I don’t know how writers who write in silence do it. Unless I’m trying to sleep, I absolutely hate silence. I’m not saying I need noise all the time. That’s part of the reason I moved out of my old apartment complex: I couldn’t stand the noise my neighbors were always making and the lack of support from management to quiet the noise. But it’s rare when I’m comfortable with complete quiet and I’m not trying to sleep.

And there are writers who are able to write in silence. Hell, some even need it!

Me? I need something in the background. Especially when I write. It’s rare that I can write in silence. If I do, my brain automatically starts playing something on loop in my head just to make up for the silence. So, when I write, I need to listen to something when I work. And it has to be the right sort of thing for the project I’m working on. Otherwise, I find it hard to concentrate and get any words down on paper.

Sometimes, this is easy to do. Usually I can put on 80s music or the soundtracks of my favorite musicals and just write, no matter the story. No joke, I wrote The Pure World Comes entirely to my favorite hits of the 1980s. Or I listen to ASMR videos on YouTube, especially if I’m blogging. (And if you don’t know what ASMR is, I’m not going to explain it here. Just know, I find it very relaxing when done right.) And when I’m editing, I can put on music, or maybe have an anime on in the background, and just get it done.

Other times, it has to be very specific, or I can’t work at all. For my novel Toyland, I needed to listen to the Moulin Rouge soundtrack (Broadway musical based on the movie, not the movie itself) for nearly the entire writing process. Until the final few chapters, I could not write without that soundtrack. It only occurred to me ages later that my mind probably chose that album subconsciously because, like Toyland, both plots involve a story within a story. I might need to listen to that soundtrack again when I do one more round of editing on it and then try to find a publisher.

I’m still trying to nail down what works best for Crawler. Some days I’m in the mood for 80s music, other days I’m in the mood for a musical soundtrack. Once I even listened to the Mad Max: Fury Road soundtrack just because it was so epic I couldn’t help but write to it!

Thankfully, for the two projects I’m working on while I’m break from Crawler and before getting back to editing Hannah, identifying the background sound I need was easy. For one project, which involves a very unique child actress, I’m listening to the Phantom of the Opera soundtrack. Makes sense: both involve people in the fine arts who are not what they seem. And the other, which involves my own unique take on a recent piece of internet folklore, will involve ambient noise videos on YouTube. I already got the first part of the story done while listening to a video of noises at an outdoor mall (guess where that scene took place?).

It’s lucky that I was able to figure those out so quickly. Otherwise, I might not be able to write a single word!

Still, I was able to identify what I will (likely) need, so I’m glad for that. I have good feelings about these stories and I look forward to writing them. And I’ll thankfully have the right sounds to listen to them while I do.

Do you listen to music while you write? Do you need it or can you do without it? What do you prefer to listen to?

And if you prefer silence, why? How are you able to write like that? Let’s discuss.

Comments
  1. I’m one of those silence-needing people. If a song is playing, I start singing along. If it’s classical, I start humming along. Music pulls some of my attention away from the story. I can listen to binaural beats, though. They don’t have words or any kind of musical progression.

  2. This is so interesting. I tune everything out when I write so while I could have music on, I just find it annoying. Writing is the only time I don’t want background noise to help tune out my thoughts.

  3. What I mean is, usually I need background noise to help calm my incessant overthinking, but when I’m writing my thoughts are focused and the fact they’re so detailed becomes an advantage, so background noise becomes an irritant.

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