Ambient Noise for Ambient Boys

When my two kids were in high school, I used to get amused by how they went about doing their homework. My daughter, specifically, would turn on the TV, have earbuds in with her favorite music, have friends calling her on her phone, and have one or possibly two textbooks open. I was amazed that she could concentrate on anything. But then I thought back to how I was as a teenager and it didn’t seem so strange.

I teach a class in Interpersonal Communication, and one of the topics I discuss is the relationship students have with media. When I suggest the possibility of one of them going camping alone in the woods for a week without any radio, TV, newspaper or reading material, music or person to talk to, I get a lot of students upset. Usually their first reaction is “That’s not safe!” And my reaction is, “People have been doing without media for thousands of years.”

I am not so naive as to think that writers today can isolate themselves from media, but I think in many cases it helps. What do you do to help you focus? I ask that question seriously, because I find as I get older it is getting harder to focus. I do a lot of multitasking at work, and can write an article or story under duress if need be, but I prefer to make the environment as conducive to creative concentration as possible.

So what’s your ideal environment? For me, I prefer to put on Pandora, specifically to music without singing (or at least words I understand). Singing makes me want to focus on what is being sung, where instrumental doesn’t. My ideal type of music is classical, and my ideal, ideal is Franz Liszt or Yo-Yo Ma. Piano music and cello music seems soothing to me and helps me concentrate.

Other writers tend to choose music that puts them in specific moods. My goal is simply to be able to think.

OK, it’s time to compare notes. What helps you?

One thought on “Ambient Noise for Ambient Boys

  1. Background music, or white-noise, is like ballast in a boat. It keeps you centered but still gives you the lee way to go any direction you choose. The rudder is for directing–which would be the equivalent to Glen’s music with words that you sing along with, most times just in your head. But that upfront directional is enough to influence what you think, write, or speak to, at any given moment. It is also that thing that distracts you from getting things completed–at least on time. How many times have you had music playing and an artist comes on and sings one of your favorite songs from the past and it takes you to another place and time. You start singing along and though it is energizing and invigorating you have to stop and regroup to get back to the thing you were trying to complete before the song started. But, sometimes that break, that distraction, that timely interruption is what you need to renew your focus and your passion and your thoughts. I love music of all kinds–maybe not Rap. But even Reggae has a beat that brings your senses back to the surface and pulls you out of a slump. Ballast is great!! Rudders are invigorating!!

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