Monday, May 6, 2013

Writing, basketballs, and rain on a tarp

Outdoor office - and just on the other side of that
hedge are basketballs....

There was a debate on CBC’s "The Next Chapter" recently about whether it’s better to write with music playing in the background or not. Some writers can work while a musical sountrack plays in the background, and some can’t.

I can’t.

Well, not completely true. I can – if the music doesn’t have words, and if what I’m working on doesn’t require the streneuous stretching of my creative muscles.

A friend of mine writes to jazz. I know another writer who has the CBC French station Espace Musique playing (she doesn’t understand French, so it’s all just a tapestry of lovely cadences and music to her).

But sounds of any sort are a problem for me. They have to be just right, or I’m distracted. At their worst, sounds can irritate me. Forget any kind of productive writing when the dog is barking, for instance. Or – my favourite – when the neighbour kids start bouncing their basketball on their driveway, just a few metres from our open windows, or the deck, where I love to work in the summer.

Basketballs – they are symbolic of the intrusion that unwanted sound makes into my writing life. They’re bounced by people, and I like to write in solitude. They make a repetitive, reverberating, rhythmic pattern of sound not unlike the maddening drip of a leaky faucet or, as I like to describe it, Chinese water torture.

And it is torture for me. Bounce, bounce, bounce. 

I can feel anxiety rising every time I’m enjoying the natural sounds of my back deck, and I hear the neighbour’s door slam.

Someone has come outside.

Nothing, then…

Bounce, bounce, bounce, clunk (ball through hoop). Bounce, bounce, bounce, clunk. Over and over.

And over. And over.

But I’m the first person to say the sounds of kids playing are good sounds (Hey, I’m a mother, after all). So as much as I would like to stand up on the edge of my deck and holler over the cedar hedge “Can you please give us a break over here?”, I don’t. Of course I don’t.

Instead, I shut up and went looking for an app.

No, not an app that yells at kids over the hedge. It’s an app that allows me to mask the annoying sounds around me with soothing natural sounds. That’s what it’s called – Nature Sounds.

And the Rain on a Tarp track is perfect. Percussive enough to cover the bouncing basketball, and familiar enough to invoke the sounds of rain on a tent roof, camping, solitude, nature.

It's a fabricated natural world, of course, but it works. Be gone, basketballs! Or that loud TV. Or traffic. Or people talking. Rain on a Tarp allows me to retreat to my own writing space, with a soundtrack that supports rather than disturbs.

A tent roof, camping, solitude, nature...

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