Monday Musings: Does music fill your writing soul?

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by Patricia Sands

musicDiscussion on this topic is like a never-ending symphony: some find that music stimulates and helps get them in the mood for writing while others see it as a distraction.

Some authors prefer silence to concentrate, while others crank up the decibels to find inspiration. Then, there are the in-betweeners, happiest when soft background sounds bring calm to their creativity.

Whether the writer is a plotter or pantser, does not appear to factor into the equation. The research was often surprising! Writers of high drama and action sometimes chose quiet soothing classical pieces, while hard rock backed the sweetest romances. Who knew?

In his book, On Writing (one of my favorite reference books on the craft), Stephen King disclosed that he listened to Black Sabbath and AC-DC at ear-splitting decibels as he wrote his horror novels in his early days. Years later, he now leaves the music until the end of the day when he reviews his work. In an interview with The Paris Review in 2006 he admitted, “I used to have a dance mix of that song “Mambo No. 5,” by Lou Bega, that goes, “A little bit of Monica in my life, a little bit of Erica”—deega, deega, deega. It’s a cheerful, calypso kind of thing, …”. Would you ever have guessed?

Today creating playlists for a complete work has become popular, often with a wild variety. I seem to make my decision based on the nature of what I’m writing at the moment and how easily it’s coming to me. There are days when I turn on the music first and let it guide me where I want to go. At other times, I’m so focused on what I want to say, that I forget to put any music on. Those are generally the days when I find myself still in my nightgown at noon!

When I was writing The Bridge Club, the time frame of the story spanned from the 1960’s through to 2010. What a trip down memory lane! There’s no question that the tunes playing as I worked on each section were major influences in bringing back the feelings I needed to write the story.

I began with Bob Dylan, Gord Lightfoot, and their folk cronies and worked through the Beatles, Stones, and Woodstock era, Motown, the Eagles, Leonard Cohen, the Tragically Hip, Elton John, the Eurythmics, U2, Coldplay, Diana Krall, Alicia Keys, Kelly Clarkson: to name just some.

The songs from such different times and places had the power to evoke the same emotions as then and bring memories flooding back. As the characters aged in that story, there were definitely days when my choices leaned more to classical and jazz. Somehow though, our Boomer generation has never abandoned the musical history we experienced in our younger years. The proliferation of ‘oldies’ radio stations bears testament to that and this was definitely the music that most inspired my words. At times the music relaxed me and at other times it was loud and invigorating.

When I began writing The Promise of Provence, we were living in France for five months and I listened to French music most of the time. My happiest discovery was Zaz, a young woman with an eclectic Gypsy jazz style that I found energizing. The lyrics to the song “Je Veux” could have been written for one specific scene in my novel. That was uncanny. You can find Zaz at http://www.zazofficial.com/.

Since I also was writing about the pain and joy of romance, Adele was another constant companion. When I typed “The End” I felt I should list her as a contributor!

There are most certainly times when music is my muse. What would you say?

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2 thoughts on “Monday Musings: Does music fill your writing soul?”
  1. it depends on what i’m writing. period pieces always need music. i love your 1960’s playlist. i just finished some sci-fi stuff set in 1978, and continually looped zeppelin, fleetwood mac, the doors etc… when writing.
    thanks for sharing the post.

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