In the office, the radio plays, colleagues talk, you read emails. Yet more words. Go to lunch. Check words on social media. Talk with words. Afternoon in the office with more words.
Drive home, music blaring. Words. Talk to your partner, switch the television on, read before bed. Words. Say goodnight with words.
All day, we hear what other people are saying. Do you think this influences how we think and feel? Of course. The words we hear contribute to the day we have. They shape our thoughts more than we admit. They inform the stories we tell about ourselves and the world around us.
You may not consciously listen to the music playing in the background or see the television ads you talk over, but they impact you. Even if the influence is imperceptible.
I’ve noticed over the last few weeks that if I listen to music with words—hip-hop, cheesy R’n’B, whatever—it’s harder to create. Why? I think it comes back to de-narration, which means turning down and shielding yourself from all the narratives that are being imposed upon you every second of the day.
If all day, all you hear is what everyone is saying, it becomes very hard to listen to yourself. It’s difficult to be mindful when your mind is being constantly bombarded with words.
For me at least, and I’m sure it will be the same for you, the solution is to eliminate the noise in my environment. That means, I don’t listen to radio. If I watch TV, I mute the ads. That means restricting social media time. That means consuming less, which gives me more head space, which means I have more energy to create.
Instead of pop ballads and energetic rap, I listen to music without words. Particularly film scores. The Lord of the Rings. The Harry Potter films. Music by John Williams and Hans Zimmer and Ludovico Einaudi. Playlists entitled Epic Music and Video Game Soundtracks.
I don’t know why it works. Maybe it’s specific to writing. But I find that when I remove extraneous words from my environment, when they’re not assaulting my vision or pounding into my ears, thinking becomes easier, listening becomes easier, creating becomes easier.
With words, we tell stories. But the majority of the time, it’s other people’s stories that are being enforced upon us. Reverse that. Listen to less words and less stories and you’ll find that it becomes easier to tell your own.