make you think an army is walking around up there.) You get the point. I want to control the environment. Because of this I have several playlists, each for a different situation. The Benedictine Monks of Santo Domingo de Silos are my ‘silence’ track. The songs flow seamlessly one to the next, the voices are instruments, subtle and harmonious. Why play them at all if they are ‘silence’ or background? They set a pace…. Steady, measured, and consistent. They are my concentrate and write partners. They mask the background of my neighborhood and help me focus. A notch up from this is any Indian music I can stream. (Thank you YouTube.) It likely helps that I don’t understand Hindi, so the words are music without the distraction of a story line. The rhythm varies between brisk, romantic and adventurous. It is evocative without being overpowering. And it is enough to keep my mind off the walnuts. Sometimes I need a little more pep – they say Stephen King writes to mind blowing loud rock music (he lives in Maine… is it possible that he needs to drown out even louder falling walnuts?). For my level of pep I have a playlist of – even to me – random songs. The range includes Carrie Underwood, U2, The Eagles, Adele, One Republic, and Coldplay among many others. It bounces all over the place and quite frankly some of the songs are loud and in-your-face. How does this help keep me in my mental zone? No shuffling, that’s the rule. It is amazing how the mind filters when it knows what to expect. I can listen to this list and when it stops after an hour and fifty five minutes it’s time for a break. Have I ‘heard’ any of the songs? Not really. It is possible that I don’t even like some of them, but they keep me motivated in some inexplicable way. They pass in one ear and out the other, literally. Hit shuffle and my subconscious knows something is off. With each new song there is a tiny pause to acknowledge it. Not good. I’m curious to know what others do. Silence? Music? I’ve just checked and I’ve played my ‘pep’ list 183 times. There must be something about it that I like. I just paused for a listen and the Charlie Daniels Band was playing the Devil Goes Down to Georgia. It was a surprise, even to me.