What is the Sound Track to Your Novel?

musicIf someone were to ask for a playlist of the songs you listen to while you write; what music would be on the list?

Being an artist, and make no bones about it – you are, means that we need to be connected viscerally to so many different influences. I know some writers that have to have coffee and chocolate within arm’s reach and others who light a lavender candle before they start typing.

Music is like that. It is a stimulus. I attended a writer’s workshop once where the leader gave us a writing prompt and then turned on some classical music. Once we were finished she had us do the same exercise with country music playing on the radio and again with rock n’ roll. It was interesting how different the writing results were based on the music playing.

For some, music with lyrics that were familiar distracted them from writing because they found themselves singing the words in their mind. Others struggled regardless of the music and needed absolute silence to be creative. I believe Simon and Garfunkel wrote that song….Sounds of Silence.  Boo hiss. Yes, I hear you.

Music is an important part of my personal writing experience. When I wrote Milo and the Green Wagon I enjoyed listening to Enya.

How about you? Have you ever considered what outward stimulus is most helpful or harmful to your ability to write?

Melissa Tydell wrote an article for The Write Practice that offers suggestions on using music to help your writing.

She offers these questions to help you think about music as an inspirational tool to your creativity:

Turn on music that you love. Listen carefully.

  1. How does the song make you feel?
  1. What do the lyrics make you think about?
  1. What kind of story would use this song as a soundtrack?

If you don’t already use music to help you in the writing process, why not give it a try. Select a song or an album of music that you enjoy. While it plays in the background, start writing and see if it inspires you to write or forces you to get up and dance around the room.

What do other writers listen to? I found a blog article in which the author interviewed several published authors about their writing playlist. A few answered like David Quammen. David is the author of a new book on the next human pandemic, Spillover.

Music to write by?  I’d love to give you some juicy personal choices but the fact is: I write in silence.  Closed in my cave of an office, lined with books, very little window, no distraction by the beautiful mountains of Montana, no background music.

 An equal number of writers in the article did have musical preferences as part of their process:

David Wolman David is a contributing editor at Wired and the author, most recently, of The End of Money.

 I need to get pumped up to write, which means I listen to some decidedly un-relaxing tunes, often the same ones over and over again. And who knows? Maybe loud music helps my writing because the prose has to compete. Without tempo and sharp diction, the words will be overwhelmed. It’s as if the music provides both a challenge and a warning: DO NOT BE BORING. With that, I give you the most recent iteration of my playlist entitled “Write The Book!” (in part)

“Paper Planes” by M.I.A.
“The Funeral” by Band of Horses
“Sleepyhead” by Passion Pit
“Time to Pretend” by MGMT
“Helena Beat” by Foster the People
“In This World” by Moby
“Bad (live)” by U2

David Shenk. David’s most recent book is The Genius in All of Us.

 I can’t listen to Bruce or Elvis or the other Elvis and come up with any worthwhile sentences. I can’t listen to Aimee Mann or Wilco or Martha Argerich or Richard Thompson or The Frames. I can’t listen to the very best-crafted songs or the most resonant voices or the sweetest melodies or the most blistering guitar solos. Way too distracting.

But I can listen to some of my very favorite stuff, including:

– Keith Jarrett, solo or trio, preferably the longer pieces that wander off in search of something genuinely new.

– Yo La Tengo, the louder, completely unapologetic pieces

– Philip Glass, the hypnotic pieces (i.e., all of them)

To read the entire article visit Music to Write To.

Bottom Line: I believe the point is that the music you choose to play, or not play, while writing is a very personal thing. Try different styles of music and see if they evoke a different tempo of literature.