Silence, The Artist’s Best Friend?

As artists, I think we can all agree that silence can be a blessing.  Though, I’ve noticed that it depends on the person.  Some people need utter silence and solitude to get any work done.  Other people need some type of noise like a radio or the television.  Maybe those people (like me) need something to remind them that they’re still in the real world.

I’ve wondered why I can’t get work done without music, but the noise of family breaks my concentration.  A lot of it could be the idea of meditation or focus.  Music helps me drift off into my own thoughts while someone talking to me (say a wife chatting to me while I write this post) drags me back to reality.  It has been suggested that music doesn’t demand that I listen to it.  If I miss a lyric, the song doesn’t start cursing at me and make me sleep on the futon in front of the entertainment center.  I’m digressing here.

It seems to be different for every artist, but is it really the silence or the overall environment that it comes with.  Silence is a sign of peace, solitude, and no distractions whatsoever.  When you’re in silence, you know you won’t be disturbed.  So, it might not be the silence, but the sensations that come with it.  The downside to pure silence is that the slightest noise can derail you, so that telemarketer or Jehovah Witness is going to become an epic threat.  That’s the trade-off though.

I write this as I finish a month where silence was a foreign word in this house.  Yet, I got work done on days where it was only me and my son.  He would play by himself for a bit while I sat nearby to edit.  Whenever one of us felt like entertaining the other, we’d drop what we were doing and play for a while.  He made noise and babbled away, but it didn’t derail me.  So, another part of the silence equation might be the type of noise and the urgency that comes with it.  My son’s quoting of Ninja Turtles is not a ‘do or die’ conversation.  So, I can take it casually and slip in and out of author mode to react to ‘Halt, villain!’.  Think I have a post for tomorrow now: Track Switching.

So, does anyone else create with music or do they need pure silence?

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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34 Responses to Silence, The Artist’s Best Friend?

  1. Rosie Amber says:

    I like peace and quiet.

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  2. Green Embers says:

    Definitely music or a tv show I can ignore. I like Netflix for it’s autoplay of the next episode, lol. But I agree, actual people in the room talking is super distracting. I think part of it is that people expect us to pay attention to them and when I am creating I am in deep in the Twilight Zone. Same with programming. People can jabber at me while I am working and then I will look up at them and say… “I’m sorry but what did you say?” The looks you get is kind of funny at times, lol.

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    • Exactly. There’s also a sense of rudeness that comes from a person talking to a working artist. It’s almost like ‘Do you not respect what I’m doing?’ whenever it happens to me.

      I’ve been using Pandora a lot because TV keeps dragging me in. Music has no visual, which seems to work better with me.

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  3. 1WriteWay says:

    My first preference is total quiet, followed by the background hum of a coffeehouse, followed by music. But absolutely no singing and the music has to be low and understated, like the Modern Jazz Quartet. I envy people who can work amidst noise like the casual conversation of a spouse. I once worked with a woman who is a database programmer and who could become so focused and lost in her own work that even her family couldn’t break her concentration without resorting to shouts and banging on her door. I wish I could be that way with my writing.

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    • I’d love to have that focus, but people around me are too distracting. A voice that has no physical body attached doesn’t phase me. Might be how people grow up. I needed loud music to drown out other noises, so it’s now a foci.

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  4. treyzguy says:

    Shhhh! I’m trying to be creative…

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  5. sknicholls says:

    I am glad you can recognize your limits and what leps best. I am so deeply entrenched in my serenity and tranquility that I can’t stand to hear the phone ring or the dog bark.

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  6. twixie13 says:

    I’m one of those that can’t work in complete silence. Probably because I just KNOW someone’s going to come along and disrupt my thought process.

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  7. Jade Reyner says:

    I have to have silence generally, although I don’t mind too much if the radio is on low in the background. I can’t work too well when there is lots of commotion, but I do find that I can edit in those situations though. Thought provoking post – and I also think that how much noise you are used to makes a difference. It is quite alien to have complete silence here.

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  8. Dean says:

    Funny you should bring this up… I actually find when I am writing, I need to be completely silent in my surroundings and have no distractions, yet when I am drawing, painting doodling etc, I find I can’t work at full steam ahead unless I have music blaring or people around me chatting and batting the breeze.

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  9. Papi Z says:

    Am I the only one that absolutely HAS to listen to MotorHead or Iron Maiden to be able to write? Throw a little Judas Priest or Slayer in there too, and that makes for a darn good day. I put my headphones on and just go. Everyone knows that I am unreachable at that time. I even got my 6 year old to start writing her own poetry. So she writes the same time I do, then she’ll play Barbies, or with the dog, then go back to writing, while I get a good hour or so of uninterrupted time.

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  10. Silence is golden. But background music, soft instrumental, is okay. I hate when I’m reading to have TV on in the background or to be talked to

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  11. howanxious says:

    It depends. One thing is sure though, I can’t write when some one else is in the room. But if I get into the flow and forget my immediate surroundings, it is alright.
    Regarding music, I can understand why you need music. I too listen to a particular playlist while I write. It gives me a rhythm while I write stories. But in case of a poem, I can’t concentrate with any kind of noise around. And that is when I need complete silence.
    And when I read, if anyone speaks to me, then, that person must be ready for a lecture and me bickering for the next 5 minutes. I hate to get disturbed while I am lost in the world of books.
    I am a confusing personality, don’t mind me. 🙂

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  12. I think it depends on what I am doing and how much I need to concentrate. Some background noise is often okay, but silence if I really need to figure something out or concentrate. If it is music then generally something without lyrics, something classical like Beethoven’s piano sonatas is good. I think that we all adapt though and evolve over time. A lot of it is probably what you get used to. I look forward to a bit of background distraction these days.

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