Silence is Beautiful

Last week, I posted about how I get into the mood for writing. One of the things I said that I do is listen to music, such as Misty Mountains Cold from the Hobbit, or other epic movie soundtracks. I’d like to clarify. I do that before I write to set the mood.

I am not like other people in many ways, so what I have to say from this point on may only apply to me, though I think there are plenty of others who are like me in this aspect. The only universal advice I can give is: Don’t take advice that doesn’t work for you.

I can’t think when there’s too much noise. Even certain types of noise, even when they’re not loud or constant, can be quite annoying and distracting. Perhaps the most obvious of these to me is music. I know people who have to have music on when they’re studying, and can’t work without it. I am the opposite. If there is any kind of music playing, I can’t study, can’t think. (Note: Writing uses up about as much of my brain as studying does, so I’m pretty much using them interchangeably here. If I say I can’t study, I can’t write either, and vice versa.) I learned this by trial and error over several years, but I have found that my head is clearest and I can work most efficiently and correctly (Make the fewest mistakes.) when I am surrounded by silence.

This has been a particular nuisance for me this semester. I live in a 27 story dorm with ~900 other college students, most of whom actually act like college students. I am incredibly lucky that my roommate puts in headphones when he’s in the room. I am not so lucky with my neighbors. Often times I can hear their “music” through the wall, the floor vibrating slightly with from the sounds that they are probably blasting from their speakers. Even into my room, it’s pervasive. It often gets so bad I can’t even sleep when I want to take an afternoon nap. The other day, I went down to the lobby and took a nap on the couch there. Because it was quieter and less disruptive, even in the open next to the elevators, than it was in my room. Even still, I was only able to sleep because I was very, very tired.

Part of why I’ve been tired is because I have been staying up late many nights finishing my schoolwork. Often, lately, I’ve been up until 3 or 4 AM finishing homework due in my 8 and 10 AM classes that same day. Afternoon naps have become a commodity. Today, I may have figured out part of what my problem is. I had thought (And I’m certain it was a factor as well.) that I was getting distracted by my computer sitting on my desk. Thus, today, I went down the street to the library to study on a quiet study floor.

Oh. My. God.

I could focus. I could think. It wasn’t only because of the computer sitting here all of the time. It was because of the noise coming from my neighbors and those around me–the elevator right outside my door constantly beeps and lets loose noisy crowds of people. I… It was beautiful. The loudest sound for most of my time there was my pencil, scratching on my paper. I could hear myself think. And my thinking was clear. I was able to get more schoolwork done in the ~5 hours I spent there today than I usually can during an entire day working in my room. I know where I’m going to be from now on, studying.

I would like to say that the same thing applies to writing. When I am writing, I like to fully immerse myself in the world, seeing it through my character’s eyes. I can’t do this if I am constantly brought back and distracted. I can’t write when I have music on, and I can’t write when I have other distractions. In the future, if it’s noisy in my room, I’m going to be finding other places to focus on my writing.

Not everyone is like me. Some have to have noise to be able to focus; silence is deafening. I’m not saying you’re doing it wrong. I’m just saying that you’re different from me. For those who are like me, here is the music I listen to while writing. Enjoy.

One thought on “Silence is Beautiful

  1. M. Sid Kelly

    Loved the 4’33” ‘shout out’!

    I hope I don’t sound like a salesman… But I have one of those white noise sleep machines – a Marpac Dohm-DS Dual Speed Sound Conditioner – $44 on Amazon. It’s sort of like fighting fire with fire, I guess. It does an amazing job of blocking other noises. I’m afraid I might turn it on and never wake up…

    Anyway, I’m a music-listener when I write. Mostly jazz, but also a lot of reggae, African, Zappa, and classic rock. I have some John Cage in the music randomizer too – but not 4’33″…

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