Writerly Habits 2: The Playlists Keep Coming (or the marriage of music and writing)

(I had this post all done and ready to go last night, so all I’d have to do in the morning was press ‘Publish.’  And then I forgot to.  Can you say “fail”? Oh well, anyway, enjoy.)

Here’s a habit I’ve noticed to be fairly common among writers: the use of music to help focus, inspire, associate with specific scenes or characters, etc.  I’ve been known to do this, and many of my writerly friends do the same.  When I was in high school I used to create playlists for different stories; sometimes I’d have entire playlists just for one or two main characters.  These playlist got… interesting… to say the least.  I look back at some of them now, and I’m not really sure what I was thinking.  However, it still holds true that I absolutely have to have music playing to write effectively.

It really is just the perfect marriage of arts: music and writing, together forever.

I’ve learned through experimentation which artists/albums/genres will distract me, cutting through my thoughts so that all I can think about are the lyrics or melodies I’m listen to, and which ones will create a background.  I think of this background like a wall of sound that helps to block out unwanted noises and thoughts and keeps me focused on the task at hand – a little like blinders on a horse.  For such purposes I’ve found that Vivaldi and Bach are fantastic.  I also tend to listen to the Sherlock Holmes soundtrack quite a lot it, because its energetic and invigorating without being distracting (and completely awesome).

I also still associate certain genres or artists with certain stories or scenes.  For instance, one of my WIPs is a high fantasy with dark overtones and a strong, somber female main character.  While working on this story, I tend to listen to female-fronted metal bands: Within Temptation, Nightwish, Flyleaf, Evanescence.  And for a few scenes, I find that Mozart’s Requiem Mass in D Minor is the PERFECT soundtrack.  For another one of my WIPs, an urban fantasy about a demon hunter, I listen to The Killers (let me admit right now, I’m not entirely sure HOW The Killers became associated with this story, it doesn’t make much sense when I think about it, but there ya go…).

Those are just a few examples to give you some idea how my mind works.  But I’d love to hear what others listen to.  Specific artists or songs?  Do you make playlists?  Do you look for music that is quiet and good for background music, rather than songs that are associated with stories or characters?  All of the above?

Inquiring minds want to know!

(Also, I am ALWAYS on the look out for new music suggestions.  I am VORACIOUS when it comes to music, and I’ll listen to almost any genre.  Send them my way!)

9 thoughts on “Writerly Habits 2: The Playlists Keep Coming (or the marriage of music and writing)

  1. I’ll have to try the classical suggestions you made. I can write in coffee shops with music playing, but if I’m playing music of my own in my room, I inevitably end up dancing in front of the mirror instead of writing. lol.

    • Haha! I dance alot when I’m doing the dishes and cleaning the kitchen. I blast The Killers or The Beatles or something and dance around like a moron with soapy hands and a dish rag hanging over my shoulder.

  2. **rubs hands together in glee**

    Where to start? At the beginning, I suppose.

    Long story short, when I started writing it was Duran Duran all the way. There’s something deeply inspirational in their music for me. I come back to them time and again because their music evolved (and is still doing so) as I grow, so there are always new places they take me to.

    Another artist I flood my ears with when writing is JC Chasez. There’s just something in his voice that grabs hold of me and transports me. Yes, even some of the NSYNC catalog!

    Of course when I’m needing to write the funny, I grab my copy of the soundtrack to “Once More, With Feeling,” the musical episode of Buffy.

    There’s more, but I don’t want to clog your blog with my rantings! 😀

    • Ah, Duran Duran. I used to listen to them alot. I haven’t really in quite awhile now though. I might need to change that.

      I also have the soundtrack for “Once More, With Feeling.” Totally CLASSIC! God, I love that episode! Man, I may need to go watch it now. (Thankfully, I own all the seasons… ^_^ )

  3. Interesting thing – while I seek out music obsessively when looking for inspiration, there are times when I actually have to have it quiet to write and any music, even soft instrumental will distract me. I’ve never completely figured out why, but I wonder if it might have something to do with how I get started. If I’m sitting down with the intent to write and looking for a place to start, I usually listen to music to get into the mood. Often actually, I’ll pace/dance around the room for a while to certain songs with the volume up in order to soak it into me until an idea hits, then sit down to write. Other times, if an idea happens to hit me more randomly, I’ll sit and jot it down, and if i try to turn music on in the middle of it, it’ll usually irritate and distract me. But not always. And sometimes I’ll be writing and have to turn the music off to better be able to focus. And then there are also my autistic moments where I need to have the same minute-and-a-half song on repeat for 2 or 3 hours straight while I try to get a scene just right. And sometimes it’s just trial and error.

    But I do definitely have more than enough playlists. And heck, with something like TN, I have at least one song that’s “officially” going to go with each chapter. And pretty different styles for different stories, although I find it interesting that most author’s playlists are pretty personal selections. Some songs just naturally fit…other times I’m like “hmm, i wouldn’t have picked that for this scene” even if it’s a cool song…but I definitely like seeing what songs people recommend for their stories. Sometimes music gives more insight into characters or a setting or a moment that words can’t. But yeah…

    Oh, and for recommendations…Denny introduced me to this UK band called Hurts. I haven’t quite figured out which story of mine to link their stuff to yet, but I know it has to go on a playlist somewhere. ^^

    • Joey! You haven’t commented in AGES! YAY!

      And LOL, about your very complicated reactions to music. (Not that that surprises me, you are insane after all… ^_^ ) I remember some of your older playlists. They were always really interesting.

      And yay, thanks for the recommendation! You know me, always in need of new music! ^_____^

  4. Just about anything from the Killers or Muse are really helpful to me. However when I need to grind write (what I call writing an essay) I find that fast paced music is what I need. Usually electronic music with a slightly faster pace than dance tracks. Darkcore, terrorcore and cybergoth genres seem to work best for me when writing an essay.

    This is a good example of my grind writing music.

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