I simply can’t - but I do listen to something else
Playlist recommendations for freelancers — I’ve seen a few blog posts over the years from other freelancers listing their “essential” soundtrack to get through a workday. But no matter how hard I try, I’ve never been able to focus on writing and listen to songs at the same time.
Lyrics are the biggest distraction, especially when I’m wearing headphones. How do others do it?
Background TV is rather oddly not distracting. Maybe it’s the combination of music and voices? Or perhaps (this is more likely) the fact that I wear headphones when on my desktop or laptop to avoid disturbing others.
What I listen to…
Music without lyrics will sometimes do it, but I tend to find another problem when listening to orchestral pieces. I’m not a huge fan of classic classical music (the greats) at the best of times. It’s ok… I don’t hate it.
I think the main reason for not being able to get on with Beethoven etc when writing is tempo shift. Any major change to drama or music style between tracks shakes me out of my concentration. This is an issue with older classical music: symphonies etc go through multiple changes, ditto shifts between tracks on a movie soundtrack album.
Instead, I listen to ambient sounds.
These are tracks of everyday sounds that we get used to hearing in certain settings, sounds we take for granted.
Why This Freelancer is Sticking with a Four Day Week
- Real or simulated train stations with all the arrivals, departures, announcements, and conversation murmurs
- Coffee shop ambience — murmurs, doors opening and closing, payments etc
- Sitting on a riverbank listening to bees, running water, wind in the grass, and so on
- Autumn book nook, log fire crackling while it rains softly outside
Unlike a music album, a three-hour clip of this can really help me get and stay in the zone.
I’m less likely to get distracted and I’m less likely to want to fill the silent void with anything else. It’s non-intrusive. Ambient sound is just… there, like it is in real life.