Listening was the Enemy


Writing: I didn’t used to listen to music while writing. It was too distracting. Hearing the ideas of others seemed to invade my own thoughts, and it became a struggle. If I ignored them and went with the melody, it felt disrespectful: I would lose track and stop writing. If I listened: I would also lose focus and stop. The old confidence beast would again eat all the grass in my imaginary field and I was done. The voices would win and I would shout myself down before anyone else had the chance. Writing was about talking. I had to keep talking. Listening was the enemy.

Drawing: This was precisely the opposite of drawing. When I was drawing, I sort of needed other peoples’ thoughts to keep my own at bay. In silence, my mind will rip apart any illustration. I don’t need help failing, because I can do it with total efficiency. Here’s what would happen: I start out with the normal mix of ambition and curiosity (to see how something looks on paper vs. how it looks in my mind–for me, I always start from the curious place) but as I moved through the piece, inevitably doubt crept in and darkened the process. Listening to something created a sort of distraction-balance. I stopped criticizing and somehow waited… until the drawing is finished.

It was all very passive.


Writing: Is it age? Maybe. Am I exhausted with the voices? Definitely. Now I write and listen to everything. I don’t stop. I can’t stop. Sometimes, if a song is new and interesting, it can delay me a few minutes… and then I’m back to the page. I outline things now. I plan things. I stop and force myself to think. The river is there. Why not let it run and see where it goes? I go to bed and sleep fitfully because my ideas are there. I can still fail. I may still fail. It’s okay, though.  Paralysis is no longer the default. Keep moving.

Drawing: It’s still a nightmare, but I’m not distracted. The river is moving, and I think I can figure something out.

It is active. 

Here are a few songs I listened to today. Each of them made me pause and think (one of them may have made me cry, but I’m a sap)… and then I got on with it.


Comments 4

  1. Interesting that you bring up the music thing. I was just thinking about this last night. I tend to have music playing non-stop while I’m conscious. As you mentioned, sometimes it is a tad distracting when a song I like comes on. But now that I’ve started writing again, I have noticed that I’m listening to music while I write. A decade ago and before, when I would write I often required silence.

    Now if I can just get this “outline” thing figured out. Heh.

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  3. I still write in silence (what little writing I do), but heck, I turn down the radio to figure out where I am driving to because apparently THAT will help me see where I am going. Maybe I’m broken.

    Art, I need a story. I have so many ideas, I need to shut them up and keep my brain occupied on just the one piece I’m working on, so I occupy myself with shows and movies that don’t require my full attention. Luckily, most television has gone downhill and requires very little of my attention. So much to choose from! (not reality or sitcom type of stuff. The Office gives me hives, for example.) I can do music to, but it can become repetitive.

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