I have always listened to music when I write; over the last three novels, I’ve carefully selected a sound track to write to that reflected themes, character, or tone of the piece/scene/novel I was working on. When i commented on twitter about this, M. pallante replied back very quickly with an interesting comment. I asked him for a blog post on music and writing and he obliged. As always, feel free to comment at the end. Do YOU write to music?
@m_pallante guests: Should you really play #music while you write?
There’s one dimension that both music and writing intrinsically share. Music is necessarily about conflict and resolution.
Its no wonder then that so many writers choose to listen to music when they work. I know if I was alone with nothing but my thoughts and a blank sheet of paper I’d go stark and or raving mad.
A lot of writers like to set their playlist like a soundtrack to their novel, and imagine the songs as the score to the film version. This has its benefits, writing a tense scene with the psycho music playing will have the obvious effects. But, in general writing is as much of a craft as it is an art so music can perform a different function.
When I write I choose music which stimulates or calms me- so my mind is either focused enough or free to work the intricacies of plot or the unique problems of dialog. For this reason I tend to avoid heavy rock or anthemic type stuff- anything which draws my mind away from the story is bad.
For that reason I find songs with a mantra quality, lots of repetition, or of a character which centers my mood work best for writing. In the past this has included everything from new age music like Shantala, to modern rock like A Perfect Circle or Tom Wait’s unique brand of blues and jazz.
The thing which all these varied “soundtracks” have in common is their transcendental quality. I’d have a hard time writing to Velvet Revolver because I’d be singing along, and don’t even try to get me to work while listening to the Beatles! They are fantastic and stimulating acts- but they engage me on a whole other level.
Any song that puts you in a mental ‘place’ that is easy to write from is a good song to listen to. Think about changing your soundtrack up and seeing how it affects your focus and voice.