Welcome to Ravenna’s Monday Mumblings!
The debate over whether listening to music helps you study is as old, or older probably, as I am. I can tell you from purely personal experience that it certainly worked for me through college, both times. There are theories that say recreating the environment in which you studied at test time helps you perform better on the test, and I can also attest that theory proved true for me.
In my case, letting the music I listened to while studying (mostly classical) loop in my mind at test time helped me recall my notes. To be fair, I also copied said notes by hand (yes I’m THAT old!) over and over again as a way of studying, so that by the time I took the test, I saw the notes in my head.
But I digress. This post isn’t about taking tests. It’s about listening to music while you write.
Some authors need total silence to write. I have to tell you there are days I need that, too. Total silence. And then I sit back and laugh. There has never been a time in my life when I have had total silence for very long in which to write.
As far back as when I first began “writing” at age eight, I’ve lived in noisy chaos. Every home or apartment I can remember, certainly every dorm room, and that hasn’t stopped as I’ve aged. I can’t seem to escape it.
Even on weekends here in my own home, when I don’t have to go to the day job, something is always going on. If it’s not the cat wanting my undivided attention, it’s my husband making enough noise to wake the dead, or my daughter having another crisis. There is noise outside from the neighbors, or someone ringing the doorbell who thinks we want to buy whatever they’re selling, etc., etc., etc.
Sometimes I can block it out, at least for a while, but most of the time the ear buds come out.
I have noticed that the times when the writing really flows … when I’m totally into the story … are when I’m listening to whatever playlist I’ve chosen for that particular book or series. I don’t even hear the music after a moment or two. It’s background noise that blocks out the unwanted background noises, but it’s really much more than that.
It connects me to that manuscript. Those characters, that story, this twist, and that turn. It mentally and emotionally places me back into that life, time, and place. I write more in an hour when I’m listening to music than when I’m not. I have to go back and edit less during the times I wrote while listening to music.
So for me, at least, this isn’t some arbitrary quirk I have while writing. This is a tangible, measurable outcome that has one common variable – the presence or absence of the music. My psychology professors at Kent State University would be so proud of me.
Everyone is different. We each have our own ways of approaching this writing gig. We have to find what works for us. Not everyone can listen to music or any other noise while writing. Some people can write with all kinds of stuff going on around them.
But once you find that magic bullet, that perfect fix, whatever you want to call it, hold onto it. Keep doing it. It’s a mind game – nothing more – but it’s a mind game that just might make all the difference in the world for your writing.
Until next week, happy writing… and happy listening!