The Right Notes: Writing While Listening to Music

When writing, people tend to do everything they can to make themselves feel absolutely comfortable and to ease themselves into the writing mood. This involves a lot of pre-writing rituals that may vary from person to person: walking around, talking to yourself, eating certain types of food, brewing coffee and smelling its aroma, exercising – the list is long, and for some, overwhelmingly so, and very much specific. But there’s one ritual – whether before writing, or during the process itself – that a lot of people do as, for one way or another, it could help in the writing process. I’m talking about listening to music.

Even outside of the act of writing, music is already an effective mood-setter for just about anything in our daily lives. The kind of music you play at the start of your morning can make or break the rest of your day. The music played on air while on your morning drive can either make you feel at ease in traffic, or irritated. A lot of times, when we want to feel certain things, or are in a certain mood, we listen to music. Music is effective in making you cope with certain situations, or making you enhance your experience of a situation. That’s perhaps part of the reason why movie awards shows recognize their scorers, or why video game reviewers also consider how good the music is when reviewing a game.

That said, what is the effect of music to the writer? In “How Music Affects the Writing Process” by Nona Mae King, King outlines how turning on her music actually begins her writing process. She says that “silence is distracting,” and that music ultimately helps her keep her focus. King also says that music enhances the mood that helps her “create a writing soundtrack… for a specific scene, character, era, or particular intensity [she wants] to impart to [her] readers.” In a way, it works similarly to how music sets the mood for certain scenes in movies and TV shows so that viewers may get further absorbed in what’s happening, or how video games use music to make the player feel more involved in exploration and battle.

And going away a little bit from writing, Gregory Ciotti in the article “How Music Affects Your Productivity” says that music’s “effectiveness is dependent on how ‘immersive’ a task is… the creative demand of the work.” Ciotti says that music certainly helps make repetitive tasks more enjoyable. However, it doesn’t take just any kind of music – familiar music would be better and less distracting. Much better if there were no lyrics. Ciotti’s article touches on the idea that music certainly helps you focus – and not just in writing, but in many other day-to-day activities, often ones that are mundane and repetitive.

Going back to writing, there’s certainly a positive effect for the writer who listens to music while writing. However, it’s not always the case. I know someone who tends not to listen to music while writing, as she finds this distracting.

Ultimately, it depends on you as a person. If you think music sets the mood and helps you write, then listen. If not, then there’s definitely no pressure. In any case, going back to my first point, it’s always valuable to know what makes you comfortable enough to get into the writing mood, and what makes you distracted. Do what’s best for your writing, and if it involves listening to music for your writing to be able to hit all the right notes, then by all means do so.

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By Chance Creatives: Which One Are You?

Inside of us is a kind of hunger that can only be sated by expressing things that no longer wish to dwell in our heads. This is our creative nature. It is like a volcano. It may become dormant for some time, but when it‘s ready to erupt, there’s no stopping it. There is actually more than one cause of volcanic eruption, and like it, there are many reasons that motivate people to be creative.

 

The product of creativity by pure chance is often more exhilarating for most people because it is something that they are able to accomplish unexpectedly. There is an element of surprise even for the one creating himself, unlike outputs resulting from hours or days of planning, where there’s even a possibility of losing the motivation.

 

Here’s a list of the kinds of people who are able to express creativity under certain circumstances or temporary states of mind. Perhaps you can relate with any one of them.

 

  • The “everything is falling into place” creative

You just got hired or promoted, bought a new house, won an all-expenses-paid trip to Europe, and all the other good stuff. Although it’s hard to believe that some people actually have this kind of luck, this is possible. What’s unlikely is that you may be too overwhelmed about the series of fortunate events that you wouldn’t actually have time to sit yourself down do something creative. But as I’ve said, we are naturally artistic, so the state of elation might just get you into innovating.

  • The “happy tummy” creative

Your workspace looks like a McDonald’s VIP corner. That one must eat well before working is not good enough for you. You actually eat WHILE you work. For you, having no food while working is like a driver racing in a car without wheels.

  • The “Batman and Robin” creative

You are skilled and have all the resources, but you constantly need your sidekick to be around. You want to make sure someone gives you a second opinion in real time. You work well when collaborating with someone who is very open to your ideas, but also someone who wouldn’t hesitate to disagree with you when he has a better concept.

  • The “In a relationship” creative

You can’t stop reading and writing romantic compositions. When you have to help out with prepping a venue for an event, you feel the need to fill the place with flowers and hearts, and it’s not even Valentine’s Day.

