What do I listen to while I’m writing?

If you’ve ever wondered, read on. If you haven’t, but like ambient, electro and soundscapes, then keep reading.

Cookies (not in a good way)

I was born with mid-range hearing loss. On an audiogram, the line pattern looks like someone has taken a big bit out of a cookie, hence it’s more “fun” name, Cookie-bite hearing loss. Things like speech and music sit in the mid-range frequencies. Luckily, the cookie bite for me isn’t too deep, and it’s a case of being adaptable. You know when you’re trying to follow a conversation with someone in a noisy place (honestly, I find it so unrealistic when I watch a film and two people can have a normal volume conversation in a nightclub) or you’re watching tv and the dialogue is quiet and the music/explosions are loud? I feel my hearing is like that. One benefit is I have to focus on the person speaking to make sure I don’t miss anything, so I guess that makes me a good listener. Subtitles are also a huge help.

As my mid-range is affected, it feels like my low and high frequency ranges are super sensitive. I wouldn’t call it misophonia, but these frequencies can be extremely irritating. I guess it means I am not hearing things as a “normal” person would. But then, there is no such thing as normal.

Sounds while writing

As I struggle with my hearing, I find places like open environments very difficult to work in. In an old job, we switched to open plan, and I absolutely hated it. Firstly, the radio was too far away for me so I’d lose my train of thought because I couldn’t quite hear the song and I’d end up trying to work out what it was. Then the office chatter and gossiping would be at the irritating level where I couldn’t quite hear everything which was being said, but it was noticeable enough to put me off my work. To rectify this, I wore headphones most of the time, and got a lot of dirty looks from my coworkers for doing it.

To all those who can roll up into a coffee shop and write, I applaud you. It’s a great skill to be able to work in a noisy environment.

Journeying through soundscapes

I’ve been into ambient and natural soundscapes for a long time. In 1991, my parents brought a compilation CD called “Moods” with the likes of Enya and Enigma on it. During my teens, Chillout music gained in popularity. In my twenties and thirties, I went to Mind, Body and Soul festivals and partook in drumming circles, had gong baths and travelled on sound healing journeys to the dirge of a didgeridoo.

It takes time for me to get in the zone when it comes to writing, and distractions which jolt me from it are a pain because it’s not always easy to slip back in. If a soundscape can invoke the environment my characters find themselves in, or the emotions they are going through, it means I can connect better and get into that zone faster. Or it can help mask my current environment and create something more akin to my perfect writing environment.

My go to place for a soundtrack to my writing is MyNoise.net. It offers a wide range of soundscapes to help with focus and productivity, as well as nature sounds and ambient music to suit whatever I’m writing about. What’s more, they’re all customisable.

Here are a few of my favourites:

Irish Coast: Living most of my life by the sea means I am immediately drawn to seascape sounds. The crashing waves are nature’s original white noise. What I like about this soundscape the most is the deep thunderous thrumming of the vast waves hitting the cliffs. I like to tweak this soundscape so the sea seems distant, and I’m tucked up in my writing cabin, listening to the elements whirling outside.

Gregorian Chant: I’ve always enjoyed Gregorian Chant. Maybe I was a monk in a previous life? I find this both deeply calming and focusing. Continuing with this theme is the Medieval Library

Medieval Village and other soundscapes like Dark Dungeon are great for RPGs and Fantasy writers. Equally, soundscapes like Warp Speed and the Dunes of Arrakis are great for sci-fi writers.

In Utero: Primordial and oddly soothing, this soundscape tries to imitate sound as perceived by a foetus. When paired with a calmly creepy soundscape, like Oblivion or Implanted Memories (this is a Blade Runner tribute, which is one of my favourite films) things start to feel a lot more chilling.

Binaural Beats is a good one to mix into other soundscapes. Switching on the 16 Hz will help you stay focused or dropping it down to 2Hz will help you fall asleep. There are equally many soundscapes available to help you relax and sleep, and rest is always important when it comes to writing.

Solfeggio Tones Many experience healing from these tones and another good soundscape to pair with others. Maybe you need help problem solving a scene? Or you need to get rid of a headache so you can actually get some damn writing done.

MyNoise.net is free, but donating opens up lots of additional extras to enjoy tweaking your soundscapes further.

Other artists I listen to:

Carbon Based Lifeforms: a Swedish ambient duo who I play too often because even Mr Cox is getting tired of hearing them all the time.

Buddha Bar’s Buddhattiute series are good music choices for me when I’m writing or painting. Horriya is one of my favourites albums.

Equally, film and video game soundtracks are great for writing. Blade Runner will forever be one of my favourite film soundtracks. I played the Witcher 3 soundtrack to death, and who could forget the Venice violins track from Tomb Raider II?

What do you listen to when you’re writing or being creative in other ways? Have you got any suggestions for me which I need to add to my playlist?

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