A Little Strange Music

Because Alex J. Cavanaugh is holding his Top Ten Countdown - Music Blogfest today and I'm not participating, I thought I'd blog about music and writing.

Sometimes I love to have music playing while I write. Other times, no. I wish I could always write to music. Have playlists for characters, soundtracks for novels and stories. Ain't happening.

I don't know the reason. My musical taste is eclectic - I enjoy it all. I sing, play piano, dance. It's not that I don't like music. Maybe I like it too much.

Other than gangsta rap and funeral dirges, there's not much I don't like. Old, new. Vocal, instrumental. Classical, rock. Opera, country. Pop, hip-hop. Salsa, Tejano. You name it, I like it. When it's playing, my attention strays from my characters and story and pirouettes over to the music. It shouldn't do that when I'm trying to write.

About the only time I can still write to music is when I'm firmly grounded with the characters and know what I want to do with current scene. Then it's OK for a little while.

I definitely cannot do fine editing with any sort of vocal music, even if it's sung in a language I don't understand. This I get, because at that point I'm paying close attention to individual words and cadences. 

The strangest thing is, it's only music that bothers me this way. Dogs barking and carrying on, televisions blaring, telephone conversations - even all of these at the same time - are no problem.

It's just music.

I wonder why that is?

Does anyone know?

Does anyone else have this problem?


Life 101 said…
Actually I'm the same way when doing intense mind work. I can listen to classical but words distract me.
Interesting, I thought that was just me.
Talei said…
I'm listing to music right now, a mix of fav's. I find that some scenes write perfectly to certain music and other times, yes I do need complete and utter silence. Even the builders next door must be shut out. I always celebrate the end of a chapter with a really loud number though! ;)

Have a lovely week!
Jan Morrison said…
I'm exactly that way. The rhythm of the work is the most important thing for me - I have a sound going on all the time in my brain pan and I can't layer another one on top of it. I use lyrics and songs in my writing - I sing all the time (badly) - music is incrediably important to me - I used to be a music promoter - but not while I'm writing. nope.
Lydia K said…
I bet it's because your ear it well tuned to voices. Some people can't read or write with anything vocal in the background, like the TV or radio.
You're not weird!
LR said…
I always listen to music while writing but for editing I need absolute silence. Otherwise just can't catch all the little things I need to catch. :)
Arlee Bird said…
You and I have similar musical tastes and are affected in a similar way. I can listened to most classical while I'm writing, but vocal music is indeed distracting.
Maybe your distraction for music is because you like it so much you feel compelled to listen to it and focus on what you are hearing. I know for me if I even faintly hear a piece of music in the background amidst a lot of other noise I will tend to zero in on that music and shut out every other sound.

Tossing It Out
Carol Kilgore said…
Life 101 - And I thought it was just me!

Talei - I put music on as soon as I finish writing for the day. Gotta have it.

Jan - Yes. When I'm writing the sound of the story is in my head. Each has its own unique melody. I'm so happy to know I'm not alone.

Lydia - Whew!

LR - I wish it worked for me.

Arlee - True story...Live-In Handyman and I walked into a shop a couple of weeks ago. I said, "Oh, I love that song." He said, "What song?" I said, "The one that's playing. 'Breathe'." He said, "I am breathing." I said, "No, that's the title." He stopped walking, cocked his head, and said, "Oh."
Hannah Kincade said…
I can listen to music while writing but it mostly stays to instrumental stuff. Or ambient stuff in Swedish like Sigur Ros. I can even write while watching TV. A ton of inspiration for me comes from music and since I'm a crazy soundtrack fan, I love creating soundtracks for my novels.
Terry Odell said…
I have my iTunes writing playlist. It's a mix, but so familiar, it's background, and seems to focus the writing process for me.

Terry's Place
Romance with a Twist--of Mystery
Holly Ruggiero said…
We are twins. I love all types of music, but when it's playing, it takes me to a completely different world--not the one I’m writing about.
VR Barkowski said…
I can't write with music, either. It's never background to me (unlike dogs, cats, etc). When I hear music, I have to listen. And if I'm focused on the music, how can I focus on my ms?
I listen to music (no lyrics though) if I'm plotting or writing something 'easy'. Serious concentration needs serious silence.
Carol Kilgore said…
Hannah - I can write while watching TV without any problem. Music is the only thing.

Terry - I so wish it worked for me.

Holly - Same thing here.

VR - I'm the same way.

Elspeth - It seems a lot of us are the same way. It's nice knowing I'm not the only writer working with silence.
Joanne said…
When I'm writing, I'm the same way. I'm not sure why, but maybe like others have said, we enjoy it so much, it calls our attention away from the page. When I'm revising though, I find that jazz, instrumental only, is a great background to my work.
I don’t know why it is, but I have the same problem. Even if I don’t know the words to the song, I’ll find myself humming along – it’s just not conducive for working.
I can write to classical and New Age (lyric-free music), but can edit to anything. Funny, isn't it?
Talli Roland said…
There's no way I can listen to music when I'm writing or editing. I just can't deal with any more noise inside my head!
kimberlyloomis said…
I'm the same way now. If I listen to something with words, which is the easiest for me to not get absorbed by, the rhythm of my narrative gets mixed up. It was after going back and rereading some stuff I had faithfully written while listening to a group I enjoy that I realized what a mess I had made of things. So - definitely not just you. :)
I write in absolute silence. Well, apart from when it's raining and then I like the sound of the raindrops on the tin loft roof. But that's about all. My brain turns to scrambled egg otherwise!
Carol Kilgore said…
Joanne - I love jazz, too, but not while I'm writing or editing.

Jane - There do seem to be a lot of us in the no-music boat.

Elizabeth - It is funny that we're one way or the other with very few in between.

Talli - Yes, there is noise inside my head doing both tasks, too.

Kimberly - I do believe there are a lot of us.

Wendy - And still another one. I love the sound of rain.
Jennifer Shirk said…
I have to have quiet when I read or write or edit. But sometimes I'll listen to some songs BEFORE I write to get me in the "mood". :)
Carol Kilgore said…
Jennifer - That's an EXCELLENT idea! I'm going to try it. Thanks for sharing :)
Linda Kage said…
Actually, I even like gangsta rap and the taps bugle really seem to move me, so I think I could probably handle just about any music...depending on my mood!
Carol Kilgore said…
Linda - Good for you! It's just those two that I prefer not to listen to.
Holly Ruggiero said…
Carol! I just stumbled upon your website. It’s gorgeous! You should definitely have a link to it on your blog.
Kathy McIntosh said…
Great post that evoked lots of thoughtful comments. I, too, often need silence but I do enjoy listening to guitar music. I like that of Mark Romero, which is designed to heal and inspire.
Carol Kilgore said…
Holly - Thanks for the compliment :) I link to it on my profile, but I just put it on here, too, thanks to you.

Kathy - I have some guitar music, but it doesn't work for me either. I'm glad it does for you!
I can't write with music on. I find it distracting. I wish it wasn't so, but I've tried and tried. So you're not alone. :D
Jayne said…
I do work to music, but it really depends on what I'm writing, and where in the process I am. Sometimes I need something that is just classical, no vocal. And sometimes just silence works as well (although house / life noises are always present!)
Carol Kilgore said…
Kathi - I've tried and tried, too. We have a lot of company, I think.

Jayne - You're lucky either way works for you.