I, for one, can not handle music while working. The best I can do is rainymood.com with a splash of Ghibli instrumentals in the background; anything with actual words often leads to increasingly passionate karaoke.
Even on days when I’m too grumpy to sing, I still find it hard to focus. Realizing this has helped me fine-tune my work process: in the past, I would simply try to grin and bear it. The result was always awful, and I’d often end up deleting a majority of whatever I’d written during that session.
It’s not just music, really. It’s almost any sound. I’m the type of person who prefers to work on things in one sitting, and I guess music–or conversation–anything at all–is capable of bringing my train of thought to a soulsucking halt.
Learning new things about the way I work is my new method of self-study. I’m not sure if I’m glorifying work too much here; I’m sure that in a perfect and utopian world people would never have to work. But to be honest, I enjoy the process of writing. I see new article topics as challenges to solve, and with each new day I learn about new concepts. Today, for example, I learned about the Sustainable Development Goals. Yesterday, I learned about new water purification techniques that are being developed by private companies.
I’ve found that I love my job. I’ve found that I am still, after all this time, a highly competitive person–and that I do my best when I feel compelled to prove that I am capable. I’ve also found that I think most clearly in a locked and silent room.
A few years ago the thought of loving silence would have spooked me. Many years ago I feared the quiet, and solitude–to the point where I would force my eyes open during a shower, no matter how much soap crept in.
Silence had a body with a presence and a voice all its own. I couldn’t stand the idea of being alone with this strange and foreign thing, of hearing my voice bounce off its limbs — and so I avoided it whenever possible. But no matter how I tried to establish distance, it continued to pursue me. Despite every radio and hallway and corner and locked door I placed in her path, she showed up and made herself comfortable in the corner. Just sitting there. Waiting and watching for something to happen. Living in this type of home felt like being wrapped in a silken cocoon, with gauzy layers of sound separating me from the rest of the world. It felt like being eternally drunk and scrambling for something to hang on to.
Why, then, did I come to long for it? You spend so long together with someone else eventually you start looking for the other when they’ve gone — this even though at first you swore you’d always hate them, and that you would stay cold and distant. One day you wake up and you realize you’ve given in. You can no longer live without that presence.
It reminds me of something my husband said during a discussion–that you can’t spend that much time with a person and not love them at least a little.
Perhaps, over all these years of living together, my body has learned to love the quiet.
(Note: there is one artist I can listen to while working. That’s Aerocity, an old friend of mine from Twitter).