…And Then My Brain Explodes

brain explodesHow often do you see a Facebook post about a particular song an author listens to while writing? How many blog articles have you read that detail someone’s writing playlist?

The first time I heard discussions about music to write by, I thought whaaaat? And the more this topic was discussed, the more I felt like some mutant freak. I can’t listen to lyrics without being distracted from my writing. I’ve tried, because it seemed to be one of those writerly things one was supposed to do. I spent a happy afternoon enjoying the music, listening to the lyrics of the songs, and accomplishing no forward progress on my word count.

In an attempt to research this issue, thus proving I’m not the mutant freak I seem to be, I did what I always do. I Googled. Apparently, playing music with lyrics while writing causes the brain to shift rapidly between listening and creating. But the brain works more efficiently when paying attention to just one thing. It has something to do with burning too much glucose and releasing too much cortisol and creating too much stress. In other words…and then my brain explodes.

Listening to repetitive sounds or background noise like rain or waves actually works to improve focus by blocking out other distractions. And there’s no denying that listening to music or songs you like can improve your mood. I have friends who play music before they begin writing to put them into the scene. Especially the bow-chicka-wow-wow scenes.

I’m impressed by those who can listen to lyrics and write at the same time, but I will never be a member of that camp. I prefer total silence, instrumental music, or ambient background noise (rain, waves, the clink of ice in a glass of tequila—whatever). And I realize now that I’ve always been this way. Even in college, I could rock out like nobody’s business, but not while studying. When I cracked the books, I cranked up the volume on the moog synthesizer version of Switched-On Bach.

Yes, electronic classical music. I’ve always marched to the beat of my own drummer. And that’s okay. Synthesized Bach may not make my panties melt, but it keeps my brain from exploding.


4 thoughts on “…And Then My Brain Explodes

  1. Me too! I have to be careful even with instrumentals. I was trying to find “music to write to” several years back and put on Beethoven’s 9th. And discovered myself directing the chorale! Bringing in the French horns, then the tenors! If there are words, I’m singing along. I tried writing to the Titanic soundtrack, which I thought might be subdued enough to work, and when I looked up from my writing session, I realized the music had stopped an hour or so earlier. I had blocked it out completely. So I just don’t bother. It doesn’t work for me–possibly because I’m almost as much musician as writer…


    • I’m not much of a musician, so I only find myself conducting when it’s the 1812 Overture. Otherwise, instrumental is fairly safe. But I still prefer silence unless I’m trying to block other noise. I guess we have a tribe of mutant freaks, huh? 😉


  2. Yo mutants. I do write to what I call mood setting music . A lot of what I listen to is techno either with no lyrics or lyrics I can’t understand. Like Lindsey Sterling, Black-mill, Enya,, and Daft Punk. Movie soundtracks are awesome too. Try Hans Zimmer. But I won’t lie I sometimes jam to Linken Park.


    • Not understanding the lyrics sometimes works for me too. Same thing with people talking near me in foreign languages. If I’m in a waiting room reading my Kindle, I can’t concentrate if there are other conversations going on around me in English. But if those conversations are in a language I don’t understand, they become background noise and I can read.


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