Pat Rice here.
I don’t believe it’s headline-making news that writers are essentially ADD-impaired thinkers. One thought leads to another, which leads to another, which leads to looking up a reference, which leads to two dozen more books, and then to note-taking and before we know it, voila, there’s a book in there somewhere.
Ah, that I could limit my attention-deprived mind to simply reading books. Alas, it also becomes distracted by many, many other things, like earworms–songs, jingles, and tunes that get stuck inside my head. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to write a straight sentence with “YMCA” kicking and grinding through my poor, worm-eaten brain cells?
I have written an entire book on the basis of a single earworm that wouldn’t leave me alone. I wrote another that just spilled lines from songs across the page because I was writing about music. My subconscious is so blighted with earworms that any phrase can generate a line from some old rock or folk song. Who hasn’t had “We Will Rock You” pounding in their head after accidentally colliding with it in radioland or elsewhere?
You will note the use of a quote from AA Milne’s James James Morrison Morrison in a previous blog. That did not come because I have memorized Milne. I couldn’t memorize my phone number if you threatened me. But the poem has been set to music and sung by the Chad Mitchell Trio and weaves through my mind like a cold in my nose. I’m likely to sneeze it out at any irritation. I mean, who can resist a line like “King John put up a notice: LOST or STOLEN or STRAYED! JAMES JAMES MORRISON’S MOTHER SEEMS TO HAVE BEEN MISLAID.” The whole song just begs to be chanted (loudly) at the drop of a pun. Did I mention how distracting this is when I’m trying to write my own words? (King John said he was sorry…)
I know this plague of bad music sticks in my head for a reason, so—naturally—I went in search of the reason instead of working on the book in progress. The term earworm apparently appears in a scientific study summarized at WebMD which acknowledges that these snippets get stuck in the minds of women and obsessives more than others. Everything gets blamed on estrogen, doesn’t it? Has to be that because I don’t have enough memory left to remember an obsession. My memory cells are eaten out by earworms.
And so, of course, marketing latched onto this very lucrative penchant of ours with catchy jingles that we sing in our sleep. For more songs that will make you want to drive a screwdriver through your ear, check out http://newsfeed.time.com/2010/10/22/earworms-the-science-of-songs-that-stick-in-your-brain/ and http://www.noiseaddicts.com/2010/06/catchy-songs-earworms/ . At least you’ll laugh while banging your head on your desk in time to the music.
For me, Simon and Garfunkle’s “My Little Town” is the ultimate earworm. I have no idea why, but I had it in my head for an entire year. Even though my S&G collection is sacred ground, I was tempted to smash it into toxic dust if it would have rid my brain of that miserable little number. And just when it would start slip, sliding away, my husband would play it again. He’s too handy to have around to stomp into toxic dust, but there were times….
Any of you got earworms? Theories on why they move in? Or how to get them out? (Don’t ever go down to the end of the town…)