I’m listening to Hall and Oates, in my head, right now.
“I can’t go for that, no, no, no can do, well I can’t go for that, can’t go for that, can’t go for that….”
Go figure. When I’m urging my brain synapses to fire and work with me, my brain decides that I need to relive the 1980s. I have to remind my brain that I am not writing about the 1980s this week – high school, college, bad hair, bad boyfriends, bad jobs – that I am writing about traveling. I have chastised my brain, but it refuses to work with me here. It has basically just informed me that it doesn’t give a shit if I want to write today and that, in fact, it is time to rock out to Hall and Oates. And then, as if in punishment for the unrelenting bickering my brain and I are engaging in in my attempt to turn off, or in the least, change the song on the jukebox in my head, Hall and Oates seems to be getting louder, almost deafening. My brain and I are going through a break up right now.
I do this fairly regularly – listen to entire songs in my head. Most often it’s in the shower, in the morning, when I’m still half asleep, half in bed, half alive, pre-coffee, pre-consciousness. In the time that it takes me to wash my long hair and my lanky body and shave my legs or other parts, if necessary, and rinse and, repeat, if necessary, I can complete quite a lovely, all-in-my-head version of Sugar Magnolia. Or, depending on the morning, Bill Withers, “Lovely Day.” Or, depending on the day ahead, a good ol’ Tom Waits tune. It’s how I wake up most every morning, with music playing in the background.
I’ve seen almost every band, artist, or musician that I have ever wanted to see in my lifetime. Almost. The playlist that I have in my head rivals anyone’s ipod, yet perhaps not my friend George’s vinyl collection. And, my photographic memory is such that I can pull up just about any song that a moment may require. Thus, if I’m among friends, and you may be one of them, and I appear to be zoning out, I’m generally, simply, quietly, and most probably, listening to the soundtrack in my head.
What is not helpful, or joyful, is when my head tune gets in the way of my writing. If I have approached some sort of impasse – a word or a turn of a phrase or a hitch in getting to the meat of a topic – this is when my brain decides that it is the perfect time for some groovy music. As if on cue, and as if waiting for just the right moment of hesitation, my brain decides that this is it’s chance to recall me listening to the Allman Brothers, “Well there’s a man down there, might be your man, I don’t know,” at the House of Blues in New Orleans circa 1996.
This insane phenomenon that I possess explains why I tend to write when I’m drinking. The wine, or beer, or bourbon, or whatever is the adult beverage chosen for the evening, seems to drown out the songs in my head that are competing with the words I’m trying to put down on paper. Someone recently asked me how I write when I’m buzzed. It’s not a secret to the writers who do it, and I suspect that is most of us. As Ernest Hemingway so eloquently stated, “Write drunk. Edit Sober.” Oscar Wilde most assuredly wrote that completely fucked up, but awesomely absurd and creepy story, The Picture of Dorian Gray while imbibing, perhaps at The Palace Bar in Dublin. Certainly Gonzo journalist himself, Hunter S. Thompson, used drugs to smooth his rapier-like critiques of American society. I suspect that these writers, much like myself, found themselves in their heads so much that they needed a way to dull the voices, or in my case, the music, that was drowning out the emotions they were trying to express through words.
I’m sure that there are many good, nee great, writers out there who don’t drink a lick of bourbon. (Read Anne Lamott, one of my heroines). But for some reason, I find that my writer friends who like to imbibe are slightly edgier, funny, introspective, self-effacing, and, generally, much more interesting to be around. So, I’ll continue to write drunk (or somewhat buzzed) and, edit sober. This piece included.