August 24, 2009

Monday Muse #2: The Radio

Nowadays, when I'm writing I need to be immersed in silence. It used to be that I could write until my writing hand wanted to cramp into a monkey paw, with the television blaring and the incessant chatter of whomever I shared the living room with. I can't write like that anymore. I used to be able to tune it all out with relative ease. Maybe it's just a part of aging, because if someone so much as breathes audibly I am thrown out of my own thought bubble.

Something I seem to still be immune to is the radio. No matter when I find the time to write, I don't seem to mind at all if the radio is on and spewing out some random chatter or music. Passersby outside my windows, television, people in the house, and even yippy animals manage to knock me off track in my train of thought while trying to write. A radio, though? Not a problem. Am I the only one with this quirk?

So, I'm writing, the radio is on at a reasonable volume, and I'm just moving right along. It's background noise most of the time, but there are times when my ears will snag onto something being broadcast, and I'll actually have to stop what I'm doing and break out the writing journal. That's where I store all of the random story ideas, character sketches, and minute fits of brainstorming. The radio for all of its pluses and minuses has served me well with giving me ideas.

Sometimes it's an interviewee with an especially interesting life story or anecdote. Or there are the rare occasions when someone goes off on a tangent and presents themselves as a genuine a-hole--Billy Bob Thornton's interivew on CBC Radio's "Q" instantly springs to mind. Sometimes it's a song. Like a few weeks ago, the radio was set to a country station (not my first choice) and Dolly Parton's "Jolene" came on. Have you heard that song? Good lord, if you listen to it there is a very haunting and tragic tale being told, depending upon how you approach the lyrics. Lyrics aside, however, the tune is spellbinding. And I'm not even close to fitting the bill of a country and western fan.

Whether you're listening to a special interest article by a journalist or documentary narrator, or listening to the Top 40, or just some classical music, I'll bet you can find something on the radio that can inspire you to write a story. Maybe you've tried it already. If so, how did it go?


  1. I can't concentrate on my writing unless I have peace and quiet around me - which is rare in our house. Take tonight for example: I am sitting at the computer trying to write while behind me my sixteen year old daughter is pedalling fit to burst on our exercise bike while singing songs from Sweeney Todd at the top of her voice, or doing very scary impressions of Pennywise the clown from IT!! :D

  2. I like to write with music on, but it can't have any lyrics. People talking is what throws me off the most.

  3. Akasha - I'm childless. A mild travesty in the long run, but just babysitting my new niece has shown me how much time a kid can eat up. :)

    Jeremy - Instrumental is preferable, but if I'm familiar with the song I can tune out the lyrics entirely.