Music and Writing – Reclaiming a Lost Habit

14 Jun


Story Time:
When I was in sixth grade I wrote a paper on the make up of an atom. Originally it was to be a project on atomic bombs but, for some strange reason, I found the tiny catalysts for the explosion more fascinating than the explosion itself. Anyhow, while doing this I listened to my favorite classic rock mix cd and cranked the paper out in a short couple of hours.

At this point in my life my godfather was my editor. If I were to liken him to any fictional character, he’d be most like Pai Mei from Kill Bill. Repetition, high standards, and unflinching bluntness with his criticism were the norm. Often times the paper I turned in was the 23rd or 24th draft of whatever I had written because he wanted to make sure I did well.


As such, it came as no surprise that, when I handed him this paper, he threw it on the table and said, “it’s crap.”

I rolled my eyes and asked, “why is it crap?” After listing some of the issues he had with it he pointed to my headphones and said:

“Overall, your paper reads like it was a drudgery to write, and I’m sure those didn’t help.” He then explained how rock changes tempo and beats between verses and choruses (chori?) in a manner not conducive to study habits.

From that point on I refused to listen to music while doing my homework. It wasn’t easy for a kid who rocked out to his Walkman everyday but I managed. Soon enough music and writing diverged entirely.

Eventually I came to college and befriended a guy named Cooper. He’s the kind of person who memorizes minute details with such clarity that he was probably a forensic scientist in a past life. What surprised me most about him was his work ethic, for he was the only person I’ve ever known to finish two, ten page, research papers in the span of a week. He was like a writing machine, and I had no idea how he did it.

Well one day he invited me to his room and we studied Latin together. In the background he played everything from instrumental rock to show tunes. Mid study I asked him,

“Doesn’t this hurt your productivity?”

To which he replied:

“Nah, it helps me think. It’s good for a morale.”

Now, after three years of undergrad, I wonder how I got through any assignments without music.

So what changed? Well, to be honest, I have absolutely no idea. At first I thought it was a change in age but according to the Mental Floss’s article “Can classical music make you smarter?” it’s just a myth.

Then I thought maybe my musical tastes had changed. That was quickly thrown out the window when i recalled the time I shared ear buds with a friend and she said “You’re the only person I know who likes both System of a Down and Bach.”

So does it have to do with temperament? Perhaps the reason I’m writing makes music conducive? But then why does music help me write both stories and research papers? I honestly don’t know what the difference is, but since that meeting with Cooper I realized how important music is to me.

Music has been a part of my life ever since my mom and dad sang me to sleep. I grew up with vinyl records playing in my household and I got my first stereo when I was 3. Rock and Roll stirred my imagination when I was a kid, and continued to do so to this day.

My mp3 player contains everything from Classical to Dubstep to J-Pop. I look back on those years and wonder if all those hours spent without music were wasted time.

In spite of all this uncertainty I can say for sure that, for me right now, writing and music go hand in hand like the peanut butter and banana sandwich I had for breakfast this morning. And like the rock and roll mix cd I made back then, which i’m listening to now, it’s as awesome as I once recalled.


So how does music work for you? Do you like a lot or a little? Can you listen to anything while you write or does it have to be a certain type of music?

Leave your comments below, and have a fantastic Friday!


Posted by on June 14, 2013 in Uncategorized


Tags: , , , , , , ,

2 responses to “Music and Writing – Reclaiming a Lost Habit

  1. emilyramos

    June 14, 2013 at 1:34 pm

    Hey! When I’m writing, if I listen to something with lyrics it has to be very middle-of-the-road music on the emotional scale – nothing too up-beat or too depressing. Of course, if their are now words it doesn’t matter. Music always influences my scenes, mostly in the general mood so I like to listen to lots of different stuff. During undergrad I could NEVER listen to music while I was doing homework (whether it was writing papers or reading) and the only reason I could figure was that it was because I was being distracted.

  2. Richard Razo

    June 16, 2013 at 9:33 pm

    I have never considered how music effects my writing…it seems that I simply need some kind of background noise to help me stay focused in what I am writing…it can be music, talk radio, a television show or even students discussing what they did the day before.


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