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Music: The Creative Connection

We all do it. In fact, I’m doing it right now; I’m listening to music to get me through the process of writing this blog post.

Several years ago I found myself in a conversation with a special education teacher regarding two students who had been diagnosed with ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder). One of her best suggestions?

“Let them listen to their IPODs.”

I was struck by the simplicity of the suggestion. The music in their ears kept them in one place. They could’t hear their classmates or the kindergartners passing by in the hallway on their way to the gymnasium. It also relaxed them.


I know it works, because my periodontist used the same tactic with me when I came in, wobbly-kneed, for a gum graft. Thank goodness for my music! It calmed my jittery nerves as I sat through five shots of novocaine, the removal of a patch of tissue from the roof of my mouth, and the stitching of that tissue to the area beneath my lower front teeth. I simply closed my eyes, let my ears absorb the sounds of YoYoMa, Yanni, and Celtic woman, and pretended that there were no sharp objects in my mouth.

As a teacher, I also found that music could be motivating. I would tell my study skills classes that I would let them listen to a radio station of their choosing—as long as they were productive, getting their assignments done for their various courses. If some of them drifted off task, off went the music.

“But Miss!” they would object.

To which I would raise an eyebrow.

“We promise we’ll get our work done!”

Apparently music is magical.

I also have come to realize just how much I rely upon music as a writer. When I work on curriculum projects and engage with my graduate students, I tend to listen soft, relaxing music. Sometimes this same music helps me write creatively. But most of the time I prefer to listen to soundtracks. When I consider the stories I loved most as a child, it is not surprising that the soundtracks to the Narnia and Lord of the Rings blockbusters seem to feed my creative juices. Soundtracks certainly augment the drama of a story. At times, I need even more help transporting my mind and “pen” to the darkness of 1940s Europe, so I decided to create a Schindler’s List station. Together, John Williams and Itzhak Perlman draw me into the shadows of Poland under Nazi rule, showing me faint glimmers of hope. But I can’t stay there in that darkness. I have to play something bright to pull myself out of those very dark corners of recent history.

How do you use music?

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