When I write, there are times when I like it serenely quiet. There’s nothing wrong with this as I’m sure some of the greatest works of literature were penned (or typed or dictated or…) by the side of a placid lake, the edge of breezy beachhead, or in the quiet introspection of one’s writing ‘place’. There are times when I need it to be void-of-space quiet, lest the least bit of distraction ruin a perfectly good train-of-thought and make me reconsider my recent self-diagnosis (based upon a somewhat reliable website) of adult ADD.
There are other times, though, when there is a need to pop on the headphones (ear buds, et al) and surrender my creative processes to a higher plane of melodic-inspired musings. In fact, I’m going to recommend that, as often as possible, authors make it a practice to write with music. To take this a step further, I’m going to recommend that the music you choose to have playing as you write fit within a certain criteria, and not merely be a collection of our favorite techno dance songs from twenty years ago. There’s actually a bit of good research out there pointing to music being an intellectually healthy addition to our creative endeavors.
Music is one of only a few activities that exercise both hemispheres of the brain; and, if you happen to have played an instrument (or still do and haven’t hidden your talents under bushels like I have), you have huge advantages in your cognitive ability, critical thinking, and verbal (i.e. writing) skills. Based upon a study of nursing students at Texas Woman’s University, the application of music to learning or creating non-music related topics (so in this case…writing) were obvious, the advantages being that the use of music improved motivation, concentration, reasoning, confidence and self-efficacy. In other words, we feel like writing, we write like a marathoner, our writing makes sense to others (Obviously it makes sense to us. Duh!), we believe strongly that our final product will sell, and even if it doesn’t go ‘Top 10’, we still believe in our future potential.
But what kind of music is responsible for this leap in creativity? My high school Chemistry teacher played baroque music during exams, claiming that it helped the brain with recall. It might have, but it was so relaxing that it usually only helped my brain take a snooze. I’ve reviewed education journal articles that trumpeted Mozart; human resource journals promoting the group-think music selection as the golden path; and of course, the religious admonition to ‘just sing a hymn’ if the mind wanders.
May I suggest a more umbrella solution that incorporates all of the above and none of the above. What? (He’s lost it…He should relax and listen to Mozart.) What I mean is that it does not matter what music is chosen so long as it meets two important criteria: 1) There must be modality. There must be interplay between traditional and irregular scales with resolution; light versus dark; good versus bad. 2) If there are lyrics, they must be conducive to the Spirit.
There aren’t a lot of things in life where a person can say ‘I know’ or ‘I guarantee’, but this is one of them for me. I know that there are harmonics in a lot of great music that resonate with our soul, which thereby achieves the modal interplay that exists at a higher plain of existence and which can unlock a higher level of inspiration and creativity; and, if we sup at the table of lyrics that can comfortably meet a Christ-centered focus (could be regarding the physical world or universe; could be about emotions associated with the Savior; could be about anything that is true and good), then I can promise that our level of inspired authorship will rise and improve. We will feel it when we are in sync. It’s tangible. It’s delightful. It’s delicious.
So, take some time and go through your collection of CDs and playlists. Sample everything. Add more if you need to do so. Make a ‘writing music playlist’ or mix CD. It will probably span the range of genres, and so long as it meets the modality and lyrics template, you’ve probably got a winner.