The Sounds of Silence

One thing that always mystified me is when writers talk about their playlists.  Some are simple (a couple of songs or an album or two) while others are very, very, very, very, very detailed–certain songs for certain characters, scenes, and even a pre-writing hype.

Me?  I write in complete silence.

I used to not be this way–like a bunch of people, I used to listen to tunes as I put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard).  Throughout high school it was light jazz (I was such a cool kid).  In college, it became bebop and free jazz.

Then, something amazing happened.  I read an interview with Alan Moore.

For those that don’t know, Alan Moore is a legendary comic book writer.  And when I say legendary, let me put it to you this way–he’s to comics what Dr Seuss is to children’s books.  Watchmen, V for Vendetta, Swamp Thing, For The Man Who Has Everything, Batman: The Killing Joke, all classics.  He’s one of my literary heroes–someone who didn’t let genre define him, someone who redefined a genre.

In the interview, they asked him what kind of music he listened to when he wrote.  And his answer was startling.  “None.” he said.  “I used to, then I found the rhythms affected my own work.”

I was confounded.  Music affecting someone’s story telling ability?  That had to be something crazy.  It certainly didn’t apply to me.

Except it totally did.

The more I looked at my older stories, the more I could tell what music I was listening to–just by reading them aloud.  That slow period when I was heavily into Otis Redding?  I could hear it.  When I first got Sketches of Spain by Miles in my junior year of college?  I could hear it.  The pop of my words when listening to big band.  The slow phrases that came out while Coltrane was playing.

I could hear it all.

And I didn’t like it.

So, from that point on, I turned the music off.  Now my words, my phrases, and my rhythms are all my own–for better and for worse.  So, I’m mystified by listening to music when writing.  Does it help?  Do you think it hurts now?  Sound off in the comments!

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