Over the years, my attitudes towards listening to music while I write have 'evolved', by which I mean they have 'wimped the fuck out'. In my ordinary day-to-daily, as you may know, I listen to all sorts of music, but I generally tend to favor, for causal outrocking, heavy metal, hardcore hip-hop, and the more aggressive sorts of indie rock. However, these things make me want to be up and about, active, "doing something". I can listen to that sort of music at work, and it helps pass the time, or I can listen to it when I'm editing or proofing someone else's work, but when I'm doing the actual work of writing, or even researching or editing my own whatnot, I tend to find it too distracting. (Same thing applies to the tee vee -- I can have it on when I'm doing really basic, mindless work, but if I'm writing anything, it instantly becomes a distraction and I can't get any work done, unless what I'm writing is a review of what I'm watching.)
Now, I'm not exactly proud of this. I could be looking at the past with my special I-am-awesome spectacles, but it seems like I used to be able to write while listening to whatever the fuck I pleased. Beyond that, listening to music while I write is an efficient use of my time, since I'm always trying to hear me some new music, and it seems like I always got some writing to work on. But facts is facts, and the facts of this situation is, I find most beat-driven music, and almost all music with lyrics, too distracting when I'm writing. No matter how hard I try, I end up listening to the music instead of paying attention to what I'm doing.
There's a few exceptions to this: I can generally listen to my absurdly overweight collection of field recordings (French elevator noises, water sounds, and the so forth) when I'm writing. Most concert music of a non-atonal sort, and a lot of instrumental jazz, is okay; in fact, hard bop is my preferred music for writing these days*. And I can listen to certain types of ambient electronica, the stuff you can't really dance to.
So this is my cross to bear, but is it yours? That's my Question o' the Day for you -- if/when you're engaged in what you consider 'creative' work, be it writin' or drawin' or fashion designin' or what have ye, what do you like to listen to? Do you find you get distracted by certain types of music, or do you listen to any goddamn thing you please, or do you gots to work in silence like a ninja? Let a fella know, I gots the insatiable curiosity like I was Marilyn Chambers.
EDITED TO ADD: As an aside, the ONLY time I find music a distraction is when I'm writing. At all other times, I try to have it on always. It doesn't bother me at all when I drive -- in fact, I'm one of those dicks who booms his system, inasmuch as the system in a 10-year old Saturn station wagon is capable of booming. When I'm at home and not working, I almost always have either music on the stereo or a movie on the TV. I would listen to music all day at work if I didn't share an office with someone who finds it distracting. I can listen to music or video programming as I drift off to sleep. I INSIST on blaring loud music when I cook. And I seem to recall that I used to like listening to music when I had sex**, although I was sorta picky about what it was.
It's only when I'm writing that it seems like a distraction. Odd.
*: As a total aside, I was shocked to discover this weekend that MusicChoice is pretty good. I dunno if you know this, but it's the digital music service that comes with your cable service (or, at least, that comes with my cable service) -- like a hundred stations or so at the end of your cable dial in various genres. I always assumed it was mainstreamy crap, but I happened to tune in to the Jazz station last night, and it was actually terrific -- a good blend of new and classic stuff, lots of different styles from ragtime to post-bop, no shitty 'light' jazz. There was some kinda mediocre modern stuff, but some good, adventurous stuff too, and the classic stuff wasn't light at all: lots of guys like McCoy Tyner and Charlie Mingus, and not just the more mainstreamy stuff, but their avant-garde work as well. It never drifted into free jazz or experimentalism, but for what it was, it was surprisingly high quality. 'Course the visuals are for shit, but the music was damn good -- makes me wanna see what else his happening when you flip past the upper reaches of the PPV porn.
**: Sex is a thing I remember doing once or twice when I was younger. I'm no longer sure what it is.