22 February 2012

Music While Writing?

I mentioned a few posts ago about Stephen King's listening to music when he writes. I know people who listen to music while they study. Many arguments/debates have taken place between me and my children and between my college student peers and me on this subject.

They claim that they can concentrate BETTER with music or TV playing while they read and study. I have told them, and stick to this: the human brain is not capable of handling this efficiently. And this is especially true if there are vocals. Classical music may work for short periods, but the human voice is one of the most distracting sounds to other humans; so, if you are listening to music while reading, writing, or studying, you are in effect causing your brain undue stress by making it attempt to pay attention to two separate things at once. Not good.

Now, on to listening to music while writing. In some cases listening to hard and heavy music while writing is extremely helpful:
  • When your inner critic refuses to shut the hell up
  • When you are attempting to drown out other distractions
  • To increase your feeling of energy while you work
  • Because that Homeric Geek guy said I shouldn't

There are probably other reasons for listening to music while writing, but those are some that I have argued for.

On the other hand, it is a bad idea to listen to music when you are:
  • trying to work your way through a difficult plotting issue
  • trying to hear your characters' voices
  • writing at 3:00am and everyone else in your house is sleeping

Seriously, it is nearly impossible to truly give your undivided attention to deep issues while Ozzy is cranking in your ears. Dr. John Medina in Brain Rules states that it is actually impossible to multitask, which is what thinking and listening to music amounts to.

So, next time think about what you are attempting, then make an informed decision about cranking up the Metallica while writing....

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