Once, during a Latin test in high school, I asked Mrs. Huber to stop discussing aloud her theories on Aeneas and Dido, while walking from desk to desk to check on our progress. She looked at me and said, "Ms. Davison, you can't live in a vacuum," then moved along in space, and tragic Greek story. She was old, probably insane, and I was young, definitely pompous, so I laughed at her then because I had no idea what it meant to "live in a vacuum."
Eventually I learned, and then once I graduated from high school and moved in with loud college roomies, and then later with louder, ruder non-college neighbors I desired this nonexistent vacuum ever so much.
I go out to a coffee shop and everything is so loud; conversations to listen in on, my table-neighbors slow typing to silently urge on, and an imaginary Pat Benatar standing next to me, in all her fist brandishing glory, begging me to sing along-- "We are strong!" How can anyone get anything done under these circumstances?
I ask a friend, "Why can't they just make encompassing music of pure, beautiful silence?" My friend says, "Use earplugs." They are uncomfortable, so I don't.
Then I notice that everyone, everywhere, all the time is doing work with headphones on, or earbuds (such a disgusting term) in. What could they possibly be listening to while working so intently? Is that aspiring copyright lawyer listening to Justin Timberlake croon about sex appeal? Is that grad student writing his thesis while bopping away to Pink demanding a party that is started immediately upon her arrival? How do they do it? Don't the lyrics slip in through the cracks, and end up like a sore in the middle of a brilliant paragraph on the blood-sugar levels of malaria carrying party mosquitos?
For me, it's so difficult to listen to lyrics, terrible or beautiful (especially beautiful), when I'm trying to do work with words myself.
Having said that, I'm really interested to know what people listen to while they write.
I prefer silence. But it's true, you can't live in a vacuum. There are always sounds seemingly made specifically to break concentration. So, there perhaps must be a buffer.
If I listen to anything at all, it must be a lyric-less vacuum like: Air, Silver Mt. Zion, or Goblin. If I'm trying to get something written fast, I'll pop in what my friend calls study metal, and get writing. A few examples of this study metal include Stinking Lizaveta, Serpent Throne, and the sometimes (but not always) lyric-full A Minor Forest.
And maybe, if I hadn't spent years talking about how I hate them (I secretly like them), I'd say that Sigur Rós is pretty good writin' tunes, because although they have lyrics, they don't mean anything to me, so that's okay.
But you know, everyone has their own thing. Please tell me in the comments what sorts of rockin' tunes I should pick up for my winter writing, as I am kind of tired of my current (albeit totally awesome) selection.
Here are some links with interesting lists of tunes to write to:
Courtney Davison is the Editorial Intern for Paper Darts. She loves getting mail, eating snacks and wants to be remembered as (a) part(y) animal.