For generating ideas and getting things that are stuck in my head out of my head, I prefer writing by hand. It’s quicker and it’s messier and uglier, but it’s quicker. I don’t agonize over misspelled words or even constructing full sentences. I wasn’t always like this. I used to jot everything down, even really stupid, nonsensical things, in word documents that were then placed into neatly organized and properly labeled folders on my computer. I don’t have time for that anymore or I don’t care anymore. Anything that isn’t a first draft goes into a journal or notebook that I carry with me everywhere. It’s liberating to conveniently whip it out when I have something swirling in my head that needs to get out. What’s good might make it into a blog post or a story draft and what’s bad can stay between the pages and never see the light of day.
Which is great because I can cut down on the nonsense that I put on this blog. I don’t exactly feel pressured anymore to put up new content. That’s fewer things living on the internet that will make me cringe when I revisit them months later. When it’s past my bed time, it’s better that I’m putting half-baked thoughts into a crappy journal instead of on the internet. Though I just might be failing with this post.
This is one of the all-time great quotes about writing from Gary Provost:
“This sentence has five words. Here are five more words. Five-word sentences are fine. But several together become monotonous. Listen to what is happening. The writing is getting boring. The sound of it drones. It’s like a stuck record. The ear demands some variety. Now listen. I vary the sentence length, and I create music. Music. The writing sings. It has a pleasant rhythm, a lilt, a harmony. I use short sentences. And I use sentences of medium length. And sometimes, when I am certain the reader is rested, I will engage him with a sentence of considerable length, a sentence that burns with energy and builds with all the impetus of a crescendo, the roll of the drums, the crash of the cymbals–sounds that say listen to this, it is important.”
I find it almost impossible to get any writing done when I’m sitting in complete silence. Writing is an extremely lonely activity and something about sitting in silence amplifies that loneliness and distracts me.
But writing with the TV on or with music playing is equally as distracting. Some people listen to podcasts or albums while they write and I’ll immediately label them as sorcerers because that seems impossible. Some people listen to familiar albums on repeat while they write. That familiarity must allow their minds to anticipate all of the beats and lyrics and essentially tune them out.
I just can’t do the lyric thing. I’ve dabbled with listening to eletronica and other music that has no lyrics, but it just doesn’t do it for me.
The one thing that does seem to work for me is ambient noise. Right now, my favorite app is Coffitivity which recreates the ambient sounds of a coffee shop. There’s no music or lyrics. It’s just the mindless background noise you’d hear sitting in a coffee shop. Most of my best work is done in coffee shops so this is the next best thing and I much prefer this ambient noise over those apps that reproduce the sounds of running water or wind blowing. Those are nice, but they don’t exactly break up the feeling of loneliness.
At least with this app, I can kind of sort of pretend that I’m not sitting in a tiny room by myself making stuff up with my head.