If music be….

Music has always been important to me. Fashion, not so much....

Reading this post by Raelyn Barclay made me think about the role of music in the writing process. Which sounds TREMENDOUSLY pompous, so maybe I’ll start again. A lot of writers make mention of listening to music while they work. Stephen King often quotes lyrics at the beginning of his books, and I can imagine him playing the tunes as the words scurry across the screen.

For a long time I thought that music might somehow infect my brain, that I needed the purity of silence to assemble my prose. That lasted until computer technology caught up to the extent that I could play music while word-processing. After that it was always music selection before starting up the literary engines. But still I worried about words fighting words, and I plumped for instrumental pieces in the main. At least three of my short stories were written to the sound of “Rennaisance Love Songs” which I quite liked, but was completely unable to sing along with.

It didn’t take too long before I realised that when I was writing, really writing (I’d say “When I was in the zone”, but I can’t carry off phrases like that, sorry.) the music would fade away. I’d look up from the screen and realise the playlist had ended and I hadn’t noticed. And if that was true, then all bets were off and anything goes as far as music is concerned.

Right now on my go to list I have: Avril Livigne, Paloma Faith, Jewel, Iron Maiden, Guns n’ Roses, Dire Straits, Pink, Bruce Springsteen, Taylor Swift, Nerina Pallot, Natalie Imbruglia…. Don’t bother looking for the common thread there, because there isn’t one. They are some of the songs I have that I know I can listen to over and over again. There isn’t one on my playlist that pulls me out of the writing fugue to think “Oh, not this one again, skip it, skip it….”. As far as I am aware, I don’t sing along, or jig up and down, or tap my foot.

So it’s no secret, I’m afraid (unless you were surprised that I’m a fan of Taylor Swift – and why wouldn’t you be? She writes her own songs and they are GOOD! Honestly, songs that I can relate to that my thirteen year old weasel likes too? Gold, folks, solid gold.) but I like to listen to music while I write.

How about you blog reading folks out there? Are you musical writers, or do you lower the ear defenders to get enough peace and quiet to construct a world inside your head?

Sometimes my musical wanderings lead me to write plays, many of which have been published by the good folks at http://www.lazybeescripts.co.uk . I have ammassed so much experience in the field of writing for Community Theatre that a deputation was sent from the Vatican to plead with me to produce a guide for ordinary people on the subject. After many hours of ceaseless toil I realised I couldn’t put it off any longer and wrote a handy-dandy e-book on that very topic. Called “Writing a play for Community Theatre” it’s available for download at http://www.tlc-creative.co.uk and it’s a veritable bargain.

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22 responses to “If music be….

  1. I don’t have a playlist as such, but always write better to the wallpaper of sound and chatter produced by BBC Radio 2. Silence scares me.

    • Very impressed that you can write while DJ types are talking. Mrs Dim misses Radio Two more than anything else from the UK, I think – we can get it here, but the eight hour time difference makes it a weird experience…..

  2. I have playlists for each novel that I write to. Sometimes the songs just make me think of the characters, and sometimes I choreograph whole scenes to them, but I MUST have music to write by (even if it’s only in my head, which works just as well as outside of my head).

    • Hey Becka,

      I can totally get behind this idea. Sometimes a song will play in the car and I just KNOW it’d lead to a good story if I had some way of writing it down without causing traffic chaos. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. A few observations/confessions:

    1. You can TOTALLY pull off the phrase “When I was in the zone.” Absolutely! Rock it, Mr. T.!

    2. I have a Barry Manilow station on Pandora. It helps me write. Don’t ask me why…

    3. I just bought my daughter tickets for her and I to see Taylor Swift in concert in September. I’m almost as excited as she will be next week when she receives them on her ninth birthday. 🙂

    4. Fun post!

  4. I usually have Pandora playing when I am writing. The mood of the story usually determines the station.

    Heaviest in the rotation: Apres Moi Radio and Lamb Radio.

    • Thanks for pitching in you guys! You’re obviously more net-savvy than me. I still hear the word “Pandora” and think of Avatar 😦 I know there are stations online that let you define your playlist, but the ones I build at home are so personal, and I never have a clunker come along. Maybe this is why I have yet to acheive world-bestriding success? Or perhaps it’s my dress sense?
      Mikalee, I’m soooo jealous of you guys going to see Taylor Swift. I watched the video of “Fearless” and her concerts look like so much fun. Strangely, she hasn’t responded to any of my invitations to come round for tea. Then again, I’ve heard she’s ill at the moment, so maybe that’s it…..

