When I'm writing and the work is going well (so not recently, then) I write in silence, or more commonly with frequent interuptions of 'Mum, when's lunch?' or 'Mum, where's my football kit?' or the phone ringing - and perish the thought anyone else should answer that!
But when things aren't flowing it is often music I turn to. Not just any music. It has to be something that stirs my emotions. Something about suffering, unrequited love, or loss - you get the gist - and the world of music is full of that.
My first novel published, The Songbird and the Soldier, was written to a year of James Blunt. By My Side used only one particular song by Rihanna, which I had on repeat for months on end. I have a batch now that I have on my ipod and I listen to them while I'm doing the cleaning and yes, they always help. They never spark an idea in themselves, but they put my emotions in the right place so that I can come up with one.
The final thing is my view. I know that's not always easy to come by, but a window is all that I really need. For a while there, when my back was bad, I thought I would have to shift upstairs onto the proper desk with the correct height chair for it, but that desk faces a blank wall and the thought of that crushed me. I can't think when my mind is trapped in. I need space; a horizon to drift to. Now that I have the dining table sorted with my kneely chair and my laptop riser, things are better and my view is restored. It feels essential to me. It may not to you.