I think they call them "earworms." Have you heard that term? Now that you have, you can’t get it out of your head, right? And that’s exactly why I can’t listen to music when I write.
Don’t get me wrong. When I was in high school, much to my mom’s chagrin I insisted I could not do my homework without listening to music. I had my little transistor radio, and I would put that plastic earpiece in, and bop around to Da Doo Ron Ron or I Get Around or It’s My Party. Dancing in the Street. And then: The Byrds, Simon and Garfunkel, Joni Mitchell, Judy Collins… And then the Beatles Beatles Beatles. I cried when they were on Ed Sullivan. I was president of the Midwest Chapter of the National Beatles Fan Club. (High school. A blog for another day.)
But I digress.
Now, older and wiser. I’m a television reporter, have been for 30 years, and there’s not a moment of my workday when the television is not on. Sometimes three of them, all turned to different stations, all humming and buzzing in the background. And I ignore it, until my brain (is it the hypothalamus?) picks up on a word or phrase or sound that drags me to the remote to zap up the volume. Extraneous noise? Nope, it’s just the music of the news, and I’m used to it and embrace it.
But in my study, at home, at the computer, working on the next Charlotte McNally mystery--(Which, ta-dah! Just sold to the wonderful Harlequin Next line, and will be called Air Time. There’s Prime Time, on the shelves now as I hope you know, and Face Time, coming out in October. Then Air Time, and then Drive Time! So go meet investigative reporter Charlie McNally, age 46 and counting, savvy smart and successful—and just a tad worried about her age…)
But I digress.
Anyway, at home, working on the computer, I cannot, cannot listen to music. It’s the earworm thing.
What’s an earworm? Let’s say you’re in the grocery, and that Muzak is on. Just in the background. And you have the misfortune to hear "It’s A Small World after All." Ahhhhh. That darn song is going to stick in your brain, humming over and over, forever. It’s an earworm.
How about Saturday in the Park by Chicago? (Saturday, in the park, I think it was the fourth of July…) Ah…stop. Oh Mickey, you’re so fine, you’re so fine you blow my mind…
There’s a commercial for sour cream about "a dollop of daisy." Have you heard that? I heard it once, and sang it for about a week.
And so, that’s why no music when I write. Or read, even. If it has words, they stick in my brain and play where my own words are supposed to be.
Otherwise, bring it on. Turn it up. Radio. CD’s. Records! (remember those?) But not while I’m thinking about Charlie and her adventures.
Do you have your personal earworms? Tell me—if you dare!
Hope you’re having a prime time of a summer…
Hank Phillippi Ryan
PS. Someone told me: if you get an earworm, the only cure is to sing Jingle Bell Rock. Okay, I know. It sounds weird. But it does seem to work.