Sometimes, once in a while, I decide to crawl out of my Writing Hole ™ to see what the other writers I know are up to. You know, networking and shit. I’ve long known that most of them work to music, but I never really asked about it, you know? What you listen to is private and is none of my business, unless we happen to be friends on Spotify. Then all bets are off.
Two Music Camps of Writers
What I found in my very brief and unscientific survey was that there are essentially two camps: those who listen to some type of music, and those people who do it wrong. Of the music camp, they were pretty neatly divided into several genres, including metal, rock and people who had no musical taste.
Even those guys with no musical taste have to be commended, though, because they’re all tapping into the hidden potential behind white noise — the constant silent scream in your ear of Alice Cooper or Justin Bieber or whatever. Music is hypnotic, in a way, and is a great tool for helping those of us with incredibly scattered minds to fucking focus for once.
Silence is Golden and Fucking Worthless
I know writers who say they have to have absolute silence to work — and on that point I call bullshit. Absolute silence is as rare as a unicorn that shits gold coins. If you waited for silence to write, you’re going to miss out on all sorts of lovely brain barf that you might have otherwise regurgitated onto the page.
Writing in silence is like waiting for your Muse. Both are fucking fantasies dreamed up by someone who had no writing talent and wanted to make an excuse for why they aren’t doing instead of talking about doing. You can’t ensure silence, you can’t guarantee it’ll be there. If the neighbor so much as turns on their fucking lawn mower or dryer, your writing time is over.
Fucking forget writing in silence — white noise is where it’s at. It’s readily available, free and loud enough to drown out the cries of your bastard offspring, annoying ankle biters and overly important spouses. Doesn’t matter what you’re listening to, so long as it’s something you’ve heard so many times that you can’t really listen to it.
Crank that shit. Crank it as loud as you can stand it. Blow out your eardrums — you don’t need ’em anyway. All you need are your eyeballs, the tips of your fingers and that big fucking sexy brain. The rest is superfluous. It’s just a lot of meat that needs regular maintenance, bathroom breaks and expensive food.
Writing With Feeling
Music can create the ultimate sensory deprivation chamber, but it can be employed in another nefarious way: you can use it to create a mood.
A mood, you say? Yes. A mood.
Let’s say that you’re writing a grant proposal that needs to carry a really powerful emotional plea. As in, “Help us save these kittens from lives of constant prostitution on the streets…” or “Even pandas need a friend, give us money to buy them pet monkeys.” Or whatever. Whatever your thing is, no matter how you feel about it you sometimes need an extra push to get really in tune with that emotion.
Music can work great in this capacity. Before you write that panda proposal, turn on the saddest shit you can find. Stuff that drops you to tears. I wouldn’t know what kind of music to suggest, since I have the cold stone heart of a miser in a box on my desk, but I hear that some stuff is kinda sad.
It’s not a hard concept — sad music makes us sympathetically sad, happy music makes us sympathetically happy, and so forth. That’s why I use a runner’s mix to write punchy copy — believe it or not, I’m not always the most pleasant of people to be around. Sometimes perky is just beyond my capacity. But if I’ve got that intensely happy shit going, it comes through in my work.
That’s a little bonus tip from me to you. It works. Do it.