It happens every time. The day after watching "Mamma Mia" I have one or two of those ABBA songs running in my head. All day. It's more than slightly irritating, but there is something about those tunes that my brain seems to like. They're familiar. Familiarity breeds earworms.
Digression: Why is it impossible for me to remember someone's name who I met last week, but absolutely possible for me to sing along (word perfectly) to every song I heard on the radio while I was a teen? This strikes me as a terrible waste of brain space.
A form of earworm can pop up in writing; it's that phrase that sounds just a touch familiar. I'm not talking about cliches, I'm talking about famous phrases. No writer is able to have their character say "You can't handle the truth!" without their readers picturing and hearing Jack Nicholson. I don't recommend a character saying "To be or not to be" even if they are working out some algebraic equation. Your detective can't employ their little grey cells nor can your heroine say to her true love "You had me at hello."
These type of phrases, from both books and movies, stick with me; I blame my years as an actor and the resultant necessity of memorizing scripts. The reason, of course, is that every one of those phrases (and there are thousands) are so wonderfully written that they have become part of the lexicon. No character can ever describe their work day as "It was the best of times and the worst of times"....even if it was. When I write many of these phrases pop into my head, but my self-editor ensures they don't leak through my fingers, unless a character is actually quoting the phrase.
I keep a notebook filled with lists of words (usually verbs) I come across while reading. Words that aren't usually in my everyday vocabulary, but words I love. I also have lists of phrases that pop up in my head that I like the sound of. I want my writing to sound like me, but I want it to be me at my best. I use a thesaurus; but with discretion. I know when I've hit the right word because I can almost hear a 'ping'; it's a similar feeling to knowing when I've got the right name for one of my characters.
Do you have a problem with earworms? Do famous or familiar phrases pop into your head while writing? Or am I standing out in the field all alone?