Friday, May 16, 2014

The Soundtrack of Our Lives

This week, I'd like to just touch on a subject upon which every writer disagrees:  Background noise.  Of course, we don't say that.  We say "Do you write to music" or "I need complete silence" or "I can't write to music with words" or "have you ever heard of Cradle of Filth" or a thousand other things, but it all comes down to one thing:  Background noise.  None of us agree on it because nothing works for everyone.  I, for one, can only write when there's just a hint of activity in the rest of the house, or with music with no words that fit the mood I'm trying to achieve.  Here's an example:

That one generally works when I'm trying to write a scene that's supposed to be terrifying and intense.

That one generally doesn't.  Though it does make pretty much anything funny.

For some people, classical music is the way to go:

For others, Rock and Roll

For others, something… else…

I guess the point I'm trying to make is that it's all a matter of personal preference.  But, if you're using music or not, how can you make this work for you?  I recommend using headphones, if you can stand such things on your head while you're trying to concentrate.  Noise-cancelling headphones will… well… cancel out the outside noise that can invade your thought processes.  What that means is whether you're using them for listing to your own music, or using them to block out everyone else's, they work.

You could also try earplugs, but I find the things to be hateful and intrusive.

Pictured:  Hateful in blue, intrusive in yellow.
Since I'm not such a fan of either, I go with the old stand by…  My mp3 player (okay, fine… it's my iPhone) and a cheap pair of old computer speakers.

Check the pawn shop… It's where computer speakers go to die without dignity.

Again, the point here is not to say "you must write as I tell you…" but to say "this is how I  do it, and it works for me.  Might not work for you."  I think, if you're just starting out, you owe it to yourself to try as many methods as you can.  With music.  Without music.  With words, without.  Only songs containing a rocking oboe solo.  Only songs composed on a digeridoo.

Pictured:  Second most effective way to irritate EVERYONE.

You get my point, right?  Experiment!  Figure out what works for you, and run with it.  Adopt it as your own.  And if you already have some advice on the soundtrack of your writing life, leave it below in the comments!


  1. I write to music, but I'm really selective of what I work to. I usually default to hip hop for walking-around music, but I like really dense wordy lyricists and they tend to distract. I play a lot of mindless pop when I write because it nods the head and keeps the energy up.

  2. I tend to go with movie or video game scores, though I can sometimes listen to songs with words when I'm revising or editing. There are these groups -- Audiomachine, Two Steps from Hell -- that write really dramatic music for general usage. I hear the songs all the time in trailers or commercials. I've found that their pieces are the perfect background music for writing intense or epic scenes.

  3. I have a few websites that play sounds of nature things - ocean waves crashing, rain on a tin roof, ocras. I also can listen to all instrumental music, even classical. For the most part I cannot listen to songs with words or I start typing the words - not helpful. However, there is one time in any story where I need worded songs... the heartbreaking moment, then I go hunting for the most depressing, broken souled set of words I can find.