Saturday, March 26, 2011

Bring In Da Noise

A person can go about 3 to 5 days without water. You can survive without food for a little longer than that.

I, however, cannot live longer than a few hours without sound of some sort. It could be normal city sounds, background television shows, thunderstorms or music.

Complete silence is not calming. It is not refreshing. It is loud. It is terrifying. I do not like it, Sam I am.

Maybe it's because half of my life has been spent in noisy places. In the city car alarms go off at one in the morning, bar-goers stumble past your window at two shouting at the top of their lungs and sirens of all kinds of emergency vehicles play a sporadic nighttime symphony. If I did not have these sounds, I would not sleep.

Ever since I was little, listening to a Billy Joel tape in my Walkman as I slept, my need for sound was apparent. It started with a constant running fan, even in winter, and progressed to leaving the radio/tv on.

How does this effect my writing? I've had conversations with other writers who can't write with noise. Others can write to music as long as it doesn't have words. Then there are the ones like myself, who can write with anything on, at almost any volume. As I type this I have the Elite Eight Arizona/UConn game on in front of me.

I'm one of those who creates a playlist that I think matches the mood of my book, or even the scene I am currently working on. Scary part? Those We Don't Speak Of from The Village Soundtrack. Haunting part? Creep cover by Scala & Kolacny Brothers. Introspective moment? Breathe Me by Sia.

If the music is faster, I type faster. If only the same principle worked when I exercised.

My mind wanders if I try to write in complete silence. I start to wonder why there isn't any sound or whether or not I took the chicken out of the freezer oriftomorrowisgarbagedayorwhereileftmykeys. My thoughts are too loud in silence and rarely hones to the task at hand. Music/noise allows me to focus.

Are you like me? What do you listen to? Do you need quiet? How do you achieve isolation from noise?


  1. Unless I'm intensely stressed (and want no sound at all, anywhere), I always write to music. I have specific writing playlists that change from book to book, and sometimes within the book—but they're not tayliored to the experience. (I say that, but I then will put specific songs on repeat for various moods.) In fact, I have so many playlists around I had to organize them with prefixes:
    r: (rocky), m: (mixed), w: (writing), d: (dreamy), etc.

    ANYWAY, so my current monkey writing lists are:
    w: sophie—a mix of the latest Iris and Echoing Green albums, Blacklight and In Scarlet & Vile respectively.
    w: hit 'em—songs of a more kick-ass variety (though not super heavy). It includes Switchfoot remixes, selections from Ellie Goulding, Echoing Green, Lissie, September, and La Roux.

    (Ok, listen to "In for the kill" by La Roux—is this not a total sophie song?)

    Current playlist is w: etcerapop, a mix of three albums: Kate Earl (self titled), Florence + The Machine (Lungs), and Ellie Goulding (Bright Lights). Though, lately, I've just had Florence + The Machine on shuffle/repeat. Seriously, how did I not realize their awesomeness before now?

    Mood songs (the ones with insanely high play counts are:)
    For intense, rocky scenes current favorites are the Switchfoot remixes, Always and Your Love Is A Song. It was Always that was repeat when—but you haven't got there yet. But there was space! and lasers! and zooming wings!
    For quieter moments, Home by Ellie Goulding.
    For sad, sweet moments, Speak To Me Gently by Future of Forestry (though that was more for the last book)

    Which was all entirely more info than you needed. But I find writer playlists fascinating. I just came across a post by Hannah Moskowitz about music—she makes hers before she starts (and in chronological order)! That....blows my mind. Especially as I just tend to throw a bunch of albums together and weed as necessary. Then I forget what I was listening to when, or what song I thought was perfect for this scene or that character. (In fact, once monkey's done, I'll probably be digging through your comments to find out what exactly was on my ipod.) Are you super organized? Do you make lists for your characters too?

  2. I just recently introduced a friend to Florence + The Machine! Good stuff. I can't imagine setting my playlist up like Hannah Moskowitz, at least not at the start. Even when I think I've plotted a story out exactly how I want it, I start writing and the story decides to buck the plan. I'd have a slow Sia song playing while the characters are in a car chase!

    When I get home from vacation I want to look up some of the songs you listed here, especially your Sophie anthem. AND I can't wait to read about zooming wings!

  3. I know! Stories always have a way of taking over and introducing new plot threads I never had a clue about before hand. I just got some Sia, though I haven't listened to it yet.

    Have fun on vacation!!! Tells us all the awesome fun you had and the cool research stuff you got!