Does Music Help You To Write?

If you can’t stand the silence while you’re staring at a blank page waiting to write those first few words or waiting for a flash of inspiration, then you might listen to music to get you started, to get you in the mood or maybe you put on your Beats headphones to get you into the groove. Or do you prefer silence to help tune into those channels of inspiration before you start scrawling away on a piece of paper or tip-tapping away on your keyboard.  If you are a singer in a band, maybe seclusion is not something you would choose to pick over a screaming crowd.

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Chibi – Vocalist from The Birthday Massacre

Personally I enjoy both music and silence when I am writing and I don’t find either to be distracting and both help me to write – but does music really help to get anyone into their creative mindset? Perhaps you need to select the right environment first. Are you suffering from indoors inertia? If so, could sitting outside under the shade of a tree on a crisp sunny day, birds softly chanting, a slight humming of human voices turn muddled ideas into coherent words or sentences and no more jumbled thoughts. Are there other things that make writing easier, that make those words break out of your brain vault to help you write that story, the story that’s waiting to be told, perhaps a new best-seller. Music might just be one way to foster creativity and help give us those moments of insight. Even Einstein turned to music to help with his own creativity process, and once said that “If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician”. That might make it seem that you’re in good company if you’re having problems with your creative mojo. I don’t believe that creativity is just bestowed upon geniuses. I am more inclined to believe that creativity is something that’s in all of us, it’s just all about how we go about unleashing it and avoiding a creative crisis.

According to a study from Standford [1] a research team showed that music engages the areas of the brain involved with paying attention, making predictions and updating the event in memory. The researchers used fMRI scanners which are used to pinpoint areas that become unusually active in the brain as you engage in different activities. An article that appeared on the National Science Foundation website [2] mentioned that music can spark creativity in math and science. With the support of the National Science Foundation (NSF), Parag Chordia, director of the Music Intelligence Lab was researching the neurological roots of the creative process. And music is the key ingredient. He also went on to say that “music feeds the mind”. Interestingly enough and not related to music, there is another article from ZME Science [3] about neuroscientists using fMRI scanners to track the brain of experienced and novice writers as they write fiction. A study setup by Dr Martin Lotze of the University of Griefswald used fMRI to track the brain activity of writers as they lay down to create a fictional story. As they wrote, a system of mirrors let scientists see what they were writing, while the writers heads were wrapped inside the scanner.

A photo of A subject testing being slid into a scanner that watched his brain activity as he wrote
A subject testing being slid into a scanner that watched his brain activity as he wrote

The research also incorporated an exercise where the writers were asked to conduct a “creative brainstorm” and the first thing that was noticed was that there was increased activity in the vision-processing regions during the creative brainstorm. So there is something happening to our brains when we are being creative. Research and fMRI scanners aside, music does help me to write and maybe it does the same for you to.

References

[1]  Mitzi Baker. 2007. Music moves brain to pay attention, Standford study finds. [ONLINE] Available at: https://med.stanford.edu/news/all-news/2007/07/music-moves-brain-to-pay-attention-stanford-study-finds.html. [Accessed 25 May 2016].

[2]  O’Brien, Miles & Walton, Marsha. 2011. Music and Creativity. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.nsf.gov/news/special_reports/science_nation/musiccreativity.jsp. [Accessed on 25 May 2016].

[3]  Mihai Andrei. 2014. Neuroscientists use fMRI scanners to track the brain of experienced and novice writers as they write fiction. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.zmescience.com/medicine/mind-and-brain/fmri-writers-neuroscience-24062014/. [Accessed 26 May 2016].

 

2 thoughts on “Does Music Help You To Write?”

  1. what a thoughtful post, I love it. it’s the opposite for me: when I’m making up a song, I won’t listen to anything because I don’t want what I’m writing to come out sounding like anything else.

    Like

    1. Thanks for your comment and yes I go between the two but seem to prefer music because it helps to put me into the ‘creative’ mood. I suppose it works in different ways for people. I can relate to what you said about not wanting what you’re writing to come out sounding like anything else. Either way writing is very therapeutic.

      Liked by 1 person

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