Creativity and music: a good combo? Upcoming events View in browser
May 2019 Edition

In this Issue

  • A new look!
  • Upcoming events/classes
  • Creativity and music: a good combo?

A new look!

     If you follow me on social media, you already know that I've updated my author photo. I thought it only fitting that I update my newsletter header. I've tweaked the overall look here, too. Hope you like it!

Upcoming events/classes

      A reminder that this Saturday, June 1, I'll be presenting at Italian American Literati 2019, an annual celebration of local Italian American Authors. The event will be held from 9:30 am-2:30 pm at Casa Italia in Stone Park, IL. The program features author presentations, a meet and greet with coffee and Italian cookies, book sales, raffles, and more. Best of all, it's FREE and open to the public! My presentation is currently scheduled at 1:30 pm, but the program is subject to change. For complete info, see the IA Literati website or check out their Event Page on Facebook.

     I'll also be speaking at this year's Karitos Worship and Arts Conference to be held in Streator, IL, July 11-13, 2019 as part of the event's 25th Anniversary Celebration! I'm scheduled to present three workshops for the Literary Arts track:

  • Friday, July 12 at 2:25 pm: Finding Your Writer’s Voice
  • Saturday, July 13 at 10:25 am: Great Beginnings: How to Hook Readers and Keep Them Turning the Pages
  • Saturday, at 2:25 pm: Working with Small Presses: Bigger Isn’t Always Better

For information on all the conference workshops, see this page of the conference website. One-day registrations are available if you can't attend the whole event. See the registration page for details.


Note: I'm not teaching any classes at College of DuPage this summer, but will be offering a fall class. I should have details in my next newsletter. 

      Also, I'm currently booking fall school visits. If you're a teacher or parent interested in having me visit your students, either in person or virtually, please contact me as soon as possible. You can read about the programs I offer on the Speaking page of my website.

Creativity and music: a good combo?

     Years ago, I got into the habit of playing music in the background whenever I was writing, mainly to drown out distracting sounds or conversations. I always used instrumental music because I found song lyrics themselves distracting. Then I learned about "The Mozart Effect," the theory that listening to Mozart's music could boost IQ and creativity.

     I went out and bought a CD called Music for the Mozart Effect, compiled by Don Campbell, author of the book The Mozart Effect: Tapping the Power of Music to Heal the Body, Strengthen the Mind, and Unlock the Creative Spirit. After that, each time I sat down to write, I cued up my Music for the Mozart Effect CD with several other Mozart and Vivaldi CDs and got to work. The music seemed to be the perfect writing soundtrack.

     Then last month I read an article about new research findings that music may actually impair creativity rather than enhance it. Surprised, I looked for more information and found that Newsweek had covered these findings in February. According to the Newsweek article, researchers in the U.K. and Sweden had "strong evidence of impaired performance when playing background music in comparison to quiet background conditions.” The article went on to say, "While the team did not test why this may be happening, they suggest that the effect could arise because music disrupts our verbal working memory, therefore making it harder to complete the given tasks."

     Even though the study subjects weren't technically "writing," the experiment involved using verbal skills. The idea that music could have a negative impact on my verbal working memory was rather alarming to me. I decided to research further.

     I found a rather technical article in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine that detailed how the original 1993 Mozart Effect research evaluated subject performance AFTER listening to Mozart's music--the study subjects didn't listen while attempting to carry out the task, which involved "spatial reasoning skills." And while the researchers found the music had a positive effect, it was short-lived, lasting only 10-15 minutes after the music stopped. These results are explained in layman's terms in an article on the BBC Future site, which called the task performed by the study subjects "imaginary origami."  So it seems a bit of a stretch to apply the results, even if they were positive, to other forms of creativity. 

     I did find a Psychology Today article that talks specifically about how music affects writers. In the piece, Amy Fries, author of the book Daydreams at Work: Wake Up Your Creative Powers, says ". . .  music remains one of the most powerful daydream launchers. In fact, it's so powerful, I sometimes avoid listening to it at certain times because I know it has the power to send my thoughts in a very particular direction." This is why many authors create playlists specific to their current writing project. When I was working on Playing by Heart, I listened to a playlist of baroque music my main character, Emilia, would have known. Of course, since she was a composer, I felt familiarity with that music was crucial to writing from her point of view. But I did something similar while writing Rosa, Sola, even though ten-year-old Rosa isn't a musician. Before a writing session, I'd listen to the 1960s popular music that would have been part of Rosa's world as well as the Italian songs I grew up with. For me, music functioned as what Fries calls "a gentle ramp that helps glide" me into my writing session.

     Of course, using music as a "ramp" is different from having a background soundtrack. And now that I'm an empty-nester, I don't have as many distracting sounds. So lately I've been experimenting with working without music in the background. That leads me to this month's creativity tip. (If you missed my last Creativity Tip about keeping a "jot journal," you can read that complete newsletter online here.)         

This month's creativity tip: Conduct your own research experiment:

  • If you normally listen to music while writing or doing other creative work, try doing without it. Observe how a quiet background affects your creativity, productivity and mood.
  • If you don't typically have a background soundtrack, try playing different types of music before or while you work and notice the effects.
  • If you've never created a playlist for a work-in-progress, try doing so. For some tips on how, check out this article I found with a quick Google search on the topic. Again, notice if the playlist enhances or impairs your creativity.

Personally, I've been enjoying writing in quiet. But during those times when my husband has the TV or radio going, I still find it helpful to play Mozart in the background.

     Speaking of experiments, I'm conducting one this month with a newsletter feature I just discovered, embedded surveys. I invite you to respond to the question below. When you click on it, a browser window should open for you to finalize your answer. At least that's how I think it will work. If you have any problems, please let me know by simply replying to this email.

That's all for this month.

Until next time, happy creating!


Copyright © 2019 Carmela A. Martino. All rights reserved.

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