Monday, September 12, 2011

Not Really Listening

by Laura Bickle

I go back and forth on the soundtracks thing. Sometimes, music soothes the restless left brain and lets the right side write. Other times, it's a distraction, and I crave silence.

I'm mostly into the silence thing, these days. A lot of it is coming from the joy of writing outdoors. The best music for me lately has been frogs, crickets, locusts, and birdsong. I've spent most of the summer baking in an inflatable pool in my backyard. It's very Zen. For obvious reasons, I don't bring the laptop near the water. Silence would be replaced by my anguished shrieking  and splashing after it fell in.

I tend to ignore a lot of sounds. I listen to what I think is the important stuff. I hear cats barfing at three in the morning. I hear the washing machine in the basement clunking because it's unbalanced in the spin cycle. I listen to my cat's heart to see if I can hear the murmur I'm told is there. I listen to my husband's grumbling about his day.

And I ignore stuff that's not important to me, like my cell phone. I just don't bother to turn it on, anymore. I know that baffles the heck out of some folks, but...people who really need to get ahold of me in any kind of emergency know how to do it. And that just ain't it.  A lot of  my distaste for the tool comes from accumulated resentment about being on call 24x7 for a job I had for ten years. Now, I'm off the electronic leash and enjoying every minute of it.

I am also one of those odd ducks who doesn't listen to the radio in the car. It annoys and distracts me. I like listening to the air from an open window. And I miss too much stuff with the radio on. Like a couple of days ago...I heard rustling in the shrubbery, stopped the car, and deer bounded out. Six deer, one after another. Mamas with nearly-grown fawns. I wouldn't have heard them if I had the radio on.

Oh, yeah. I'm supposed to be talking about music and writing...

There are some songs that I think of, that become anthems for stories. "I Burn for You," by Sting, is one of those that was in my head for EMBERS. "We Work the Black Seam," also by Sting, was ringing between my ears for ROGUE ORACLE.

I've been listening to Sting's SOUL CAGES album for the current WIP. The WIP has nothing whatsoever to do with the ocean. But I feel like the mood's the same.

There's a theme, here, isn't it?

Yes, I listen to things other than Sting and the Police. Pink Floyd's MOMENTARY LAPSE OF REASON. Peter Gabriel's music for THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST. My Chemical Romance. Brian Eno. The Killers. A lot of Vitamin String Quartet versions of my favorites. Things wander in and out of my CD player. And I'm uncool enough to occasionally tune in to the ambient music channel on TV and let it sit there for the afternoon.

I'm becoming more interested in ambient music when I write. Nothing too distracting, but it helps me lose track of time. I've puttered with a few tracks with subliminal stuff that's supposed to enhance my creativity. Dunno if it works, but listening to ocean waves is nice.

I think I like having a little bit of sound in the background. I feel that way about summer. I love listening to the crickets and frogs at night, and it always makes me sad when fall comes and they begin to fade, bit by bit, until one's silent at nine p.m.

Right now, I can hear the crickets past midnight. But I know that the days will shorten, and I'm gonna have to rustle through my old boxes of music for a new song to not-really-listen to.


  1. Love that! That's exactly what writing music has to be for me: something I can not really listen to. As soon as the music catches my attention, I'm sunk.

  2. LOL on the cell-phone thing. I'm right there with you. Oh, and ditto with ignoring the yarfing beasties in the dark of morning.

    I love autumn for its perfect porch weather -- not too sweaty, not too buggy, and the neighborhood kiddies are back in school. ~evil laugh~

  3. Jeffe, I'm with you. If I'm singing along or tapping my foot, I'm not really paying attention to writing.

    KAK, the yarf-antennae sprout immediately when one becomes a pet parent, I think. :-) Part of it is self-preservation...wanting to find the barf before it gets cold and you inadvertently step in it at an inopportune time...