Many topics are somewhat controversial among writers, especially when raised in the midst of heated discussions: Dante vs. Shakespeare, whether or not writers should listen to music while working, and the fact that most crime novelists’ search histories could probably belong to cold blooded killers (It’s research!)
Today, let’s talk about the music question. For each writer who literally cannot function without headphones, there’s one that cringes at the idea of working in anything other than impenetrable silence.
Confession: I’m a mix of both extremes. I really, really wish I could always write in a totally quiet environment, but since I don’t live alone on an island in the middle of the Atlantic, that silence is usually pretty difficult to come by. Luckily, since I began writing my novel, I’ve learned how to create a new kind of silence through listening to music.
I know, I know, what an oxymoron. But stay with me. I’ve found that when you listen to the same songs over and over again, your brain starts to tune them out, and they become a sort of white noise that doesn’t sound like someone is breathing over your shoulder. (Go on iTunes and search for ‘White Noise’. Creepy, right?)
A few months into my current novel, I realized that the music I listened to while writing was influencing the tone of my work. This made me change my approach to my writing playlist, and instead of selecting songs that could easily melt into the background, I started choosing ones that had distinct moods. I still remember writing the scene where a major character gets arrested for murder, LP’s “No Witness” blaring in the background. Scenes with the protagonist’s almost/maybe/but still hopeless romantic interest? Even though I’m usually not a fan, I found myself listening to Ed Sheeran’s new album. A dramatic standoff between two characters? Rihanna (Anti!) or Nicki (No Frauds, anyone?) would do the trick. I even started subconsciously assigning ‘theme songs’ to certain characters.
And as the page count of my novel grew, so did my writing playlist: it spans pretty much every genre, from Jazz to Pop to Classical to R&B… Music had stopped being my white noise and started helping me add more color to my writing.
Until the next chapter…