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Gary Borders: Crank the music, I'm ready to write

I spend much of my waking hours in front of a computer screen, either at the office or at home. In my day job, I post items to Facebook, update the website, design fliers and brochures, process the photos I have taken in Photoshop, write press releases and other material. These are solitary endeavors for the most part, requiring the meager talents I bring to Thrive360, the nonprofit for which I handle communications.

Then I come home, and at some point in the evening return to the computer screen — either to write, process my personal photos, or work at my second job, which is as a newspaper broker covering five states. I attempt to put together buyers and sellers of newspapers and magazines. Much of this work is done by email at night.

This is a new gig. A lot of legwork will be required before it bears fruit. But I am patient, and it is fun to stay connected to newspapers, which provided me an excellent living for nearly four decades.

Thank goodness I can walk early every morning and hit the CrossFit gym three times a week during lunch hour to offset all those hours spent moving a mouse around a screen. It is a good life.

When I’m not listening to Red River Radio, I stream music while working. I use earbuds at work so as not to subject my co-workers to my musical tastes, and I close the study door at home. One of the benefits of this ongoing digital revolution is access to vast amounts of free music —if you are willing to put up with a few commercials an hour. For the past several years I have used Pandora, but recently I finally caught up with the hipsters and downloaded the free version of Spotify.

The music world suddenly expanded vastly. One cannot download music using the free version (I’m cheap), but every artist I have searched for has albums on Spotify. My quaint habit of purchasing one or two CDs monthly through Amazon — and then transferring them to iTunes — is about to end. I can endure a couple of 15-second commercials in exchange for having a musical universe a mouse click away.

One way writers can be classified — a minor distinction, admittedly — is whether they require utter silence while writing, or if they prefer the music cranked up to spouse-annoying levels. I fall in the latter category. I am convinced that listening to a fine singer-songwriter spin a tale fuels my paltry creative juices.

One reason I can listen to music and still concentrate on what I am doing, whether it is writing a column or designing a flier, is that I spent nearly 40 years in newsrooms, where one is constantly interrupted — especially as one’s responsibilities grew. When I was a lowly photographer, I did my job relatively unimpeded. But when I became an editor and then a publisher, constant interruptions were part of work life. Unhappy readers, reporters with questions, photographers with complaints, car dealers demanding a discount on their ads, and so it went. I learned to not lose my train of thought, to be able to type away at whatever I was working on — even as a babble of voices rose around me.

My musical tastes are eclectic. The common thread is women and men who know how to tell a story. Tonight, besides Paul Thorn, I listened to Mary Gauthier, Chuck Prophet, Alabama Shakes, Guy Forsyth, Ruthie Foster and Jason Isbell.

Music provides the soundtrack as I do my work — create or correct, edit or editorialize. As I said, it is a good life.

Gary Borders has been an East Texas journalist and editor for more than 40 years. He works now as a freelance writer, editor and photographer. You can see his work at garyborders.com. He has written for World Wildlife magazine, Texas Monthly, Texas Observer and Airstream Life.