On Listening to Music While Writing Or Why The Last of the Mohicans Soundtrack Plays an Integral Role in My Getting Work In By Deadline

Publish date:

I don't think it would be a stretch to say that I have weird writing
habits. I spend most of my writing time pacing around my room talking
aloud to myseWlf, I'm most productive working during the Wesley-Snipes-
type hours of 12-4 AM, and I'm most comfortable typing flat
on my back with the computer resting on my knees like I'm about to do
a semi-intense set of sit-ups. But lately I've been most conscious of
my inability to work without music.

My writing friends seem to fall into or between two specific camps
here. There is the "I could type an essay while sitting in the choral
pit during a live performance by Blue Man Group with a special
appearance by Gallagher, such is my ability to concentrate" camp and
the "I can't hear the question you just asked because it would
require taking off my noise-canceling headphones and leaving my panic
room, which will ruin any chance I have of working today" camp. The
polar ends on both sides suggest particularly neurotic behavior, but,
as Google claims John Wayne said, "a man (or woman) writer has got to
do what a man (or woman) writer's got to do."

Now I have very specific music needs. I can't listen to any music
that has words in it, because I end up thinking about those words
rather than whatever acrostic poem I happen to be working on. Also,
depending on the genre and the proximity to my deadline, the music
changes in severity/intensity/genre. Here is the sampling of my
playlist according to what I'm working on:

Novel Chapters and Fiction: Spanish Guitar Magic.
Reasoning: In high school I was walking past a Brookstone (note:
could have been A Sharper Image), when I overheard the rapturous
sounds of a guitar playing some latin-themed something. Entranced by
said music, I entered the store and sat in one of those vibrating
massage chairs for a little under an hour, or until I was kicked out,
listening to the music. After inquiring what said music was, I bought
the opened CD black market style off of one the cashiers for ten
bucks. Anyway, this is the music that I listen to when writing my
book or any work of fiction. It is a two hour playlist of Andres
Segovia, Carlos Montoya and Manuel De Falla tearing it up Spanish
Guitar Hero-style, and it is soothing, acoustic and has little to no
words. It reminds me of what it might feel like if I was in the
Spanish version of The Thomas Crowne Affair and for whatever reason,
that thought makes me productive. Plus, it drowns out the hippies.

Magazine Articles and Columns:Buena Vista Social Club and Jazz
Compilation of Miles Davis/John Coltrane

Reasoning: I don't know why my writing seems to be obsessed with the
sounds of Latin America, but there it is. Maybe I use this mix during
non-fiction because the music has more flair and edge, or maybe the
constant improvisational moods in the jazz mimic what I have to do as
I'm piecing together a story. Or maybe I just dig horns.

54.8 Minutes Before Deadline Regardless of Genre:The Last of the
Mohican Soundtrack

Reasoning: Um, have you ever seen Last of the Mohicans? Daniel Day
Lewis is always running, and always throwing things, and there is
serious sense of urgency. Especially in the song "Promentory". This
music screams, "finish this or Magua will kill the gray hair's
daughter!!!"Once this music is on, I'm all about the benjamins baby
business. Probably because I only have 54.8 minutes till deadline.

Anyway, I'm curious to see where and into what camp you fall. Pro-
music? Con-music? Musically Neutral like the Swiss? And if you do
slay music while writing, what does your playlist look like? Or
perhaps more importantly, how many Rick Astley songs do you have on

I await your thoughts via the Commentary.

I Will,
Find You

Daniel Day Lewis


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