Thursday, September 25, 2014



    This week's article is going to be a brief one. I wanted to wax rumanitive about background noise when you're writing. Some people are not only able to write in a cone of utter and complete silence, or as close as one can get, but they even require it. I can't imagine that - silence drives me crazy. To me, and this is just my opinion, but I'm sure certain others of you out there agree, silence isn't anything in an of itself, but rather the lack of something...noise.

    I've been known to write in noisy places: the cafeteria in high school; at home with parents and siblings talking or arguing or playing loudly; at a restaurant or cafe; etc. Once I lived in a house in which my den window overlooked a preschool. It was about a half a block away, so it wasn't too loud, and I actually found the mixed and incoherent sounds of children playing soothing and very conducive to concentration. Some of you probably find that hard to believe, and I suspect you have children of your own and so hear such racket much too often and much too closely.

    A writing buddy has a machine...yes, an actual machine...that produces "white" noise, which from all I can tell is pretty much just an electronically produced hissing or shushing noise. He finds this most conducive to writing. Others I've talked to have machines that produce the sounds of the ocean, tropical rain forest, deep woods, etc. That does sound kind of nice, to me.

    These days more often than not I put on one of several Pandora stations I've created to listen to while writing. For those of you who don't know, is one of those websites that allow you to define audio channels to your own taste - you can thumbs-down tracks you don't like and don't want included in that particular channel, and thumbs-up tracks that fit well. Based on this Pandora does a remarkably good job at selecting tracks from literally millions at its disposal that most closely fit the tracks you've indicated you like. The more thumbs you click, up or down, the better job it does at this. The free version includes ads which aren't too intrusive, or you can pay the nominal monthly fee for the ad-free version, which has turned out to be worth it to me.

    I've created a couple of favorite Pandora channels that are so ideally suited to my writing I find it hard to imagine how I got by without it before. For calmer, beatific, even romantic scenes or chapters I have a channel with mixed New Age classical music, which is absolutely NOT muzak, but a softer mix of music influenced by Celtic, Native American, Asian, even sometimes African traditions. For more lively, upbeat, or silly passages I have a channel of Broadway musicals. Yes, that's right, I love broadway and I'm with it! Heheh...

    But given that I mostly write adventure/thrillers, my favorite channel by far is the one I call Epic Soundtracks, which plays instrumental tracks played behind some of the world's greatest movies. You don't often notice the music when you're at a movie, but listening to these tracks I've discovered some of the most surprisingly beautiful and inspiring orchestral pieces I've ever heard before in my life. Music from movies like Pandora, Lord of The Rings, Cloud Atlas, and so many others is not only ideal for writing scenes of epic struggle and sacrifice myself, but has actually become one of my favorite things to listen to even when I'm not writing.

    I'd love to hear about the kind of background noise you have to tolerate when you write, or choose to listen to for inspiration. Drop me a comment.

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