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Can We Talk? Modern Technology: What have we wrought?

August 11, 2010

With all my blogging around, I have neglected my own site. So I came running over to change the Latin Quote of the (ahem) Week. I am going to stick with the Holy Doctor and go with, “Casus non datur.” Or, “There’s no such thing as chance.” One of my favorites as a post-wreck survivor, because it helps me make sense out of things to remember that all things happen for a reason, even if they aren’t my reasons. In a sense, it’s a lead in to this Can We Talk post.

Some of you know that I come out with crazy questions during chats or send questions through e-mail and loops. Those questions serve a purpose. As a creativity trainer, some of these help me gear up for talks, or update material to keep it fresh. My latest question has been, “Do you listen to music, TV, or anything else while you write?” I’m sad to report I received 96 answers before I receive a “No.” This speaks to what modern technology has done to us as individual created beings. So many of us have lost the ability to truly appreciate silence.

Many forget we were not created for this modern always-running, never-stop world. We were created to live in Paradise and the father of us all (aka: Adam) messed up. When he got kicked out of Eden, his life of toil and peril fell to his children – us. We were also created “in the image and likeness of God.” Thus, it is in us to ever create. We can’t make things out of nothing, but we’ve come a long way from chipping granite into knives and rubbing sticks together for fire. We’ve come so far, in fact, that we are in danger of forgetting our beginning. Not only have we exceeded “creating” things to meet our needs, “creating” for leisure is a multi-industry business (Something I won’t complain about as a writer.), and some people “create” just or create – or to rip us off considering some of the TV adds I’ve seen lately.

It is sad when people need to have something going on around them all the time. Some of my favorite things I’ve researched since I began writing were the eagles at Reelfoot Lake where they nest, the Smokey Mountain foothills, and Water Moccasins lounging in the branches above Spring River. Yes, I have the sounds of nature around me, but they sing to me like a song from God more than any modern music could. I do some of my best meditation and writing in silence. Modern technology steals the creativity from my brain.  About the only time I play music is when I write a love scene – which probably says something about what I’m worried about hearing from God as I write one.

Recommending The Mozart Effect is second nature to me. I did a breakdown of various musical genres and their effects on our psyches in It’s one of the best books on the market for teaching people how to employ music for creativity, well-being and increased cognitive capacity, yet even Don Campbell tells us silence has its purpose in our lives.

I sometimes wonder if people are afraid of turning off the cluttering noise. Modern man has kept climbing his mountain of pursuit since being ousted from the garden. Eventually, one of us is going to hit a mudslide and the whole of man’s creation will fall in an attempt by Nature to return God’s beauty to Earth. How long will successive generations have to walk barefoot upon the pebbles we bequeath them? If you need a mental image, here a picture of the mudslide in Guatamala as the death toll rose. Did you know up to 50 people every year die of rock slide in the US alone?


So can we talk? I’d love to hear your opinions on silence and whether or not you can write to it or if you’ve anchored your writing to background noise.

I’ll still be at over with Renee Vincent at Past the Print for the rest of the week, talking about my new release. If you get a chance, please stop by and leave a comment. I’m leaving excerpts every day, and I’ll be giving away a copy of Highland Treasure.

In order to be eligible to win a copy of  Highland Treasure, follow me on Facebook and then leave a comment and/or question for me on the Past the Print post . Please include your email address with your comment so we are able to contact you. One lucky winner will be randomly drawn on the following Sunday and notified by email.
Contest ends Saturday, August 14th, 2010 at midnight.

Happy Reading and Writing!

20 Comments leave one →
  1. August 11, 2010 5:54 am

    Great post Mary!

    I used to write with modern music blaring, but then, like the snap of fingers a couple years ago, I found it was too distracting, it was noise. Now I usually write in silence, or the sounds of life going on around me, kids, people chatting at starbucks. One thing I do enjoy though is listening to period music softly in the background. I’m working on a Tudor era novel right now, and I found a CD that is music written by Henry VIII himself. I find it to be very inspirational. Likewise when I’m writing a Celtic historical story, I like to listen to the haunting melodies of that era. If I’m writing a Regency I like to play Bach, Chopin, Beethoven, Mozart. But they are never played loud, just softly in the background, almost like the world I’m creating surrounds me.


