Last Friday I met a lovely friend who is a writer and illustrator. We spent hours in a café, talking over a coffee. Now that festivities and tax are both neatly out of the way, it was a real delight to indulge in writing chat about each others possible new ideas and work, as well as the usual moans.
At one point, she mentioned listening to music while she worked. Interestingly, she could only do this while working on some piece of art, not while she was writing.
Now I know that some people write with music constantly in their ears. Some say they select soundtracks to serve their work-in-progress, which makes me wonder.
Do gritty teen/YA novelists work with hard metal and anarchism pounding through their head-phones? Or people writing for pre-teens opt for sugar-pop and Justin Beiber? Or do the big brave souls – Mr.Pullman, I may be looking at you - tackle such large grand themes with Beethoven blasting out from their stacks? I don’t know, but it makes interesting thinking
Somewhat sadly, I can’t listen to music while I’m writing. The stuff worms into my head and ears, messing up the flow, the rhythm, the music of the words. How on earth can I hear how this or that phrase sounds if there’s an alternative sound obliterating it? How can I fix the emotion in this part of my story securely into words when there’s a different emotion hammering loudly at the door? I’m glad some people can work happily that way but – rather annoyingly – it’s not a thing that works for me.
Even writers of fiction need to be able to hear the music in their work. One thing that does restore my ears – again, though not while writing – is poetry, which I’ve recently re-discovered as an activity.
I re-shelved my random collection of old poetry books in beside an odd armchair, far more conscious of making space for a large seasonal green tree than insightful workspace planning.
Yet, ever since, I’ve found myself snatching odd moments among the anthologies, greedily grabbing several writing voices at a time. It’s an amusingly mixed experience. Some poems are boring, some dreadful, some so embarrassingly of their time the should be wearing duffle-coats and some are still as breath-taking as ever. I’d recommend it as a way of waking up your writing head or even, as I did, finding a new idea.
So, are you a muso or a muser? What’s your sound of choice while you’re working? Or are you another one who needs word-whispering silence to get the work done?
And if anyone knows the name/location of the brilliant Arts-Council-funded poetry site that I glimpsed recently on Facebook but now cannot find, please, please add it to the comment box. Thanks.
The section I saw showed a soulful John Hegley speaking "Without You."
Unfortunately, I am "Without You-Tube".
A BOY CALLED M.O.U.S.E, published by Bloomsbury.