Listening while writing
Posted on August 1, 2012
Would that work, I wondered, listening while writing? I listen to music when I write. Often. Sometimes to cheer me on, sometimes to land me in another world, sometimes to up the tension. Music without lyrics usually, because lyrics tend to mess up my words.
When a colleague creative writing teacher posted a link to THE NEW YORKER Fiction Podcasts I hurried over to the site. Writers heaven, I tell you. Writers heaven! A monthly reading and conversation with The New Yorker’s fiction editor, Deborah Treisman. Every month an author reads a short story written by another author. They pick the piece themselves, talk it over with Treisman and then they read.
I downloaded the available podcasts through iTunes and listened to the first, to the second. And then something strange happened. While listening to the second story and without actually noticing I had opened Scrivener and started writing. I am currently reworking ICARUS’ DOOM. Listening, I had completely faded out of the story that was being read, the deep voice, the intonation, the flow of words bringing me into a writing trance like I was listening to Glass’ Mishima or to Bach’s Das Wohltemperierte Klavier.
When I read back what I had written, I was pleased with the result. It had nothing to do with the story I had been listening to, but somehow those words sounding in the background had given me a tremendous boost. As if listening to an English-speaking voice kind of landed me in the States and made writing in English easier, more natural.
How does that work for you? What sends you into a trance? Is it music? Silence? Words?
Whatever it is, do check out the Fiction Podcasts of The New Yorker. They are a gem!
Ha Mina! Thanks for the heads up re: The New Yorker podcast. I’m so glad they’re doing this. Just because of the great stories they publish, years worth of issues piled up in our library.
As for listening while writing, I go through phases. If I listen to music, it’s usually over and over to the same piece or collection —for a certain section I’m writing. The familiarity seems to help.
That is what I do, too, Judith, if I listen to music, I listen to the same piece over and over again. That is what brings on the trance. And I agree with you: love The New Yorker podcasts!
I have to write with music, just like I used to have to study in college with the radio on which drove my roomate crazy. When writing my World War 2 ya novel, I listened to the Andrews Sisters and Glenn Miller Orchestra. When writing my middle grade contemporary about mean girls I listened to Taylor Swift. It calms me down and helps me to stay focused.
Mina, I’m working on a Post WWII novel and screenplay and am listening to music from that era as well. Over and over to the same songs, taking me deeper and deeper into the atmosphere of the times.
There are some stories on the New Yorker Fiction podcasts that I listen to over and over – some of them dozens of times already – and they always make me want to write. They have become like music and I can write while I listen to them. I have two audiobooks that do the same trick for me: Janet Frame’s Towards Another Summer, and Tim Winton’s Breath. I recommend 🙂
Shaun, I relate to that. Sometimes I play the same text, often an interview over and over while writing. I used to have Matlock in the background that worked quite well for me as well. I often get inspired while watching television and write, missing the gist of the show or movie.