    • August 11, 2010 2:02 pm

      HI Eliza! Isn’t it great when someone post at close to 3 am then falls asleep and doesn’t get back?
      I love the idea of period music when I’m doing certain parts of planning to set the mood. Your answer is interesting that you had a snap moment. I think I’m hearing that more and more. Some people are also telling me they are learning to “deal with” silence when they write.
      I know what you mean about kids and the TV. My grown nieces and nephews were in town last weekend and have never been broken of the habit, LOL. I’m still trying to figure out how Baby Ben, great-nephew, slept with the noise.

  2. Julie Shumway permalink
    August 11, 2010 6:20 am

    Even though listening to music can inspire story ideas, while I write the stories the music distracts me. I find myself singing to the song rather than writing. Music, for me is best used in the planning, plotting and research phases, not the writing phase.

    • August 11, 2010 2:06 pm

      Hi Julie:
      It seems I randomly sampled the wrong crowd. Period music can be inspiring to get in the mood. I also reserve a part of my planning phase to going in to seclusion and silence. Since I’m so far from the Highlands, I like to access the next best thing. I like to spend a quiet weekend in the Appalachians to get back into the “rugged” spirit of living on the edge of nature. But come writing time, I need the computer off and no background noise, other than a nature song if there happens to be one. Maybe that’s why I like to do my rough draft longhand.

  3. August 11, 2010 6:54 am

    Nice post, i really enjoyed reading this, keep up the good work

  4. August 11, 2010 7:29 am

    I used to write to music a lot. I love Posthumous, but I’ve since learned to appreciate the silence. It drives me nuts when the kids come in and turn on the television while I’m writing. Soon they walk out of the room and I’m left staring at something I never would have watched in the first place.

    As for nature, I love fishing. Its peaceful and I feel the presence of the Lord even if I don’t catch a fish. One of my favorite things to listen to is the chorus of the cicadas. I also love the morning sing song of the birds. Orioles and Sandpipers often make me stop and listen closer.

    Great post, Mary!

    • August 11, 2010 2:10 pm

      Ah, Renee, I love to hear the morning song of birds and the cicadas too! There something about nature sounds, especially those away from the city when I can manage it, that make the outdoors seem like a giant cathedral to me. Apart from a real church, it’s my favorite place to play. So glad to see you here. I’ll be going to see Mom and then catching up on things this evening.

  5. August 11, 2010 7:32 am

    Great post! I cannot write to music–in fact, the quieter, the better. I use different kinds of music to get in the right frame of mind to write, depending on what I’m writing. But when the fingers hit the keyboards, I need quiet.

    • August 11, 2010 2:11 pm

      I totally agree, Suzanne. I actually turn the phone off, TV off, everything. A knock on the door can blow it for me sometimes. So glad you stopped by.

  6. August 11, 2010 7:45 am

    I actually start out writing in complete silence, mainly because I just forget to turn on the music. I write for most the day without distractions but at night, I tend to turn on the music. I select music to fit the mood of the scene I’m working on. For example, the wip I’m currently into is a Viking time travel so I’ve been listening to a lot of a cappela choral music, gregorian chant style music and celtic music. For me, it sets the tone.

    As for appreciating silence, I remember going to girl scout camp and being forbidden to bring any form of electronics (this of course being the radio as that’s all we had then). When my daughter went to camp, the only thing forbidden was the cell phone. I think as kids we resented the enforced silence, but as I grew older, I understood what the purpose had been and appreciated the rule. I enjoyed those moments walking in the woods and listening to nature’s music. It settled my soul.

    Great post and question.

    • August 11, 2010 2:17 pm

      Ciara, I chuckled as I read your post about “forgetting” to turn on the music. I sometimes forget to eat and wonder why I’m cranky at 9 pm. But you’re right about Girl Scout camps. We we were children, we didn’t bring anything. Once I was in SC when my niece was leaving for camp. She took her DVD (before MPGs), about 10 discs, her laptop, and a walkman. I wondered if she was getting back to nature of going to a sleepover at a friend’s house. I remember resenting the enforced silence too. I learned to appreciate quickly though. Of course, since my wreck, I hear the beeps of IVACs and alarm monitors in my dreams that sometimes wake me up. The older I get, the more I appreciate silence.

