Every writer has a unique ritual for finding inspiration. For Benjamin Franklin it was "air bathing" in the nude; British author VS Pritchett favoured midday cocktails; and countless others swear by the power of an afternoon snooze. For those of us who don’t enjoy the luxuries of booze, naptimes or clothing-optional policies at the workplace, it may be worth your while to consider another effective option: music.
We all know that music soothes the savage beast, but how does it fare in the workplace? Plug in your earphones and try a few tunes from Wordsmith’s carefully curated playlist. The right music might be more beneficial than you realise…
1. Choose Music Without Lyrics
Tycho – A Walk - Dive
Research shows that purely instrumental songs enhance mental performance more than music with lyrics. Ambient music with soft repetitive undertones, like Tycho or Stanley Jordan’s “Magic Touch”, is the most effective for stimulating creativity. Music that calms your nerves also triggers your brain to release the feel-good chemical dopamine, which increases energy and positivity – building blocks for creativity.
Although horror mastermind Stephen King is a devoted hard rock fan, studies have shown that “low information load” songs with little variety and complexity (insert Justin Bieber joke here) help to improve concentration. Finnish researchers also discovered that when our brains process the timbre – or sound colorations – of a song, the default-mode network is activated, which is associated with mind-wandering and creativity. Get those creative juices flowing by stocking your iTunes playlist with simple instrumental choices.
2. Choose Songs You Love
Miles Davis - “So What?” - Kind Of Blue
If you’re performing a task that involves skill, integrating your favourite music into your work routine can improve overall performance and decrease the likelihood of making errors. In a study of doctors’ performance and their working environments, The Journal of the American Medical Association found surgeons performed better when music they liked was playing in the background.
At Wordsmith, we believe nothing soothes a writer’s soul better than jazz. Miles Davis’s hauntingly yearning riffs are sure to inspire that extra bit of oomph in your copy. If you’re looking for something more up-tempo, The Dave Brubeck Quartet’s “Time Out” is hard to beat.
3. There’s Something To Be Said For The Classics
Mozart - Canzonetta Sull'aria
We couldn’t have a real writer’s playlist without eine kleine Mozart. Although the “Mozart Effect” – an increase in IQ attributed to listening to Mozart’s music – has been largely discredited, a study published in the journal Neuroscience and Behavioral Physiology found that people recognize images, letters and numbers faster when classical music is playing in the background. If that deadline’s approaching quicker than you’d like, cue up Bach’s Brandenburg Concert No. 3 in G Major and kick-start your writing flow.
4. If All Else Fails, Try Background Noise
Mozart isn’t your thing? Can’t stop bopping your head to those catchy tunes? Why not plug your earphones into life. It turns out moderate levels of background noise (around 70 dB – the volume of an average washing machine or vacuum cleaner) enhance performance on creative tasks. If housework isn’t your cup of tea, take the advice of top researchers and re-create the sounds of your friendly neighbourhood coffee shop with an acoustic environment simulator like Coffitivity.