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Music or Silence

Some writers like to listen to music while they work.  Some even have specific playlists that they listen to while writing a particular book. It’s a way of connecting with the characters and the story, I would guess, or of getting yourself into the right frame of mind to write that book. Others need silence, or are more like Janice Galloway, who when she was asked at this year’s Edinburgh Book Festival if she listened to music while writing looked horrified said firmly, “When I listen to music, I listen to music.” On the other hand, Lari Don has blogged about how she makes playlists for her books, not to listen to while writing, but while doing something else but still thinking about her current book.

When I was a student, I used to study regularly with my headphones on, listening to the radio or whatever album was my current obsession, but now I don’t usually listen to music while I’m writing.  I find it too distracting.  I start concentrating on the music instead of the words I’m supposed to be writing.  But I don’t need complete silence either.  In fact, I work particularly well in a café or somewhere similar where there’s an element of background noise.  That kind of noise I find easy to tune out.  Sometimes I think it’s less distracting than silence.

What about you?  Do you need silence to work?  Or do you like to listen to music or even talk radio?

  1. October 23, 2015 at 7:52 pm

    I like background noise and work best when there’s a “hum” – so I can relate to what you say about enjoying working in cafes. I have always thought it’s because I’m an extravert and like the feeling of people being nearby! I love Radio 4 because of the constant chatter of voices, but on the other hand, music is way too distracting.

    • October 23, 2015 at 10:36 pm

      Interesting. I could never work with Radio 4 on, I’d be too interested in what was being said.

  2. October 26, 2015 at 10:46 am

    Interesting question! I still like to write without music to distract me, but I was writing last night with fireworks going off outside, and that didn’t knock me out of the storyline at all!

    • October 26, 2015 at 1:01 pm

      It’s quite strange, isn’t it, what sounds are distracting and which ones aren’t. I find background conversation positively helpful for concentration. As long as those talking are strangers – I don’t think it would work if I whipped out my notebook in the middle of a family gathering and started to work. Although actually, I haven’t ever tried that…

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