Most mornings, the first thing I do at the coffee shop is ask the barista to turn down the music. I generally can’t think with music playing in the background. I certainly can’t write. I spent many years trying to be like everyone else and play music while I did homework or studied or fell asleep. I could never understand why I was so distracted or why it took me so long to complete a simple task that, in silence, I could get through very quickly or why I was still awake an hour later.
I’d like to be the kind of person who creates her own personalized playlist for a writing project or who turns up the volume on cheerful music while she cooks. I do love listening to music. But only when I’m not doing anything else.
I need a lot of silence just to survive, and the world, it turns out, is a noisy place. So I take my quiet where I can find it and I don’t hesitate to ask for it where I need it.
If there was a whole coffee shop full of people happily working and chatting to a background of music, I could probably just do my work. After all, a full coffee shop creates its own soundtrack of chatter and dishes and espresso machine, and sometimes you don’t even hear the music playing.
But most mornings, I’m the only one here, at least for an hour or so. And my favorite booth happens to be right beneath the speaker.
Every so often, there’s a playlist on that I just can’t ask them to turn down, even though I know that it will take me ten times longer to do whatever I’m trying to do while listening. Today was one of those days.
When I was a teenager, I bought a four cassette music series from a TV commercial. It was called Freedom Rock, and it was my introduction to all of the music that could have been the soundtrack of my early 70s childhood. (The soundtrack to my childhood was Elvis, country music, and 50s doo-wop, which I still love.) Freedom Rock was my introduction to Jefferson Airplane and The Byrds and Deep Purple and Lynard Skynard. Today’s coffee shop playlist was Freedom Rock redux, sometimes in the exact order of songs on my old cassette, with some live Beatles songs thrown in for good measure.
It took me an hour and a half to write these few paragraphs this morning. I did at least as much singing as I did writing–one of the other benefits of being the only person in the coffee shop. There’s no one for me to disturb with my singing! (It’s quiet, under-your-breath singing. No belting out tunes in public for me either.)
Now I’m at my office, and it’s silent except for the sound of the printer down the hall and cars driving by the building to turn into the parking lot. It’s true that I’m getting a lot more done. But I’m also thinking about the playlist I might create for my drive home.