background noise

I can’t concentrate when it’s quiet. I write to background noise. Never silence.

Case in point—I currently have one iPhone earbud secured in my left ear, the other end plugged into my computer, shuffling thru my iTunes Library. Sounds of the television float in thru my open door from the living room where my sister has parked herself on the couch to catch up on DVR’d shows I watched last week without her. High-pitched barks interrupt the constant typing of keys, followed closely by frantic hisses as my cat and new puppy are still maneuvering that elusive road to everlasting friendship (they’ll get there—eventually).

So, yeah. It’s far from quiet.

People don’t understand how I can write with music lyrics flowing into my ears. How do I keep from focusing all my attention on the television in the next room instead of the computer screen in front of me? How can I possibly concentrate with all that noise?

It’s hard to pinpoint an exact answer for you. Only that, without it, I can’t write.

When it’s quiet, I find myself too easily distracted by the slightest sound. Then I freak myself out by wondering what could have possibly just made that eerie scratching noise that seems like it came from the empty chimney above my bedroom’s fireplace. OHMIGOD there’s a roach in my chimney, biding its time until it can attack me with its disgusting, spindly insect legs when I finally go to sleep tonight.

See? Noise is better. It drowns out the freaky noises so that I never see the roaches coming. What I don’t know won’t hurt me, right?

Back in November, Nova Ren Suma’s blog featured a series of guest posts called, “What inspires you?” (For those who don’t know, Nova is the author of the fantastic young adult book, Imaginary Girls. Her blog is also fantastic, so please check it out. I’ll wait right here.)

The series got me thinking about what it is that inspires me to write. I’m not talking about what specifically inspired me to write Jaded—that’s a long story that we’ll have to save for another day, perhaps when it finally gets published—but just writing in general. For some reason, when I asked myself this question, I thought immediately about how I like to write. How noise helps the words flow. Specifically, the type of noise that makes them flow the quickest.

And that would be music.

To me, musicians are writers just like me—their stories are merely a tad shorter than mine. A good song can have just as much of an effect on me as a good book. There are so many songs that when I first hear them, it feels like the songwriter wrote them specifically for me. I connect with it. I wonder how in the Hell he or she managed to describe the exact feeling that is flying around in my head at this exact moment.

Like authors, songwriters are able to pull from their own lives, weaving their experiences into these beautiful stories that so many other people can relate to and fall in love with. It’s what makes me listen to their songs over and over again until I can recite them from memory—word for word. It’s what makes singers like Adele so powerful. It’s why when you look at my most played section of iTunes, you see Lucy Schwartz, Adele, Greg Laswell, Jay Brannan, Mozella, etc. I can’t tell you how many Lucy Schwartz songs I’ve listened to and thought, “OHMIGOD, it’s like she knows me.”

The fact a musician can move me with their stories in a quick 3 to 4 minutes inspires me. It makes me want to write my own story. It makes me want to pull from my own experiences to create a novel that someday, someone else might relate to in a similar way. Isn’t that why we read? Why we listen to music? Not merely for entertainment or to pass the time or fill in all the eerie silences. It’s to feel that somewhere, someone else has gone thru what you’re going thru right now. It’s to be moved.

At least, it is for me. And that’s what inspires me to write and why I listen to music while I do so—hoping those creative lyrics might rub off on me. I want to touch someone with my writing. I want people to relate to it. I want someone, somewhere, to feel like I wrote it for them.

How many of you have had similar experiences with songs? With books? I’m not the only one, right?

– lindsey archer

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1 Comment

  1. I see you decided that “Hell” should be capitalized. And no, you are not the only one that writes that way. Most of my reports are written with background music; it helps drown out the kids in the hallways (and yes, I realize my reports are nowhere near as interesting as your fiction writing, but I’m still counting it).

    Also, have you checked out Spotify? I just discovered it… and it’s awesome. Along with all the artists you mentioned. Adding them to my playlist now.

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