  • The “It’s complicated” creative

You’re really single. You just want to pretend that your life is a little more interesting than it actually is. But because you want to solicit attention, you create things that are rather intriguing. They seem pretty convincing, but in truth are only a product of your wishful thinking.

  • The “far from sober” creative

Your friends practically worship you, that is, whenever you suddenly turn into an overconfident public speaker during your occasional drinking sessions. What’s funny is that you are surprisingly eloquent, given that your mind is somewhere between logical and senseless. You normally couldn’t draw, not even a perfect circle or stick figures, but you’re shocked to find a graffiti on your wall when you wake up the next day.

  • The “everything is falling apart” creative

You are in a dark moment in your life. You just ended your relationship, you got fired, lost something really valuable, and on top of that, have a falling out with someone close to you. Some beautiful things come from the darkest of places. This is how you are. You wallow in the shadows, but you always end up converting pain into masterpieces.

 

You need to create space for your creative process to thrive rather than expect it to operate in the cracks of your frenetic schedule.” – Todd Henry

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Plan Your Life Creatively

No one is born boring. A blank canvas, that’s what we are when we first came into this world. The first group of people we encounter are responsible for drafting out what kind of life we would be living, and slowly shape what kind of individuals will become of us.

 

How creative you are is not limited to the in-your-face artistic pieces that you are capable of making. It’s also not exclusive to the appreciation and collection of pieces of art which aren’t your own creations. There is no single defining thing that determines a person’s creativity, not even through the comparison of oneself with peers based on specific criteria. Especially not that. Life is what you make of it. You’ve probably heard this from people a couple of times. You’ve probably uttered the words yourself. By simply choosing to make a plan of how your life is going to happen, you can have the power to live a very colorful one.

 

Make bold decisions. Don’t just stand in the corner and watch everyone else settle for a black and white world. Be open to the idea that you may be that catalyst that can lead a whole generation of creativities.  If you think you can do something about the lack of color in your life, do something about it and do it in a way that inspires others to do the same when they see it, or motivate them to create something good in a different way.

 

Some people are discontented about the way their lives are turning out.  Many wish that they could turn back time. You don’t have to instantly conclude that you are facing a crisis. A creative mind would look for ways to salvage what is, rather than regret and wish for a second chance at what was. Second chances seldom come. You add going back in time to the table, and seldom becomes never. You might as well do with what’s left of your unwise decisions.

 

If you want a meaningful life, there’s only one way to do it. Plan. And do not just plan for the things to come, be a creative planner. Envision something beyond the possible. The idea is to set out specific goals, map out specific steps to be taken in order to reach those goals, put in a little time pressure to hopefully fight procrastination, and have a backup plan for when those steps turn out to be flawed.

 

Let me give you a clear example of what kind of plan you should be making. A checklist is easier to go by, and also leaves room for you to make changes along the way if you feel the need for any. Below is a list of things that I personally think are creative ways to intend for the outcome of life. Give it a playful title to make sure you always find it enjoyable to review.

 

MY 8 EXES:

  • Examine myself. What are my wants and needs?
  • Explore talents and skills. Hone them.
  • Execute what I’ve always intended to do with my gifts.
  • Extract people from my life who hinder my success.
  • Expect the unexpected. If at one area I’m not showing much progress, develop a new skill.
  • Extend. Find people who will most likely appreciate and help put my talents to good use.
  • Exit with grace. Leave them in awe when I leave the scene.

 

Life truly is what you make of it. It is the sum of the concurrence of your failed and successful creations alike.

 

Without leaps of imagination or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all is a form of planning.” – Gloria Steinem

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Insomnia: Friend or Foe?

A lot of studies have been made to find out the relationship between sleep and creativity. It’s long been proven that getting enough rest and sleep refreshes our whole body, and the lack of it impairs cognition, attention, and decision-making. To be able to get the best out of your creativity, you need to have a clear head as well as a healthy body. But in the case of a sleeping disorder, where you have no control over it, is it possible to turn the odds in your favor by taking advantage of the extra waking hours?

 

What is a clear case of insomnia?

 

Many people mistake insomnia for a single incident thing. They experience one night of not being able to doze off and they think they have a disorder. Even acute cases have to at least have happened a couple of times in wide frequencies.

