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Street dancing

What are your audio preferences when it’s time to write?

Several years ago, I wrote a short piece for The Writer about different writers’ favorite sounds when it comes to getting busy with the words. Some writers have very specific aural tastes?ranging from white noise to classical music to birdsong?while others told me that “silence is golden” when they’re on deadline.

I’ve blogged previously about life with tinnitus. It’s a real bear to have that high-pitched whine buzzing in my ear all the time, and it’s especially apparent when I’m in a quiet location and/or when I’m trying to concentrate. For me, it’s helpful to have some kind of background sound pretty much all the time, but when I’m writing there are particular genres that especially appeal to me.

My go-to internet radio station, regardless of what I’m working on, is Radio Ultimae. It provides groovy, ambient tunes with a beat, but there are rarely any lyrics. If there are words being in sung in any language that I can remotely understand, I can’t listen to it while I’m working. I can listen to human voices in music while I’m writing, but it has to sound to my ears like random syllables for the sake of musicality.

Radio Ultimae is also a good channel for helping to drown out ambient noise (via headphones) when I’m working from a coffee shop or other location “in the wild.” Lately I’ve not been able to load Radio Ultimae in my iTunes Radio, but it is still available via the TuneIn app and website (though the stream sometimes times out or won’t load).

So, when Radio Ultimae isn’t available, what do I do? I have an iTunes playlist called “writing tunes” and another called “ambient.” I’ll just turn on one of these, and get back to work.

When I’m working on a first draft of a new fiction project, it’s not unusual for me to create a playlist just for that story. I’ll go through my iTunes library to pick and choose songs (still without lyrics!) that are close to the “feel” of the world I’m trying to create. For instance, if I’m writing something witchy I’m likely to be listening to a fair amount of Loreena McKennitt, whereas the Valhalla series brings a lot of old Norwegian folk tunes and sea chanties to my computer speakers. Having a specific musical atmosphere is a great support to my fiction writing. Building such a playlist is also a great form of procrastination from the actual writing at the start of NaNoWriMo each year.

(I also distract myself with loading the Duke basketball schedule into my calendar at the beginning of November.)

What kind of music do you like to listen to while you’re working?



Creative Commons photo by Gytis.



Posted in writing & publishing.

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