• Jules

To Listen, Or Not To Listen, That Is The Question


neon sign
Photo by Spencer Imbrock on Unsplash

I was speaking with some friends the other day about what kind of music they listen to when they're working. I'd noticed that when I do my graphic design work, I can only listen to music with a repetitive beat (nothing with singing, and certainly no podcasts). They agreed, saying that when they were editing photos, working on the computer or having to read through text, they could not have podcasts and music playing - it was too distracting.


What is interesting to me, is that it's the opposite when I'm painting. I enjoy diverting my 'thinking' side of the brain to podcasts and songs, rather than working in silence. I find I zone out more easily (get in the flow) when I have music with lyrics, particularly of songs I really like.


I wondered if, on days when the critical voice was strong, whether it would be a good idea to play a podcast that I could get lost in. This way my attention would be diverted, and I could just get on with the 'doing'.


Is this difference to do with different types of creative work using different parts of the brain? For example, graphic design work involves a lot of text and specific processes, so uses the more rational/linguistic side of the brain.


In neuroscience, we know that you can't listen to two things at once; your brain switches from one audio source to the other. It's the same with reading, because you read aloud in your head, it's impossible to read and listen at the same time. This is possibly why it is ok to listen to the radio (you can dip in and out of it without losing track of what's happening) rather than listening to a podcast (where missing parts of it can seriously affect your overall understanding of what is being said).


And, painting is a bit more intuitive (particularly if you have a strong sense of where the artwork is going). I'd imagine mixing paint doesn't involve the language side of your brain, and if anything, engaging feelings rather than thoughts while you're painting is probably a good thing. It might access a part of you that will feel more authentic and expressive than if you were merely thinking it through.


It's definitely something I will be looking at when I next do my painting session, and seeing if it makes a difference.

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