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  • Writer's pictureNick Janicki

Keyboard vs. Keyboard: Writing + Music

No, I'm not rating different computer keyboards here – I'm talking writing + music.

It seems most people who write prefer complete silence as they work (for complete mental focus and to eliminate the chance of any distractions). People also seem to have dedicated desks and other workspaces that are separate from their other activities – islands of sorts that isolate the mind from the rest of the world. In other words: they seem to want an intimate date with their laptop.

There is a time and a place for silence and solitude, but I can generally get work done (writing or otherwise) just about anywhere – from the bed to the kitchen and beyond. When I finally do establish a workspace for any sort of session, I set everything up; I grab tea or coffee (or beer); I make sure my laptop and phone will stay juiced for an extended period of time.

The final step before starting a session is a big decision: music or no music? As mentioned, many consider any noise a distraction and do their best to reduce it; to me, it's a game-time decision that tends to be inconsistent.

Music was a big part of PIER 33, which if you don't know by now includes chapter titles that nod to various songs or song lyrics. This was fun for me as I wrote about two different characters living in two different time periods: the '50s and '90s. When I was writing a chapter set in the '50s, I would listen to '50s and '60s music. When I was working on a story in the '90s, I would rock out to '80s and '90s songs.

When it came to editing PIER 33, though, I spent almost all of that time in complete silence (I would sometimes put in my headphones and not listen to anything – makeshift earplugs!). Looking at copywriting and even substantive edits required a ton of focus, almost as if I were trying to crack some code, and that meant I had to cut the fun (i.e. music) out of the equation. Sad times.

With The Office season 10, I find myself listening to all sorts of music. Writing a screenplay is completely distinct from writing a novel, and in some cases allows for more free-flowing thoughts. The intention of a screenplay is defined in the word itself: to be played out on a screen. So, with that in mind, I'm worrying less about traditional copyediting (although, I am doing one full edit that includes those updates) and spending more time focusing on making the actions clear to the reader and dialogue as engaging (and humorous in this instance) as possible.

This more lax approach to writing The Office has allowed me to enjoy the process more, specifically through music. My go-to's include low-fi music playlists (e.g. Lo-Fi Hip Hop, a classic), epic movie soundtracks and a fan-made playlist for The Office that includes every song that was played or referenced in the show. That last playlist is basically my version of the Rocky soundtrack as I work through this screenplay.

The one thing I can't listen to while writing? Podcasts. Oh, boy. I'm not a big podcast person in general, so this is OK for me, but the few times I've tried this (one that comes to mind is The Office Ladies podcast, which is, of course, appropriate for the occasion) I soon found myself staring down at my keyboard, completely zoning out. I think I try to picture the people talking in my head, which ultimately makes me drop everything I'm trying to do. Not sure if anyone else feels that way, but podcasts are a no-go for me during sessions.

To wrap this up: the writing process (or working on anything time-consuming, really) takes up so much time, only to result in a final product that is read once (if you're lucky, twice) by a given individual then buried beneath something else they choose to read. With that lens, why not enjoy the process with some tunes? (But definitely not podcasts.)

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