I asked myself that question yesterday morning while reading Peggy Noonan’s book (We don’t need to go into where I was reading.) But I am only 106 e-pages of 2369 into it, and I proclaim my love and admiration for “The Time of Our Lives”.
There are a number of things I e-bookmarked, and I might write about any of those, but I’ve chosen “Listening to music while writing.”
I recently filled out a questionnaire for a blog-site to promote “The Junior Officer Bunkroom.” One of the questions was: “Do you listen to music when you write?”
I responded in the negative, that I had tried it, but I found I either listened to the music or I wrote. When I was into the writing, even if music was playing, as far as I was concerned, the music was not there. Not even in the background. But sometimes a piece of music will grab me and make me listen to it. When that happens, I stop writing until my mind and spirit are okay with me going back to it. So, quite some time ago, I stopped playing music in my “Write Room.”
Yesterday morning, I came across a passage where Ms. Noonan described her writing process. She likes to play movie scores while she writes. Movie scores, she says, are written to be background, not attention grabbers, so it works for her. She was my excuse to visit Barnes and Noble. I picked up the sound track from “Master and Commander.” Here’s what happened.
Yesterday afternoon was editing time. I slipped into my Office Max desk chair and cranked up my new CD. There were times during my afternoon, when the music was indeed present as background. I thought Ms. Noonan had something. But as soon as I had the thought, the player cued up a track featuring a violin and a cello. It stopped my editing in its tracks (forgive me for using the word again so soon, and the cliché, too, please). And I could not treat that music as background. I could not half listen to it. The music demanded not whole-body listening, but whole entity absorption involving body, mind, and spirit.
When the piece was done, and I was ready to go back to editing, what I really really wanted to do was to go down to the TV room and watch the DVD movie, and read the two Patrick O’Brian books the movie was based on.
So for me, music as background while I am writing hasn’t worked. But it got me to thinking, which does occur every now and then. My wife likes to have music on as background when she is sewing or doing paperwork for some of the volunteer organizations she is involved with. So perhaps it is a male/female thing. Perhaps it is just the way Ms. Noonan is, the way my wife is, the way I am. At any rate, music as background while writing, is not a thing which aids the writing process for me.
But the experiment was not a waste. Not at all. I have a new CD to play in the pickup. I got reintroduced to a piece of music I find wonderful each time I listen to it, and I can listen without watching the whole movie, which I enjoy, but, what the heck, I can’t watch the movie every day. It’s not “Top Gun” after all.
And despite how this experiment turned out, I still say her book is marvelously written. Ms. Noonan has a beautiful mind, and she spills it in ink across a page in a rare and glorious way.