The Sound Of Noise

Often, I see discussions on twitter about the best music to write to. Many people make playlists and listen to them over and over to “set the mood” of the book. It seems quite common. But to me, it feels totally alien.

I write best without music and without people around me. Total silence doesn’t work, unless it IS total, but some nice background rumble usually does the trick, to keep me wrapped up in that nice bubble. But not music. If I hear music, I focus entirely on it and my brain locks up. Some music does work, but only if it’s very abstract – ambient or minimal electronica is usually good, but even not that for very long. Rain sounds are perfect.


Which is why I can’t understand the need for music in bars and restaurants and cafés. It confuses me. If you go somewhere to talk to other humans, then what the hell do you need music for? In a loud environment, I can’t hold a conversation. Even though I might hear the other person, my brain can’t grasp what they’re saying, because of all the overload of input. I hear them, but they’re just face parts moving, making a noise.

It comes from being introvert, I’ve discovered in later life. I think and relax much better when I’m by myself. Too much exposure to other people drains me and leaves me an emotional wreck. My son had probably noticed that after a few days of holiday in a new place, especially a city, I communicate in grunts and single words, until I can get home to recharge in silence.

the-silenceI understand that many people get recharged by being in company. They get energy from others. But many people don’t, and I don’t think extroverts really grasp that. They think we’re just not trying. But the truth is, an introvert needs very little input to feel stimulated, and for us, most modern environments are utterly draining, like getting slammed repeatedly over the head with a tray.

When I studied here in Stockholm, ten years ago, I was astounded that, in the university library, people chatted, and laughed, and talked on their mobile phones, out loud, as if in a pub. In the fucking library. And that’s when I first started to feel really old.

It’s a dream of mine to open a café where silence is the theme. You sit there, you eat, you sip your coffee, and you shut up. No music, no youtube videos at the next table, no idiots yelling into mobile phones. Just the natural sounds of everyday where you can sit and have a think or maybe do some writing. A church, basically, just without all the churchy stuff, with no irritating pop drivel on the radio, no large TV on the wall blasting ads into your tired stressed-out brain.

But until then I’ll keep looking for cafés without sound systems, and bringing my earplugs.

/ paddy

A Date With A Room

As mentioned, tomorrow I’m off to the Festival Of Writing in York. For the folks in the UK, it’s maybe not much of a trip, but seeing as I’m in the frozen wastes of Sweden, it takes a tad longer for me. Getting up at four in the morning and stumbling onto a bus is such a precious treat.

As also mentioned, I was one of those picked out to read my 500-word piece to the assembled throng on Friday night. What I recently learned is that only seven people were chosen and, according to the previous winners, you will have the attention of every agent in the room for the evening. Which is damn nice.

It feels that things are moving along, writing-wise. The last year was the first time I felt that my fiction writing was good enough. As in, I wrote things I feel proud of, and can read them back and go “wow, is that mine?” I received a few positive no-thanks from agents, and one agent even asked me for a whole manuscript, a rare occurrence. Which she rejected (for good reasons) but just being asked for it made me stupidly happy.

So maybe this is the break I’ve been working towards. And if it’s not, it doesn’t matter that much. Because something occurred to me a few months ago: I’m not writing to be rich or famous or spotted in the street. Well, clearly I am, a bit, but it’s not the major reason. I’m writing to become a better writer, to be proud of what I put down. And as long as I keep doing that, interest from agents and publishers will come. Realising this has made me a great deal happier about the whole enterprise. If I can see an upward trend in my writing ability, then I’m doing it right.

For those looking for a snappy summary, here’s what I’ve gleaned from my years nosing around the periphery of the publishing trade. If you want to get a book accepted and published:

1) Write a great book
2) Don’t be an arsehole.

It’s really not any harder, or easier, than that.

/ paddy

Friday Night In York

Well now, who would have thought a relevant topic would come up this quickly? 

Feeling shy to speak-756129I am off to the Festival Of Writing in York next weekend, for talks, workshops, meetings with agents and various social events with lots of other writers. It’s a great chance to make contacts, maybe get an agent interested, but for me it’s also just great fun to hang out with writers and speak English for a whole weekend. Swedes understand English, of course, but it’s not the same as being able to freely talk shite (as we say in Ireland) with other native speakers. 

There’s a contest on the Friday night, called “Friday Night Live” where you submit up to 500 words, of any piece you might have to hand. The best ones will get the chance to read out their piece to the whole assembled group — writers, agents, waiters, whoever. Massive instant exposure. And — hah! — I was chosen. Holy crapping crap. There’s a whole lot of excitement in the Kelly Mansions right now, I can tell you. And plenty of cartoon squealing.

Now for a week of test-reading in front of a mirror while deciding what shirt to wear. And whether or not I should wear nail varnish. I’m thinking yes. Coal black. If nothing else, they’ll sure as hell remember that.

/ paddy