I draw a huge amount of inspiration from the music I listen to in every stage of my writing process. I have thousands of songs loaded on my iPod, and I love to put the thing on shuffle and just let Jeff take to the wind. My mind will often drop into the zone of brainstorming without me even planning it, setting a scene to a particular song. The creative juices start flowing, and for the four-to-six minutes the song's playing, I'm locked deep in my imagination, the music playing as a soundtrack to the movie in my mind.
I also listen to music as I'm actually working on the novel. I don't do this all the time; sometimes listening to music as I write screws with my ADD, distracting me, and I end up looking for the "right song" to listen to as I compose a particular scene, wasting several valuable minutes in the process. But other times it's exactly what I need to transport me to my fictional town of Bulton, SC. I've composed a playlist over the last seven months as I've been writing the novel. The playlist has evolved, growing and changing as the novel does, but the core music remains the same.
I've populated my playlist with some good old rock n' roll, of course - the Eagles are a large part of the lineup. I've mentioned before how the song "Heartache Tonight" was a huge influence in a pivotal scene in the novel... and I swear, if this damn thing ever gets made into a movie, I'm pitching the song to the director... it's that concrete in my head. Other grit-yer-teeth rockers include Creedence Clearwater Revival and the newcomers Deer Tick. (I'd love to call all these bands Southern rock, and I know a good many people think of them as such. I just can't in good conscience do that, though, because CCR and the Eagles are from out West and Deer Tick is from RI.)
I've also got a good bit of Murder By Death on the playlist. Their epic rock-meets-country-meets-orchestra sound, coupled with beautiful dark lyrics and an underlying current of desperation, fit my little Southern ghost story very well. I chose some tracks from the Fleet Foxes, because their mellow, folk-y sound makes me think of the South in general and Appalachia in particular, most likely because of their song, "Blue Ridge Mountains".
Then there are a few single tracks from different artists and movie soundtracks, which feed my brain beautiful images and keep it running at high speed. I've had a lot of fun building this playlist, and I love to see the influence it's had over the tale I'm spinning. I'm continually finding songs and adding them to the mix, so by the end of this I'll have hours and hours of music that I can choose a really solid soundtrack out of, to burn to a CD for myself... sort of a behind-the-scenes extra, if you'll allow me that indulgence. You'd better, 'cause it'll just be for me anyway.
I love hearing what other writers were listening to as they composed their particular masterpieces, especially if they showcase lyrics from a song as a foreword, or mention it in their notes. One of my favorite horror authors, Joe Hill, recently published (on his blog) highlights from the playlist he listened to as he wrote his new novel Horns. You can check out that blog entry here - it's a really interesting read.
How about the rest of you guys? What have you been listening to lately, as you compose your masterpieces? Do you need a playlist to work, or would you rather have silence as company? I'm interested in how our creative processes differ.