I like to blame it on being a Gemini, but I don’t like to work in silence. Along with sitting at a good table and preferably being high up, a bit of background noise is one of the things that seems to make me most productive.
I’m fine with listening to music. If my boyfriend is playing or listening to something, I am happy to keep working away with it going on around me. Occasionally I’ll stick a record on myself – I like to write to things that are a bit ambient and not too wordy, so that I don’t get caught up in the lyrics and find myself mindlessly typing them into my manuscript (it’s happened). For this reason, my record of choice is usually by my ridiculously beautiful and talented friend Milena, whose music is hugely atmospheric and perfect for writing. If I want to feel workmanlike and just-get-on-with it, I might stick on Prinz Horn Dance School, who make me want to work hard and be useful.
Talk radio is OK, there’s always time for Radio 4, but again I find that I can get way too caught up in the words and distract myself in a way that is really not the point here.
So, my favourite accompaniment is a DVD. Preferably something quiet that I have seen many times before, so that I am comforted without needing to concentrate. Often, I will watch a film via Lovefilm, and then have to buy it because I have a feeling that it will be a good writing background.
What’s weird is how hit and miss this is. Until I have actually put it on and started to write, I have no idea how it’s going to work out. For instance, I’d love to write to arty French films, but my A-Level French is pretty rusty and I find myself glancing up way too often to look at the subtitles. I bought “Two Days In Paris” on DVD for that very purpose, but had forgotten that even the small portions of this film that are subtitled make it too annoying for me from a working perspective.
On the other hand “Somewhere” is a new purchase that has already proved a favourite – it is absolutely perfect for writing to. Also, nothing to do with writing – but it’s like a film that includes an ice-dancing scene soundtracked by Gwen Stefani was basically made just for me.
In non-fiction, “Please Leave Quietly” (obviously) and “Grey Gardens” are two that I can basically watch on a loop while I work for hours and hours and hours. I actually once watched “Grey Gardens” on repeat three times during a mammoth editing session.
Just-clever-enough comedies also work wonders when I want to be witty – nothing too saccharine or I’m sure it filters through. Boxed sets of “30 Rock” get a hammering during writing evenings, as oftentimes do “Mean Girls”, “Kissing Jessica Stein” and “Melinda and Melinda”.
So, if you are curious about any other element of my writing process, I can tell you that it also frequently involves high heels, sometimes a poncho, and a headdress that I like to call The Peacock of Power.