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« How not to grade student papers | Main | On writing to music »

05/13/2014

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S

Hi Marcus,

What do you prefer to groove to while writing? I have been experimenting on and off with listening to music while writing, though I still write in near complete silence, aside from the sounds that travel in from the world outside my window. I find that it is not so much that I can't write with music on, it is that I can't find the right volume to write at. If the music is too loud, no good. If it is too soft I find that I will intuitively become more aware of the music as I try to pick out faint notes.

Any suggestions?

Jenny S

I have found, and have read some articles about, coffee shops with a constant level of noise - voices, clatter of dishes, and music - to be effective writing locations. I find these more effective than complete silence for two reasons.
(1) One is the psychology of writing in public. I am much less tempted to check email or Facebook when someone might walk by and see my computer screen. There is a level of social pressure - that I find helpful - when other people in the same room are working. I have relatedly found carrels in libraries or in my department useful, but they don't fulfill the noise requirement.
(2) The second is the noise requirement. If there is an ambient level of noise, then I don't find any particular sound distracting. If there is complete silence then any break in the silence is distracting. I have friends who use ambient noise machines or apps or websites (try http://simplynoise.com) to account for this when marking, although I'm not sure if they use the same for writing.

Phil H

The tiredness thing is right, but I think it works the opposite way for me - it makes me less lateral and creative. I'm a translator, so I'm constantly looking up words and interesting references, and any one of them can lead me down the internet rabbit hole. When I'm tired, I don't follow the links to philosophy blogs.

Pierre

One thing that has always helped me getting things as right as I’m able to get them is to prepare a handwritten, messy, illegible draft with arrows in every direction, additions in the margins, doubts about an idea just sketched, links with other ideas and issues. In just a few minutes I can turn a white sheet into an abominable mess (I use one face, and I use it well).

The interesting thing with that practice is that it indicates me whether the idea is worth pursuing at the time. If I find myself unable to fill a sheet this way, it means either that the idea is not worthy of consideration anyway, or that at that time I am not able to turn it into something worth writing or reading. If, on the contrary, I can fill a sheet this way, it clearly means that I understand what is at stake with the idea I had in mind, how issues fit together, and so on.

Now of course, that it’s helpful for me does not mean it will be for others, but I seriously believe some good old messy handwriting may be useful at times.

Dan Dennis

Another reason that writing in the park might work is that it is away from wifi. I and a couple of others I know find we are more creative without wifi. I cannot find any research investigating whether the presence of wifi interferes with the brain making it function less well. There is no reason in principle why it couldn't...

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