Over the years I have come to the conclusion that the hows of writing are as vast and varied as writing itself, especially when it comes to presence of sound during the creative act. Many writers need absolute silence. Some go as far as to unplug everything in the house that might emit any noise at all; others prefer to shut out the world by plugging their ears. Then there are writers whose creativity thrives only when with the presence of some sort of sound. For example, I once read that Stephen King writes to the throbbing throes of hard rock music. He claims he does not really listen to the music, but uses it instead as means to drown the world and his own distracting thoughts out of his head.
I can write fairly effectively in silence and unexpected sounds like a ringing phone or the furnace clicking on do not usually bother me. Nonetheless, after an hour or two of silence, a strange sense of isolation and loneliness begins to gnaw away at me. I first discovered this while I was still in high school and I made attempts to fill the void hours of silence inevitably conjured by turning on the radio I kept on my desk. Because I was in high school at the time, I gravitated to rock and pop stations first; unlike Stephen King, I found the rhythm and beat of rock music distracting. The frequent news reports and pockets of witty deejay banter were also not conducive to my creativity. After reading Jack Kerouc's On the Road, I turned to jazz. Jazz was slightly better than pop and rock-and-roll, but not much.
One night, quite by accident, the dial on my radio landed on a classical music station. When I heard the long moan of a cello, my fist instinct was to crank the dial as fast as I could and find another station. I was fairly ignorant of classical music at that age and though I had no real dislike of classical music, I had an innate notion that it would do nothing for my writing. Nevertheless, for reasons I still don't understand, I remember lifting my fingers from the dial of my radio and picking up my pen. I wrote for three hours that night and, to my utter surprise, not only did I not experience any gnawing sense of loneliness during those three hours, I also succeeded in writing several pages of excellent prose. A few weeks later, I discovered Charles Bukowski and found out, rather unexpectedly, that he also listened to classical music when he wrote his poetry. Whatever stigma I attached at the time to classical music melted away and the rest, as the old cliché goes, is history.
Ever since then, I have made listening to classical music part of my writing routine whenever I can. I highly recommend it to anyone who struggles to write in silence, but finds it difficult to create while other forms of music play in the background. With the advent of the internet, I searched the world for classical music stations that played the maximum amount of music with the minimum amount of interrupion. To my mind the best remains Radio Swiss Classic, which only interrupts its music programme to inform listeners of the composer and title of the next piece, but because it's based in Switzerland, you are free to choose to listen to the announcements in either German, French, or Italian. If you don't speak one or any of those languages, the announcements will simply blend in with the music. I usually listen to the German announcements, which are brief enough to keep me from being distracted, but long enough for me to subliminally brush up my rather rusty knowledge of Deutsche. It's also a great station to have on while reading or simply relaxing. Next time you are on the net, give it a shot. You can find the station by clicking on the link below. You won't be disappointed. And if you are, you can always grab the earplugs or crank up Metallica like Stephen King does.