A few days ago, our writing center colleague Scott Whiddon posed some questions to his Facebook friends about the relationship between music and work. As a lifelong music/music journalism fan and as a scholar interested in writing process and workflow, I was eager to answer the questions myself (and of course we all know now that I’m prone to breaking out into Fleetwood Mac lyrics in the middle of blog posts). So, here goes:
- Do you listen to music when you write? Yes, all the time. I have for years, probably since I was in junior high and Smashing Pumpkins and The Juliana Hatfield Three soundtracked my school papers.
- Do you listen to certain kinds/genres of music when you write? Yes. I do writing-related work pretty much all the time, and I listen to music every time I write, so 85% of what I listen to is “work music.” My work music is chilled, downtempo electronica, usually indie-ish. SomaFM, an Internet radio station that I love, has a stream called “Digitalis” that they describe as “laptop rock.” Digitalis plays bands such as Lali Puna, The Go Find, Four Tet, Washed Out, Sigur Rós, The Notwist…it’s close to my ideal work soundtrack.
- Do you need noise, of some sort, to think about writing? I’ve been writing with music for so long that it’s hard for me to work in silence anymore. When I’ve tried to do it, it just seemed uncomfortable and wrong, or like I wasn’t “really” doing any substantial work. I can’t deal with just any noise, though. Coffeeshop noise isn’t terrible, but I usually listen to music there, too. Television noise completely interferes. I always end up paying attention to the show and not what I’m working on, so any attempt to work in the same room with a TV on is a waste. My fiancé, however, is one of those people who can watch an exciting football game on TV while simultaneously grading a towering stack of papers–and do both of them quite well. I guess we’ll have to have separate home offices.
- Do you listen to music at certain parts of a composing process (say, early drafting, listmaking, drawing) more than others (for example, line editing or substantive drafting)? Not sure. I think when my writing tasks vary in intensity, the music I listen to changes. When I was doing my exams, I listened to a Milwaukee post-rock band called Lights Out Asia, whose vast soundscapes were perfect for very-late-night drafting (I even posted to their Facebook page that they were invited to my dissertation defense, and though they didn’t come, their guitarist accepted my friend request).
What about you? Care to answer Scott’s questions? Post a comment below.