I bought yet another album full of music that I don’t like very much today. I was getting tired of the other albums of music I don’t like very much because I’d listened to them so often. I listen to quite a lot of music I’m not a fan of.
To be fair, I don’t particularly dislike them either, I just don’t get any particular pleasure from these tunes in the way that I do from some of the music I actively enjoy. However, this is music that is useful to me.
If you don’t recognise any of those titles and artists above, they come from a subgenre of electronic dance music known as Minimal Tech House. It interests me very little and I could certainly tell you almost nothing about any of the musicians involved. I listen simply because sometimes my back hurts.
As someone who writes as a large part of their job, I spend a great deal of time at a desk. That used to mean spending a great deal of time in a chair. However, I find that if I spend too long sitting in an office chair, no matter how good the office chair, I get a sore back. And not just for the afternoon – it deteriorates. It’s cumulative. If I keep it up for a week, then I have an unpleasant weekend.
So, as faddish as it might seem, I’ve become a convert to the standing desk. At least, during those times when my back is playing up, which thankfully is less often than it was – though I’m going through one of those times at the moment. It’s not debilitating, just annoying. Like being unable to stretch your legs on a long flight.
By ‘standing desk’, what I actually mean is a coffee table on top of an ordinary desk. I haven’t shelled out for an expensive adjustable arrangement. You can always take the coffee table off the desk and sit down again, and I do that a lot.
Standing and working at a computer is kind of weird. I mean, it feels weird. I’ve been doing it on and off for a couple of years, and that weirdness has never gone away. I find I can’t stand perfectly still and type. So (and this is going to sound even more nonsense)… I dance.
In my defence, I don’t mean that I jump around and wave my arms about (often). I just sort of bob along to a beat. But it can’t be anything I particularly like or something with lyrics, because that’s just too distracting. Minimal Tech House seems to be at just the right tempo (usually in the 124-128 bpm range) and is just boring enough to be completely ignored other than as tempo and a consistent, acoustic environment that draws no attention away from what my brain is meant to be focusing on.
I can write in silence when sitting down. In fact, I prefer that. But when standing, listening to this stuff, I get immediately into a rhythm (both physically and with the writing) and I can pretty much stand and type while grooving away for hours at a time (with five minute breaks every half hour).
My Radio in the Digital Age book (forthcoming Nov 2013) was written almost exclusively to a soundtrack of this stuff. Likewise Understanding the Music Industries. The last journal article I wrote and the one I’m currently working on too.
I couldn’t name a single track if called upon to do so – but for some reason, for writing standing up, this is my preferred soundtrack.
The ‘dancing’ (I use the term loosely) that I do is, I imagine, a moderately healthy activity – at least when compared with sitting in an office chair all day. A bit like having one of those treadmill desks (which I also kind of fancy).
And, when I’m in the groove, I can be incredibly productive. 4-5000 perfectly usable words per day is not out of the question when I really get going. I may look like an idiot and my friends with impeccable music taste might judge my listening choices, but I’m in my house with the door closed, so really, who cares?
But the interesting thing for me is that it only really works because I don’t care for it much. Turning this stuff off signals the end of the working day, and I can go and listen to records I actually like.
I could never write a book while listening to the good stuff. I mean, I can barely even hold a conversation.