Thursday, July 3, 2014

When Writing

There seems to be quite a lot of discussion among various writers I know about their writing process, and much of it seems to revolve around music. Some writers always listen to a specific kind of music, no matter what they are writing. Others prefer to play something that evokes the mood they are trying to capture. Still others turn on tunes that correlate to the action of the scene, or the time period, or some other aspect of the piece on which they are working. And, of course, some don’t like any music at all, desiring either some other type of noise - street noise, television, nature sounds, or white noise - or just silence.

When working on a fiction piece some time ago, I discovered that Celtic Woman radio on Pandora worked terrifically. I seemed to be able to produce more, and better quality, writing when I played that, even though it had nothing at all to do with what I was writing. But when working on Little Lodges on the Prairie, that same station did not help at all, and in fact several times when trying it, I had to turn it off in frustration. I also tried playing Pa’s Fiddle music, since that seemed to go with the subject, and several other things, but never found a music source that worked well. For that book, I preferred a low to moderate level of street noise or television.

Now that I am again working on a novel, I’m experimenting with several things. Celtic Woman is back. I wonder what it is about that group that helps me write fiction, but hinders me writing nonfiction? Strange. Other sounds are okay, too. As long as they’re not too loud or have too much of a bass beating, I’ve found I can work with just about anything right now. One thing I can never do, though, is play my favorite music. My brain just wants to sing along, and not concentrate enough on my work. 

Aside: Another strange thing I’ve discovered is that if I am getting sick or getting a migraine, a song with a particular beat will play over and over in my head. The way I can tell the difference between a regular earworm and a “getting sick” one is that a normal one is normal. If I’m getting sick, the tune keeps getting faster and faster, like a round of Three Blind Mice, even though (so far, at least) the song itself is not supposed to increase in tempo that way. So far, the only way I’ve found to stop or even slow down a migraine earworm is to play True Love over and over. Why that song? I have no idea. It’s not on my list of favorite songs; I rarely ever even think of it. But when I’m getting sick, I crave that song, and that song only.

Other things that affect creativity: lighting and temperature. You probably know that daylight inspires more creative thinking than artificial light. Did you also know that people are (statistically) more creative when they work in a slightly warm room than in a slightly cool one? It’s more than just comfort: it also has to do with the energy your body uses to warm itself, which is energy the brain no longer has to do its thing. For the same reason, working on a full stomach is not as productive as being less full (not to mention to whole tryptophan thing). Of course, hunger is distracting, so that’s not good either. 

It seems that for maximum creative potential, one should play generic music, at a moderate level, outside, on a warm day, after a light snack.

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