It always floors me when I read in an acknowledgement that an author wrote his or her manuscript to such and such band, or had such and such music playing in the background. To me, music and writing don’t mix.
I learned this in the 1990s when I worked as a designer and writer for an ad agency. It was one of those hip open-concept places, with a punching bag hanging in the middle of the room from an industrial beam. It also played music from overhead speakers, all day long, agency-wide.
While designing, the music was fine. While writing, I had to do my best to block it out.
To me, writing of any sort is poetry. Doesn’t matter if it’s brochure copy, a news release, a novel. (Ironically, I don’t actually write poetry itself.) Each sentence has a flowing beauty to it. Or abrupt. Each paragraph has a rhythm. Each page offers bursts of speed and stretches of calm.
If I’m being bombarded by someone else’s rhythm, how can I hear my own?
I love this quote from Virginia Woolf:
Style is a very simple matter: it is all rhythm. Once you get that, you can’t use the wrong words. But on the other hand here am I sitting after half the morning, crammed with ideas, and visions, and so on, and can’t dislodge them, for lack of the right rhythm.
Maybe she needed to turn the background music off…