Friday, October 20, 2006

Harpy Shampoo II

 

This was my guest post at Write Stuff yesterday.  It is the third in a series on wooing the muses.  The first two can be found here and here  They have all been cross-posted here at Joystory too but I'm too lazy to chase down their permalinks right now.  Someday I'm going to put them in the sidebar.

What better technique for banishing the harpies and wooing the muses is there than music? I've never found one that was more reliable. It works on several levels. Most superficially, though not negligibly, it blocks out low level random noise in an otherwise quiet place. The louder you can tolerate the music and still think your own thoughts, the more surrounding noises will be subsumed by it. Unless, of course, it is loud enough to disturb other people who might come knocking on your wall--or your head, if they can't get your attention by sound alone. A good pair of headphones can substitute for lack of enough privacy to blast your speakers.

There are a number of qualifications: the music must be wordless unless it is a foreign language. Radio with its occasional commercial breaks and DJ banter is especially worthless for keeping your muse engaged. I mean, think about it. Imagine trying to tell a story to someone on the other end of a telephone line while someone else is chattering or singing unrelated verbiage into your ears. Most mothers will not have to imagine. So, I recommend classical, jazz and blues w/o vocals, instrumentals of all kinds. Operas are OK if you don't know the language they are singing.

A deeper level of effect can be achieved by matching the mood of the music to the mood of the story or scene on which you are working. Music is well known for its ability to induce mood states. Take advantage of that. Pay attention to the moods different pieces of music put you in and make note of them and keep a searchable index--a card file or database.

I discovered over time that it is best, once you have started working on a certain scene with a particular piece of music, to not switch to another one--even one evoking the same or similar mood. I did not understand this phenomenon completely until recently after reading novelist Robert Olen Butler's book, From Where You Dream, in which he talks about functional fixedness. This is apparently a know psychological effect that comes into play when certain objects or places (or sounds?) are associated with one, and only one, task. Engaging those things only when occupied with that task can condition you to instantly flip your focus back to the task at hand.

There are more ways in which functional fixedness can be achieved. But I will leave that for next time.

1 tell me a story:

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