When I was at school in Liverpool, I could never revise for my exams in the school library (in fact, I was never actually a great user of libraries, end of, even though I became a librarian! I’ve always preferred to buy my books, not borrow them!) and this trend continued when I went to university. For one thing, I wasn’t allowed to eat anything while I studied; I’m not sure what it’s like now, but in those days if you as much rustled a crisp bag and even attempted to suck your crisps, the librarian would be on you like a ton of bricks. Revising in front of the telly was never a good idea, of course, because of the obvious distraction, so I would take all my textbooks to my room and hide out in there until I had all the facts in my head; and I could eat as many crisps as I liked!
Silence during revision, however, never did it for me. I discovered I had to have some background noise, so I would listen to music on Radio City, the local radio station. I found I could study perfectly well that way (but I couldn’t listen to the football commentaries!) and after a while I didn’t notice the chatter of the DJ (unless there was some sort of phone-in, in which case I had to switch channels. I remember Radio Luxembourg!)
I used this experience of my studying habits in Goalden Sky where Gemma revises for her exams at home while listening to music and eating crisps dressed only in her underwear (a comfort thing for her: I personally never went that far!)
Fast forward a few thousand years and school’s out forever! Now I’m writing my books, but again, writing while the telly is on is not good. My mind drifts towards the drama or comedy I’m watching and I only end up scribbling down a paragraph or so, so writing in the evening isn’t always good for me, unless it’s early evening and Keith is in his garage with his head in Chloe’s engine (she’s our VW camper van) and the telly is off; but when it is off, I can’t sit there in complete silence like most writers. Again, I have to listen to music.
What type of music, though? Well, the radio has gone now and I can get Radio City on the internet, and I might listen to Radio 1 through the cable telly sometimes. The problem is I’m not into a lot of the bands these days (One Direction, what’s that all about!) and I can’t figure out what they’re singing about. Nor can I listen to sing along stuff: I would be too distracted by my singing and wouldn’t write much! I prefer CDs or YouTube* through the Amazon fire stick (haven’t checked out Prime Music yet) of my favourite bands, but I will always opt for the great Jean Michel Jarre. His music is new age/electronic/progressive rock and mainly instrumental, and when I listen to albums like Equinox, Revolutions, Chronologie or Rendez Vous. I can’t sing to an instrumental, but I can nod my head to the beat and for some reason I find this helps to focus my mind; my writing flows more easily. I don’t see music as the same distraction as the telly, the internet or the football – there are no pictures to look at and no silly tweets to read, just something going on in the background that for some reason helps me to think better.
*If using YouTube for music vids be prepared for fun-spoiling content removal. Copyright stuff. Boring. As a ex-librarian and a writer I should know better yada yada yada…
I don’t eat crisps any more, though; I haven’t had a bag of crisps for over two years, which is one reason why I’ve lost just over 3 stone in weight!