Monday, February 6, 2012

Music Makes the Imaginary World Go Round

I'm a huge, huge fan of music. The majority of my day, whether I'm commuting or while at work, I'm listening to music. It's a vital part of my life, and that also extends to my writing. When I listen while writing, not only does it help inspire me, but it also allows me to immerse myself in the world I'm creating. Like blinders on a horse, plugging my ipod in helps me remove myself from the outside distractions and concentrate on the task at hand.

Speaking of distractions though, I can't just listen to anything while writing. I usually rotate through maybe five different bands and several movie scores that I'm very familiar with. I've tried listening to new stuff, even from some of my favorite bands, and my mind wants to pay attention to the lyrics, and it seriously hampers my writing ability. So when I listen to those old familiar tunes, I guess it acts as sort of a white noise filter, albeit a much catchier one. But I also have to be careful that the music fits the mood of the scene I'm writing. Let's face it, washing the dishes can become an intense and emotionally draining experience if you're listening to this.

And yes, I'm definitely speaking from experience on the subject. While it might bring on an unwanted anxiety attack, a song like that might be perfect for that chase scene you're working on. I've done some author interviews on my blog, and something I usually ask people is if they listen to music while they write. Here are a few of the responses:

Heather Dixon, author of Entwined: I listen to a lot of soundtracks. Lots of Hans Zimmer, Patrick Doyle, Alan Menken, Danny Elfman, John Williams, John Powell, Miklos Rosza, James Newton Howard, Alan Silvestri, Nicholas Hooper…and all those talented fellas.

Jaime Reed, author of Living Violet: I write with music, the louder and faster the better. When I edit, it has to be ABSOLUTE SILENCE. Don’t call me or knock on my door, or else prepare to get cussed out.

Trisha Wolfe, author of Destiny's Fire (and someone with excellent taste in music): I listen to music in every area of my life, except for when I write. I actually find it distracting. I’m a huge music fan, and that means I start jamming out instead of working. I like to make playlists for my books, though. And I listen to those while doing mundane things, and that helps with future scenes as I’m working on a book. For DESTINY’S FIRE, I listened to a lot of Florence and the Machine. Blinding, for me, is Dez’s song. It gives me chills every time I listen to it.

So it's all across the spectrum I guess, from listening not at all to all the time. I know people besides Trisha even create playlists for certain scenes and characters. The other day on Twitter an author posted that she had made character playlists, and one of her characters had horrible taste in music. I thought that was hilarious. As for my own writing, I tend to be on the pretty much all the time side. Like I said before, it helps me zone out of this world and zone into the world that I'm writing. In fact, there's a quote by conductor Sir Thomas Beecham that kind of goes along with this:

I definitely agree with this, as when I'm writing I need to get out of my conscious mind and somewhere that I can get in touch with the story. Some of the bands that help me do that are Social Distortion, The Gaslight Anthem, American Steel, Nick 13, as well as film scores from my favorite two composers, Danny Elfman and Hans Zimmer, among others.

So how about you? Do you listen to music when you write? How about during revisions? And who do you listen to? Do you make playlists or just hit shuffle? Maybe you can introduce me to my new favorite writing band.


Anita Grace Howard said...

Great choices, Dan! You can never go wrong with LOTR anything. ;) And Danny Elfman and Florence and the Machine almost always find their way onto my playlists.

I tend to make fresh playlists for each book I write. It has to fit the mood of the book, and the setting, too. So if I'm writing something grittier or steampunkish, there would be a different style of music making up the list than for, say, a fairytale spinoff. But I always have music around me. It feeds my muse.

Jordan Dane said...

Hey Dan--Great post. Love music, but like Trisha, I can't listen to it while I write or edit. I search for character songs and do playlists for each book. I love powerful lyrics too. They can really inspire how I portray the characters.

Recently I did a blog post on music inspiration for my latest book series - THE HUNTED. Anyone who suggested a great song that fit my book or a character, had a chance at becoming a character. O'Dell Hutchison of BOOKTWIRPS recommending a great song that fit my character Lucas. "Down" from Jason Walker that was featured on the Vampire Diaries. O'Dell is now a very menacing villain.

Dan Haring said...

Thanks Anita! I do tend to cater the music more to the books/scenes I'm writing, but I haven't made actual playlists. I might have to start doing that. And yes, music is essential :)

That's interesting Jordan. So you write in total silence? I do that sometimes, but usually only because I don't realize that the music has stopped. And I actually re-read your lyrics post to make sure mine wasn't just a re-hash. Having people suggest songs is a really cool idea.

Jordan Dane said...

My house is NEVER totally silent. We have 2 rescue dogs and new construction going on. I've gotten good at blocking out though. I have an office upstairs--our media room turned into my retreat--so I can close the door and tune stuff out.

And as for re-reading my post on music, I think we could all write about how music influences us and none of those posts would be the same. HA!

I love the music suggested on your post. I'll have to check your tunes out. Who knows? You could earn a spot as a corpse.

Wendy Corsi Staub said...

Dan, I'm also into music--I'll happily listen to just about anything except country, and happen to be a huge fan of U2 (I had a groupie summer with my teenaged sons in tow and saw the U2 360 tour 3 times in three different cities). Certain playlists on my iPod evoke specific scenes in books I'm working on--usually rock, good and loud, when I'm on the "dark side"--and when I get stuck for inspiration, I often turn to a playlist that includes the Sondheim soundtrack from Sunday in the Park with George, and a couple of songs from Rent. Both shows are about artists and the creative process, and somehow, the soaring music and lyrics invariably help me get back on track.