  5. I write with music and usually work best when there’s something on in the background. I do choose the energy level of the music according to my mood but then it fades into the background.

    Sue, who shares my office and my life, despairs of us working together as she likes quiet. She can stand my music only for short periods…. but we have a big house and earphones!

  6. Thank you for the shout out Damian 🙂

    I’m such a technology numb, LOL, I’ve not created playlists despite having a Pandora account. My music comes via the Sonic stations on my TV or :gasp: a CD. Excellent post and now you’ve got me thinking MORE about how music relates to my writing 🙂

  7. This is very interesting, to see what works for other people and also to think about what works for me. So often I don’t give thought to what I’m doing – the methods – I just do it.

    I do find that I feel a bit off-center when the room is quiet, but once I start writing I don’t notice the silence anymore. For whatever reason, though, I prefer to play a movie in the background. Once I get involved, that starts getting on my nerves and I mute it. Just mute. When the movie’s over, I restart it on mute. Strange. I haven’t figured that one out yet.

    There is a particular task at my day job that requires a lot of concentrate, and I really do that job better if I’ve got my instrumental playlist on high volume. It’s got classical, swing, country, rock, all kinds of music, just no words. I’ll be bopping along, but I’m more distracted without the music. I wonder if it’s just habit that makes me need it?

  8. sometimes my job even requires concentration, as well as concentrate

    • Oh, I wish you could buy concentration concentrate…Just add water and BOOM! Instant concentration…What was I saying? Oh yeah. Playing movies? Wow. Playing movies is usually a sure sign that I’m avoiding working. When I write, the pictures are all in my head, and I have to be looking at them. I love movies too much to ignore them, whereas the music just becomes the soundtrack. Writing in silence (like I am now) is unnerving. But doesn’t disturb my co-workers so much.

  9. A Propos the first comment by Richard James, I have long held that my vision of hell would be a closed cell supplied with only Radio 2 and the Daily Mail.
    At one time, I did a lot of writing whilst sitting in Dutch restaurants (where there was background noise which could easily be shut out because if I wanted to understand it, I had to concentrate hard). These days I work best when my office assistant is around as I feel duty-bound not to be distracted!

    • I was really hoping the reduced time available to me might sharpen my resolve, but I find myself worrying too much about what to use my precious time on! Maybe I need an assistant to make me focus?

  10. Since I never know what might be going on while I’m writing, I can and do write to anything from Wizards of Waverly Place to WWE Smackdown on in the background. So, if music is on it’s a lovely alternative. I once brainstormed an entire book to Shinedown’s The sound of Madness — literally using every song as part of the book.

    I love that your music is all over the place. I love so many different kinds of music, so I think it’s funny when people will make fun of something I like.

    • What I think is hysterical is the number of artists that my kids have started to like because I found them…Tiniest Weasel knows all the words to most of Paloma Faith’s songs, and all three are fans of Pink and Avril Livigne. Sometimes I worry that they’re going to become Jazz fans, or listen to Frank Sinatra as the only way they can rebel….

  11. Sometimes I like music when I write some days I don’t, it just depends on the mood. I do the same though, I’ll start with the music and forget everything but what I’m writing (welcome to the zone). When the music ends I don’t know but usually I don’t even try to start it again because you know, I’m in the zone. Lol.

    P.S. I’m glad I’m not the only one around who likes Taylor Swift. I’m guilty of liking some of Miley Cyrus’ stuff, too.

  12. Miley ROCKS! My guiltiest secret is having “Butterfly fly away” on my “Cool songs” playlist. It’s from the Hannah Montanna movie, and it’s a duet between Miley and her Dad. Although he wrote and performed the second worst song in history, “Butterfly fly away” is beautiful. Or it may just be because it’s a daughter singing about how cool her Dad is…. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KrL8ndJRgcQ

    • Oh, I love that song, too. I take it you’ve watched the movie, too? It’s the Climb is a great inspiring song. Guilty secret #2? I watched the last two years of Hannah Montana and the movie twice. Ah hem. I mean with my daughters of course. Lol.

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