When did my brain change?
I remember so clearly, back in junior high (that’s what we called it) and then high school, doing my homework… with the radio on. There was only one station I cared about, W something or other, all Top 40 all the time, and I do remember the disc jockey had “Picks to Click” and “Wax to watch.” Whatever that meant. Oh—and oldies (!) were called “Hits from the Golden Grooveyard.” It was cool at the time.
Sometimes at night, my radio could pick up signals from far-off WLS in Chicago. That was a real treat, me in Indianapolis imagining what it was like to live in the big city, and hear fabulous radio shows all the time. .Anyway.
So it drove my mother crazy. She’d come in as I was reading my history textbook or whatever, learning about the Battle of Hastings (or whatever) and listening to the BeachBoys and the Beatles at the same time. Sometimes singing along.
“HOW,” she’d ask, in that Mom tone, “can you concentrate on your work with that. That…music on?”
(That she didn’t approve of the music is another blog, I think…every time she’d criticize me for loving the Beatles I ‘d remind her she’d admitted to skipping school to go hear Frank Sinatra at the Circle Theater, a story I bet she regretted tell me since fourteen-year-old me weaponized it at every turn.)
SO back then, I would insist that I could not do my homework with out music. Without the music, it was incredibly boring, and the music was the way to get me through it. I guess. I’ve never really thought about the “why” until now.
Because now, when I’m writing my novels (which is what I should be doing this very second!) I have to have quiet. NO music, no anything. Not even classical. If there’s noise, I can pretty easily tune it out—but having musical accompaniment to writing? . Not me.
Two things about that. One, I’m a TV reporter, and in the newsroom, there’s constant noise. Loud, crazy, unpredictable noise . And dozens of televisions, all on, all playing at different decibel levels, and people talking and general chaos I can write a news script during all that, no problem. I’ve learned over the years, how easy it is to ignore it all.
The other thing—and I’m curious and a little bit envious—I know there are very successful authors who have actual soundtracks for their books. That they think about their stories, and then create playlists that enhance and inspire, and the music blasts while they create their new worlds.
I can imagine, this. I can. When I create my stories for TV, I always use a music soundtrack underneath, and of course the music makes the story more emotional. (Imagine the Chariots of Fire running scene. Got it? You’re humming, right? Take the music away and it’s just some weird guys on a beach.)
I’d adore to be able to put on sad songs when I’m writing the sad parts, and love songs, maybe the theme from Jaws in an appropriate suspenseful scenes, or Springsteen in the exciting parts. I was forced, by a deadline, to write at a picnic table at Tanglewood while the Boston Symphony was practicing Beethoven’s third,, and I have to say I kind of flew along with the pages. But when I tried it at home, nuthin.
And forget about anything with lyrics. I start thinking about the composer’s words instead of my own.
When did my brain change? And why?
So how about you? Do you write to music? Or read to music? Or are you a quiet one?