Sure signs of insomnia include:

  • difficulty in falling asleep
  • waking up in the middle of the night and not being able to get back to sleep
  • waking up too early in the morning
  • feeling tired upon waking

One has to go through repeated occurrences of these symptoms in order to say he or she is an insomniac. Although a less frequent type can develop into a more serious one, a chronic case, it can still be corrected with the help of professionals and with the right kind of therapy.

 

In ‘The Guardian’, a blog by Dorian Lynskey, he wrote an article about the upside of insomnia.  He was taking into account a creative journey of a musician and actor who suffered sleeping problems. It had started from the actor’s too much worrying about getting enough rest. Because of it, he watched film after film to hopefully get tired but instead, ended up staying awake until it was past 3:00a.m. It was becoming habitual and because of his frustration, he decided that instead of trying to get asleep by tiring himself with things unrelated to his plans, he would take the time to create music.

 

Creative Insomnia

 

It’s existence has been disputed many times, but have been found true with subjective proof through examples like Chris Martin of Coldplay and techno artist Moby, who testify that they are able to find inspiration from sleepless nights just as well as torment.

 

Don’t feel so safe just yet. We’ve only covered half of the issue. Let’s get into the adverse effects of insomnia on creativity. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, a Professor of Business Psychology at UCL and NYU, says that one does not have to suffer from insomnia  to in order to be a high-flyer in any field. He claims evidence suggesting that sleep deprivation has a negative impact on all sorts of performance. Read his entire post on Psychology Today to have a more profound view from an expert.

 

Creative Sleep

 

An equally interesting and slightly related topic from another source confers that there is a kind of sleep that an artist can possibly self-induce in order to awaken his or her creativity. I know, it sounds paradoxical at first. You are about to find out why. Maria Popova writes about the Art of Creative Sleep, highlighting the interesting points in ‘On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft’ by Stephen King. She opens the article by quoting Debbie Millman’s first step among 10 Easy Steps in Overcoming Creative Block.

 

Sleep is the greatest creative aphrodisiac.

 

You now understand that sleep here is taken as more than one kind; first, sleep as in resting to recharge the brain, and then sleep as in a state of mind where dreams are lucid. Stephen King focuses on the latter. He says that it can be achieved by blocking out all the things that can prevent you from connecting with your dreamer self. He reassures that in the long run you will be able to filter out the distractions but if you are only at the beginning of the craft, it’s best to try to deal with these distractions. The ideal setting has to provide you the kind of space and stillness that sleeping does.

 

The Judgement

 

Insomnia is neither friend nor foe. I think what matters is our attitude towards sleep. We shouldn’t treat sleep as a mere process of reinvigoration. If we are too worried about how much of it we get, we tend to have a negative attitude towards working. Insomnia does not directly affect creativity because some people are still able to produce quality art pieces in spite of being deprived of sleep. The precise downside of sleep deprivation is that it affects our health, subsequently incapacitating us of many things including doing something creative. It’s best to let sleep happen naturally and practice healthy living while awake, so that our body tires out naturally. Sleep shouldn’t be forced, just like creativity.

 

Sleep comes more easily than it returns.” – Victor Hugo

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Keeping Up with the Kontroversy is a Kraft in Itself

Yup, you read that right. It now looks as though everything turns trendy when it starts with a ‘K’. It used to be just a letter, that one letter you hate receiving after having sent a very long text message. Yet it became a sensational kind of branding since the Kardashian family caught the eye of the public and started a commotion all over Hollywood and beyond. The Kardashians are everywhere. Whether it’s a cameo in parody films, a fashion line, the weekend headlines, presenters for award shows or hosting live events, endorsements for products of all sorts, and many more. Name it, they’ve done it.

 

Their fame started when one of the sisters, Kim Kardashian, hung out with socialite and hotel heiress, Paris Hilton. Although they have had a falling out and stopped hanging out with each other, Kim was starting to make a name for herself. She admits that she has no special talent; she could neither sing nor dance, and is not sure whether she should enter mainstream acting. Even so, the paparazzi just couldn’t help but follow her around. She was, and it’s been said a thousand times, famous for being famous. But not so long after, something tragic hit the Kardashian family. Kim’s infamous video scandal had surfaced. You would think that this could send her spiralling downwards. It didn’t. It only paved way for her life to be even more probed by the media, until the rest of her family got into the picture and turned out to be really marketable characters themselves. Hence, the birth of a reality show.

