In April of 2007, I bought my first iPod. It was the fifth generation, on which I could watch television shows and movies as well as listen to music and play games. I bought it primarily to watch the second season of my favorite show, SUPERNATURAL, and the first season of HEROES so I didn’t have to wait for the DVD set to come out the following fall.
Between my husband and I, we had a lot of records and CDs. Because you are allowed to make an archive version of purchased music, I downloaded my favorite albums onto my iPod. But I didn’t actually expect to listen to the music while writing. I first plugged my iPod into my car to listen to the audio version of ON WRITING by Stephen King–read by Stephen King. If you like this book, and enjoy Stephen King, you’ll LOVE him reading it. It was as if he was sitting in my passenger seat talking to me like an old friend. And I’m not usually a fan of audio books because I can read faster than I can listen.
I was writing at Starbucks at the time, and eventually started bringing in my iPod without much thought. I realized over that summer that I found I wrote faster when I listened to music. In fact, harder and louder the rock, faster I wrote. So I went home and spent a fortune on iTunes buying favorite songs that I didn’t have on CD. My library is now over 1300 songs, though there’s roughly 250 that I listen to far more than the rest. (For example, I love Pink Floyd. But Pink Floyd is album music, and you have to listen to the entire album. For some reason, I find this distracting when I’m writing.)
I’ve realized that it’s partly to trick my mind–if my ears are focused on music, I’m not eavesdropping on conversations around me. Or distracted by birds chirping outside my home office. (I found out real quick that there’s a big difference listening to music through earbuds and listening through home stereo speakers. Only the earbuds work to focus my writing.)
When I have my earbuds in–and I invested in real nice, clear Bose earbuds–I hear and see nothing but the story in front of me. Amazing when you think of it — I thought music would be distracting. But I’m not actively listening–the music is simply in my head, giving part of my mind something to do so it doesn’t distract me from the story. Sounds strange, I know. I think because I’m so used to multi-tasking–not just as a mom, but in my previous career in the Legislature when I was used to juggling many projects and thinking about one thing while doing something completely different–I find it hard to focus on just one thing. The music helps me do that.
When talking to writers, I’ve found there are just as many who need complete silence or white noise–our Rob is one–in order to write as there are those who need music. And those who need music, there are about as many who can only listen to instrumental and those who need songs with lyrics. I’m someone who needs songs with lyrics. I think this is because instrumental music is distracting because I’m making up a visual story to go with the sound; with lyrics, that story is already there. And because I know the songs so well, the lyrics almost disappear.
My 5th Generation iPod crashed and instead of getting it fixed, I bought the iPod Touch. I love it. (Well, I love everything about it–the sound, the calendar, the games–except for the sucky battery life.)
To celebrate my new toy, I created a playlist of music from my favorite television show, SUPERNATURAL, largely because the program plays music that I like. I bought some new stuff–songs written in the 2000s. For me, this is huge because I’ve always believed that no good music was made after about 1983. (I credit my oldest daughter with my ability to expand my musical horizons. She introduced me to some terrific, new rock music. So I can now listen to Led Zeppelin in the same playlist as 3 Doors Down; and Katie is one of the few teenagers who appreciates classic rock. She created her own playlists on my iPod and my husband’s iPod so when we drive together, we listen to music we both like.) Some of the songs are not available on iTunes, so I’m debating buying the CD. Some of the songs not available I already had–like AC/DC.
Right now I have 46 songs on this playlist, and I’m adding to it every week. “Oldies” like BAD MOON RISING by CCR; CARRY ON WAYWARD SON by Kansas; RENEGADE by Styx; STRANGLEHOLD by Ted Nugent; and TURN TO STONE by Joe Walsh. And “Newsies” like EVERY ROSE HAS ITS THORN by Poison; SUPERMASSIVE BLACK HOLE by Muse; SPEAKING IN TONGUES by Eagles of Death Metal; and MEAN LITTLE TOWN by Howling Diablos.
I think one of the reasons I’m so tickled about finding new music that I like is because for the longest time I believed that only rap was produced for the last ten years. Lots of people–particularly young people–love rap. Great. But I don’t. If it comes on the radio station my teens like, I hit the classic rock station without hesitation. Because while there is some popular music I can tolerate, rap ain’t it.
My oldest daughter is a music addict. So much so that she did her science project on whether music had an impact on the behavior of goldfish (I still have two of the four alive in a bowl in my office . . . ) She learned they don’t like hard rap music anymore than I do–they swam erratically at the bottom of the bowl. And they love the Righteous Brothers and swam smoothly, using the full bowl. At least, that’s our story 🙂
For fun, I went to my “Top 25 Most Played” songs and was surprised at the rather eclectic top ten:
- Sweet Home Alabama Lynyrd Skynyrd
- I’m Shipping Up to Boston Dropkick Murphys
- We Used to Be Friends The Dandy Warhols
- Sunday Bloody Sunday U2
- I Hear the Bells Mike Doughty
- Carry On Wayward Son Kansas
- Bohemian Rhapsody Queen
- Rocky Road to Dublin Dropkick Murphys
- Spybreak (Short One) Propellerheads
- Tom Sawyer Rush
Some of the Top 25 surprised me (like #21 “Every Day I Write the Book” by Elvis Costello.) There’s one thing that the top 25 songs have in common–they made it onto multiple playlists. And I wouldn’t be surprised if they changed over the next few months . . .
Does music help you work, whether you’re a writer or not? What are your top five most played songs on your iPod (if you have one) or what CD is in your player?
(As an aside . . . recently my husband bought a thingie to plug a turntable into the computer to burn CDs because, alas, we don’t have a record player anymore. Can you even buy records anymore new? I don’t think so. When my 15 year old came into the room while he was lovingly fondling the ancient vinyl, she asked, “What’s that?” And VCR tapes are fast becoming obsolete as well. Does anyone remember 8-tracks tapes? My mom had a car with an 8-track tape player. Yep, I feel old. And I had a black-and-white television until I was five.)