Monday, June 3, 2013

What's your musical soundtrack?

Writing to music? Or to silence? 

When my husband was writing his recently published book, The IT Chauffeurhe spent nearly a year in his downstairs office wrestling with those things that all writers wrestle with: finding the right words to tell his story.

He was very disciplined about his work, something I admired, making a schedule for himself and sticking to it, day in, day out. Researching the issues, churning out the pages, and handing them over to me for editing.

I know this process well, of course, because I’m a writer too. But there was one thing that drove me crazy: whenever I had to visit his office, I found him hard at work to the accompaniment of his favourite rock radio station.

This station plays current pop and rock favourites, so there’s quite a bit of music. But there are also blaring advertisements, snappy announcers, and fair amount of phone-in contests and generally (what I think are) annoying audio garbage.

This is the soundtrack he wrote to every day.


I have writing friends who listen to jazz or classical music, to music-only radio stations, or to specially selected playlists when they’re working. Friends who write in coffee shops, immersed in a soup of sound.

But me? It has to be quiet – or at least such a wall of sound that it all blends together and becomes a backdrop.

Some writers need music. A recent podcast on CBC’s The Next Chapter featured a “smackdown” – a sort of debate – between two writers discussing their own need for no music or a playlist. I sided with Cathy Marie Buchanan, who said “No music!”

The other view, put forth by writer Andrew Kaufman, suggests that a musical sountrack helps writing by creating a mood and prompting emotional responses. (You can read their arguments on the CBC Books/Canada Writes page, here.)

Nope. Turn off that radio. Silence the playlist. Keep your driveway basketballs and lively café conversation away, please.

When I’m writing, all I want to hear are the words in my head travelling magically to the page.

But that’s just me…

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