 

Fans have been ‘Keeping Up with the Kardashians’ for ten seasons since their release in 2007. Ten seasons. That is no joke, and a big slap in the face of their detractors who say that they are not good at anything. May I add that they have even been labelled as bad role models for the profane language they use, considering there are minors who watch the show and they themselves have sisters who are teenagers? But let’s focus on the good side here. If they are not interesting, why do they have one of the biggest audiences? Simple. They create a media frenzy and after every scandalous move, they brush it off like nothing happened, almost as easily as you would with a dusty working table and head on to doing your job. If they can pay the least regard or none at all to something such as divorce or other serious matters, it gives the viewers the impression that these things are typical of them, making them very much unlike the ordinary family. This is their way of getting you hooked because you never know what they would do next.

 

What other thing I have noticed about them is that whenever they have no external conflicts, they try to cause trouble within each other. But at the end of every episode, they always patch things up. Even though they are not your average family, you can relate with them in times when they are attacked by others, because they always have each other’s backs and put aside any current misunderstandings in order to defend a member who is faced with a controversy. I have observed a behavior common to them from the matriarch to the youngest member. They would deny rumors to protect the family as a whole during interviews, but individually take to their social media accounts to counter-bash those who say negative things about them. They do it very subtly, but also very creatively that if you were the basher, you would want to rip your hair off of your scalp. They have a selfie for every hater out there. Whether you like them or not, whatever you say about them, they only get more popular by the second. Resistance is absolutely futile.

 

There’s a lot of baggage that comes along with our family, but it’s like Louis Vuitton baggage.” – Kim Kardashian

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Writing Under the Influence Done Right

Would you rather we have a drink first before we get started? I usually don’t mind but today, thank you, I’m good. We need to be clear about the terms related to drinking alcohol, the different states that a person enters in connection with how much he drinks, as well as the frequency of the intake.

 

* Buzzed – When you say you are a little buzzed, it means you have just begun the process of entering an alcoholic beverage into your system. You can’t really feel the drink’s effect yet.

* Tipsy – This is a state of being slightly drunk.

* Inebriated/Intoxicated – If drunkenness was cancer, this would be stage three.

* Wasted – The point of no return. No really, when you get wasted, it will be too late to slow down or take it easy on the shots.

 

An experiment was conducted to find out if there is a link between alcohol and creativity. Bryony Kimmings is a performance artist who agreed to be the lab rat for the experiment. She voluntarily requested for this research to be done in order to get answers on whether alcohol has any adverse effect on her ability to create or make art. Cameras were set up around her studio so that the experts observing her can keep close supervision. Surprisingly, while under the influence, she was able to compose music, write sketches, choreographed dances, and even read academic papers. She did more than they expected. The whole thing lasted for seven days. When the week was over, she was made to watch the footage and she had to fuse everything together into a show. When she performed the pieces, she was completely sober but was acting drunk, or being in the same state when she wrote them. That being said, it follows that because she behaved like a drunk person while performing, she also felt the same exhaustion after the show as a drunk person would. The analysis of the experts is a mix of good news and bad news for artists who are alcoholics. They say that although the false confidence one can get from alcohol can be helpful for creativity, it has a cut-off point. Many song-writing  artists actually rely on alcohol to give them a boost in creating pieces, but they live by the ‘write drunk, perform sober’ principle to avoid the relapse.

 

In the case of literature writers or non-performing writers, let’s just say there are those who drink to come up with something more interesting than they usually write  while sober. There are those who are alcoholics because they love drinking alcohol, without the habit being associated to their profession as writers. These people are very good at their craft. Coincidentally, they are just as good at putting away the contents of a bottle up to the very last drop. In fact, your favorite writer could be among the Top 15 Great Alcoholic Writers! You could say that drinking has helped them write, or endure the life of a writer, but what do they have in common? Most of them died from poor health related to the complications of alcoholism. Ernest Hemingway, known for being one of the strongest influences of twentieth-century fiction, committed suicide as a result of depression and mental illness, both which stemmed from alcoholism.

 

One could easily say that there is no relevance to alcohol and creativity if you take into consideration that there are also great writers who were not alcoholics. A few of them are Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mark Twain, Emily Dickinson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, William Golding, and many more. Writers are writers because they are capable of reproducing while adding compelling factors to what already is, as well as illustrating things beyond reality. Whether they drink or not, this is how they are. They write.

 

In my opinion, alcohol does wonders for your creativity. You only have to keep the drinking moderate to avoid the health risks. Keep it under the third state. I tried writing while wasted once. I can barely spell some words, and not one sentence made sense.

 

About that drink… It’s only Monday but… Vodka?

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