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There is currently an estimated 7.5 Billion people on earth (“Current World Population.” World Population Clock: 7.5 Billion People (2016)), 65% between the ages of 15-64 (Statistics’, By Kenya Bureau of. “Population Ages 15-64 (% of Total).Considering it would be close to impossible to generalize over such a large population, I have narrowed it down to elementary through college students. After doing a bit of research, I have found that many students fall into one of two categories, those who use sounds or music to write and those who write better with complete silence.
This could be determined by comparing the ability to focus, be inspired, having their mood enhanced, or even accessing the deepest level of insight through silence or having background noise or music.
Background noise or music seems to promote inspiration, for some, by “channeling” the mood or setting for writing about a particular topic. “The stories told through music can help us think of ways to enhance our own characters and novels.
There are some writers who say they created scenes that were inspired by the words in a song they were listening to. The type of music you’re playing may create an aura that is sinister, joyful or even sad. Knowing exactly what tracks or albums to put on for the mood you want to inspire can help you with this success” (Mackey, Cameron 2014). Another author stated “The Christian groups Skillet and Building 429 are two such artists who inspire me to create characters or scenes. Their melodies and lyrics move me to seek an outlet for those poignant emotions.
In fact, I generally listen to Christian alternative or rock while working on my Young Adult fiction series Changing Scenes, in order to harness the chaos and intense emotions I remember experiencing as a teen.” (helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com). I also interviewed three people on the subject, two of which are adult students who just returned to college and one who is a senior in high school about to begin college. These three had very different points of view on the inspiring effects of music on their writing. Two of the three said that music actually takes away from their inspiration and distracts them, while one stated it helps him “zone out”. It seems that music inspiring writing does not have a solid basis and is about 50/50 to those who agree or disagree. With that idea not assisting in drawing a solid conclusion, I decided to look at more at simply focusing while writing, and if music seems to assist more or less in that aspect.
In 2016, there was a study called “The Contribution of Music to the Fluent Writing Skills: MAYAZ Techique” by Zekerya Batur, which was conducted on elementary and high school students. During this study, students were split into two groups, one group was to write their essays in complete silence while the other wrote using the MAYAZ technique (Music and Fluent Writing), which included writing with music being played in the background. The conclusion of this research project was that the majority of students who wrote with music in the background seemed to have more fluent writing skills and used more words. In addition, Cameron Mackey stated “For some people, dead silence is more distracting than listening to music. There are some writers who need to have music playing the background in order to begin writing. If you grew up in a home that was noisy and are used to tuning things out, this could be a way to give you a sense of normalcy as you write. On the other hand, listening to music that you enjoy, like soft rock, classical or even hip hop could help to improve your focus as you write”(Batur, 2016). Through this article and the above research project, it seems as though the choice of whether or not background noise or music assists in focusing while writing can actually be based upon each person’s “norm” and how they grew up or what they are used to.
While reviewing the interviews I had conducted, I realized that the younger interviewee listened more to music while writing, the 30 year old interviewee listened to classical music on occasion while writing and the eldest interviewee needed complete silence in order to concentrate. Therefore, there are actually a few aspects we would need to look at in order to conclude if listening to music or silence is more prevalent, age and nurturing.
Although the research project mentioned earlier, which used the MAYAZ technique, showed that music actually assisted the students in their fluency and number of words used, this study was done on younger students from elementary school to high school. These students probably ranged in age from 10 years old to 19 years old, the time in life where we have an unlimited amount of energy and more difficulty to focus on one thing because we are still in the extreme learning phase and life is full of distractions. Therefore, the classical music actually assists in calming them down and setting the mood so that they are able to write more fluently. Francis Berger wrote about his issues with writing while he was younger “I can write fairly effectively in silence and unexpected sounds like a ringing phone or the furnace clicking on do not usually bother me. Nonetheless, after an hour or two of silence, a strange sense of isolation and loneliness begins to gnaw away at me. I first discovered this while I was still in high school and I made attempts to fill the void hours of silence inevitably conjured by turning on the radio I kept on my desk.” While we are young, it seems as though silence makes us uneasy at times and we need the hustle and bustle just to feel at ease. We do not learn to appreciate silence until we grow older and realize how difficult it is to find. In addition, our ability to concentrate on more than one thing seems to flutter away as we age and we simply cannot focus with too many things going on.
In another study, called “Effects of task interruption and background speech on word processed writing”, an experiment was conducted with subjects 18 years of age and older, to see how much interruptions and background speech effected their writing. While participants wrote in silence, they were occasionally interrupted. By doing this, the experiment showed that the participant writing speed was lowered during the interruption and it took them about 10 to 15 seconds to regain their original writing speeds. This project actually shows the different conclusions based on age as the first research project on the MAYAZ technique states that younger students write better with music in the background, while here it shows adults over 18 are unable to bounce back from any interruptions while they are writing and actually need complete silence.
“Let us be silent, that we may hear the whispers of the gods.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson). This was quoted in an article called “How to Strengthen Your Writing Skills with Silence” written by Julia McCutchen. In order to understand this, we need to understand the perspective of deep thought. I truly did not understand this concept completely, but after a long conversation with a friend of the family, I found that it is only understood with time and growth. The older someone is, the more they are able to reach deep down inside and allow the deepest feelings of a subject to come out ever so eloquently. This is where, it seems, silence comes into play. They are not focused on distractions, but are able to write as if carrying out a conversation with their fingers onto a sheet of paper.
Therefore, the question of whether music or silence assists in our ability to write a paper is not based upon an overall concrete answer, but rather is more a more flexible conclusion as there are many factors that need to be looked at. We must take into consideration a person’s age, background and what they are accustomed to. There are those who choose music and background noise and those who choose silence, as we are young or if we are raised in a noisy home, we choose to have noise in the background but as we age, or if we were raised as an only child, the prevalence is usually silence.
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