Monday, March 22, 2010

Writing Playlists

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.


Rake the Gnome said...

I've had a strange mixture of genre's inhabiting my playlist here lately, Most of it is anything from Ensiferum to Outkast. I have a decent bit of Cake, Murder by Death, and Flogging Molly as well. I like having music on when I write because it blocks out the rest of everything thats going on around me to focus me on what I'm writing. It has been known to give me inspiration though, which has yielded some of my favorite bits of writing.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Music inspires me as well, especially for the emotional scenes. (I lean toward hard rock and prog rock.) Stream of Passion's first album was an inspiration for my latest book.

Megan Bostic said...

Cool blog today. You've inspired me to blog about music. I'll link to ya.

Creative Chronicler said...

Music inspires me but I have to say when I'm composing the pieces for my blog I usually have the TV on in the background or it's quiet. For one of the books I'm working on, it's humor and comes across better if I say it out loud first so I carry a digital recorder around and talk into it, usually when driving, so the background is what ever happens to be around me at the time. Now when I draw, it's instrumental, classical or new age.

I do love your choices of The Eagles and CCR, they are two of my favorites.

Creative Chronicler said...

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Helen Ginger said...

I need silence to write or I begin to listen to the music or my DH on the phone in his office instead of hearing the words in my head. I have, though, created a song list for one book I worked on. I listened to it to get myself in the mood. Now, whenever I hear those songs, I remember the book.

Straight From Hel

Anonymous said...

I've always tended to use playlists as triggers - although I'm coming to think that sometimes they actually prevent me from conveying an emotional response in the writing as well as I could, because I see the material while the music's playing and it makes me feel as if the emotion is already there...

Karen Jones Gowen said...

Silence silence silence-- total and complete. My kids say I'm a music hater. No I'm not. I'm just a silence lover. Anyway, I gave you an award today, come by and pick it up when you get the chance!

Tamara Hart Heiner said...

dropping over here from KarenG's blog.

Music does that for me too. I can't seem to help but create a story for the song. excellent brain food!

Arlee Bird said...

It's usually classical for me or silence. Unless I get in a mood for something else and then it can really very.

I have a novel that's been on the backburner for a long time that deals with East Tennessee in the early 70s and whenever I get back to that one I'll probably be playing a lot of Allman Brothers.

I like the stuff you listed.