Music makes the words come together

I used to think I could never write while listening to music. But last year, I decided to give it a whirl, and now I can’t believe I didn’t try it sooner. Now, I don’t sit down at my desk without first loading up some playlists on Spotify. (I’m writing this listening to a mix of Bon Jovi ballads – no judging till you re-listen to Wanted Dead or Alive, please.)

I didn’t dive into full-on power ballads, Nope, I had to dip my toe in gently so I started with a bit of classical music – piano and orchestra – basically anything relaxing that didn’t have lyrics. I was convinced listening to someone singing would result in me accidentally typing the words I was hearing, but I’m a cowboy; on a steel horse I ride… OK, bad joke, but the point is, that didn’t happen.

In fact, the point about music isn’t really the lyrics, it’s about the mood it inspires. So, when you need energy, try a bit of Justin Timberlake, when you’re feeling angry, I recommend Garbage. (Shirley Manson can perfectly convey every shade of ‘screw you’.)

My work-in-progress is set in the record industry, so maybe it was obvious that listening to music would help get me to the finish line. When my heroine is riding in a car with the Love Interest and is just starting to notice her attraction to him, it made sense to heighten the scene with music. Cue a bit of Marvin Gaye floating from the car stereo. When they go to a karaoke bar, I took ages choosing which naff 80s tunes she has to sing – ones she’s way too embarrassed to admit to secretly liking. (Def Leppard’s Pour Some Sugar On Me and Aerosmith’s Love In An Elevator, in case you’re wondering.)

Some authors need to create playlists for their characters before they can get properly stuck in, and I can see the appeal now. After all, shouldn’t the type of music your character enjoys be something you should know before you can properly write her?

Being a rock journalist, my main character is (a lot) cooler than me and her musical taste reflects that, but I still had fun picking the songs that made her roll her eyes whenever she heard them, especially when her non-industry friends professed to adore said songs. (I have a love/love relationship with boybands.)

So, as I embark on Book 2, I’m spending some time happily making playlists. And I get to call it work.


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4 thoughts on “Music makes the words come together

  1. I laughed at the bit about not listening to music with lyrics! Same here. I worry that hearing words will jumble up my creation of words, or at a minimum, will distract me from writing because lyrics will demand listening, instead of just passively hearing something by, say, Ravel.

    But I’m willing to learn from your experience, and will now dare to expand my playlist. Also liked being given a peek into your WIP—a rock journalist! Rooting for you, Chris, and looking forward to reading it when it’s in print.

  2. gnognella

    “If music be the food of love, play on…” Thank you, W. Shakespeare! But this is a really interesting one isn’t it? It could conceivably be argued that music is most definitely also the food of imagination. I for one am quite incapable of setting one coherent word to paper, or screen without it. In my case, classical, but also folk, ‘traditional’, jazz even though I blush to admit it, airport departure lounge, ‘lounge’. Depends on the mood menu of the day.

    I am so impressed and happy that you raised this particular subject, Chris! There is so much archaeology to be carried out in this particular field.

    1. It’s fascinating, isn’t it? I need to vary my taste a little. I might take a leaf out of your book… although I’m not ashamed to admit to liking lounge! Hope you’re keeping warm! Chris x

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