  7. August 11, 2010 9:09 am

    Hey Mary! I need silence to “hear” the characters in my head; or if not complete silence, normal day to day white noise. Music, tv, etc tends to interfere.

    Great post!


    • August 11, 2010 2:22 pm

      Hi Angelyn! I am loving your story about Andre! I don’t want it to end.
      I like to hear my characters in my head too. By the time I sit down to write, I “see & hear” everything running in my head like a movie, and I taste their food, etc. I may over-research, but I can’t put hagis in my heroine’s mouth if I haven’t tasted it. (I had a ball with putting salami in a Highlander’s mouth). I know writing historicals, silence keeps me in the time period. Writing moderns, lack of it would seem to draw from the tension. Then again, I can’t be rude to my characters who live with me as I write – except for the bad guys, they’re only allowed to visit.:)

  8. Sharron permalink
    August 12, 2010 11:21 am

    Hi Mary,

    I talked to a French person who was transferred to Hong Kong. He didn’t like it for much of the time — too crowded, too much noise, too many people focussed on work and not leisure. He was used to
    the life in France where you work hard but you have a two hour lunch to eat of course, but also to chat, take a walk and contemplate. I used to work in a school where the students were driven to succeed. Five minutes between classes and a 45 min. lunch ‘hour’. Frenetic. I much prefer my present work, teaching courses at uni at a fairly relaxed pace. And writing my novel.


  9. August 12, 2010 4:09 pm

    I’m with you, Sharron. In the 80s, a productivity guru coined the term White Water Response to change. He suggests that as technology advances, the rate of change will increase. People will either adapt or be left behind. I’m one of those people who would just as soon be left behind. I’m getting tired of tredding the currents!

  10. August 13, 2010 2:33 pm

    Hi Mary. I’ve just discovered you through the Writer’s Chatroom promo, where I believe you’ll be on Sunday and, all things being equal, so will I (as a chat-ee not the chat-er)!

    Your bio on your website is one of the most original I’ve read in a while. Quite the humorous turn of phrase.

    You raise some interesting points in this post. I recall that when I was in my twenty-somethings I could write surrounded by all sorts of noise and music. It must’ve been a leftover from those teen years where the ability to screen out just about everything (read parental commands) in order to focus on the most important thing in the universe, the self, is honed to a fine art.

    As I’ve grown older I’ve used jazz/blues for editing, but nothing beats a full orchestral classic symphony (playing softly in the background) when I’m in full creative flow.

    On reflection, the wind blowing through the chestnut and birch trees outside my window comes in equal first with the classical music.

    Is this an age thing? I’m sure of it. I’ve learned to apreciate the subtleties of my surroundings, the nuances of sounds, and the pleasure of my own company. All necessary things for a writer, as well as that teenage ability to focus on the self, albeit tempered with the realisation that we really are not the center of the universe, as much as we’d like to think we are … on occasions.

  11. August 14, 2010 11:37 am

    Mary, I cannot write to music. I am too much of an active listener, as a music professor once told me. Probably has to do with playing the piano—not that I’ve practiced recently. Talking about white noise is a timely subject for me. To save money , we’ve turned off our central fan and air conditioner at night. It’s terrible. Every little noise or movement the DH or I make seems amplified. It’s as if even our brain waves are loud. He can’t sleep at the beginning ’cause I move around; and I can’t sleep once he’s out because of the snoring. I’ve ended up sleeping on the couch a lot to keep the peace. Last night, though, the silence seemed so loud that we both agreed to turn on the central fan!

    But I do like things quiet. When my son was younger, he had a neighborhood friend who loved coming over. He was one of 5 siblings. At the same time, I think my son liked going over there because things seemed livelier.

  12. August 15, 2010 9:44 pm

    HI Mary,

    Yes, sometimes I wonder where we’d all be without the pregnant pauses in life!

    It’s been said that we may soon need to bottle up silence as a commodity.

    Wouldn’t THAT be a gift to someone who is suffering from the constant “on” of city life?

    I like the idea that you may need to listen to music while writing love scenes as God may be watching and listening to your naughty thoughts.

  13. August 17, 2010 9:53 pm

    What a Nice piece! I have the idea that you may have to listen to music while writing and i love it too.

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