When I am writing comics, I need for the music I'm listening to to reflect the emotion I am meditating on in the scene. I also try not to listen to music with lyrics if I am writing because they will distract me and it can quickly become counter-productive. I will sometimes even note down what I was listening to while creating a draft of a scene so that when I return to it for final drafts, I can slip into the same emotional state I was in before. In instances where I've found a song that really suits the emotion of a scene, I will often listen to it on repeat so that it puts me into almost an emotional trance.
For physically writing out dialogue and narration in a final comic draft, I also cannot listen to anything with words. Otherwise, it’s too easy to get distracted and miss a word, skip ahead, or create some kind of grammar error.
On the other hand, if I am doing something that is more about technical drawing and measuring, for instance creating a physical space in a drawing, managing perspectives, or patterning, I often listen to light podcasts and audiobooks that are easy to digest and/or that I have heard before so that I can both focus and not focus on each. I've found that this makes the task feel more comfortable.
When I’m doing independently driven work related to my day job (answering emails, creating trainings, or assessing feedback), I try to find music that will keep me motivated. This really fluctuates depending on how motivated I feel. Some days I want 90s punk rock anthems to amp me up, other days I want ambient tones that help with stress release and focus, and sometimes I want hiphop music with a lot of bass to keep me plugged in. Some people are able to listen to podcasts while they work, but I find that I never actually get things done that way because most of the passive parts of my job are reading and writing based.
It's also a good idea to not listen to anything from time to time. If I'm plugged in 90% of the time that I'm at my desk, I start to feel disconnected or overly stimulated.
Hannah Dunscombe is a painter and portrait artist based out of Brookline, MA.