Here and there, I’ve had online discussions with other writers about their “writing soundtracks.”
Some writers require silence while they’re hammering away at their WIPs. The thought of listening to music, even their favorite song, while they’re creating just doesn’t sit well. Others have certain artists or songs that they have playing as background noise while they’re creating their masterpieces.
Normally, I fall somewhere in the middle. As a general rule of thumb, I can’t write with background noise. The TV must be off. The dryer can be rumbling, but if it happens to give me one of those damn “I’m done” buzzes in the middle of a critical writing moment, I’m toast. And music? No. If I play a song that inspires me while I’m writing, the next thing I know my fingers are tapping in time to the music rather than pounding out words on my keyboard. My brain is mumbling the words to the song instead of delving into my character’s heads.
What I do instead is use music to unclog the brainwaves if I get stuck. If I hit a wall and just can’t seem to break through, I’ll take a breather and play a favorite song or two. A little Weezer, some Toby Keith, a dose of Jimmy Buffet, Counting Crows. The song will vary based on my mood. But whatever it is, I’ll focus on nothing but the music and jam out for the duration. I might even bop around like a Superdork in my living room and squawk like a chicken (for me, that’s what passes for singing).
It may not be pretty, but it clears my head. More often than not, when I turn off the music and settle back down with my story, the words are flowing again. I’ve gotten unstuck.
So I guess I’m a writer who needs silence when writing, with the occasional break to soak up some music mojo.
Over the last few months, I’ve learned that I have one exception to the “no music while actually writing” rule.
Lee has always been a musician at heart. He’s had electric guitars over the years, but didn’t have one when we met. I did get to see videos he had of himself playing with a few other guys. He is and always has been a hard rocker, and those jam sessions showed it. The music was loud, fast and angry – but angry in that good kickass way.
Now, I love to go there with music, but in limited doses. That’s my kind of a music at a concert, before a good sporting event or maybe for exercising. But when I’m just chilling at home, I generally want something more mellow. Deep down, I’ve got a country girl’s soul. I’m also known to go a little “geek” with my music, as I call my love of Weezer or Bowling for Soup.
Since all I had to go on was the videos, I figured that was what Lee does with music. Hard core. And it is.
But earlier this summer, our neighbors across the street had a yard sale. Sitting out on their lawn amidst piles of clothes and knickknacks and the kind of stuff I generally refer to as “OPJ” (Other People’s Junk) were two acoustic guitars. We decided that Lee would wander over and check them out, and if they were reasonably priced, get one.
He came home with a guitar and the biggest grin I”ve seen on his face in a long time. Even his smile when the Ravens stomped the hell out of my Steelers last week doesn’t really compare.
On an acoustic guitar, he’s a different musician. He still rocks. But he also goes blues, and a little country. And now and then, even a little punky. He’s never learned to read music, but you wouldn’t know it when he’s got the guitar in his hand.
I don’t like writing after work. My brain is fried. This has made my writing goals tough since we’ve gotten back to going to the gym in the mornings before work. So I’ve figured I have to try, at least a few times a week. I can’t do ALL my writing on weekends and random days off if I want to meet my goals and still have a life.
So one night about a month ago, I came home particularly inspired. On a worknight, that feeling is like someone serving me a hot fudge sundae for dinner when I’m used to a steaming plate of broccoli. Instead of forcing myself to sit down and hammer out a page or two, I was rarin’ to go.
As I was working, Lee came out to the living room, sat down with the guitar in his hands, and started strumming. At first, I worried that it would break my concentration, since I’m a “silence writer.” It did for a minute or two, but I forced myself to keep going. And before I knew it, I found myself in a different kind of zone. His playing in the background, just loud enough to be heard but not overpowering, drowned out all the distractions in my head. The world was just us, his music, and my words.
For whatever reason, I suddenly CAN write with music in the background, as long as that music is Lee on his guitar. Maybe it is because he doesn’t sing when he plays – there are no catchy words getting stuck in my head and taking my mind off the ones I’m typing.
But I think that’s only part of it. What I really feel is going on is that I’m inspired by the creative vibes in the room. Sometimes when he plays Lee emulates the music of his favorite guitarists, but more often than not he’s making up his own thing as he goes along. Since he doesn’t read music he records the songs he’s made up with our camera so that he’ll remember them. He’s not just playing. He’s creating. He’s making music.
And, for me at least, there’s something about someone I love being in a creative zone that helps me get there too. He’s there doing his thing. I’m there doing mine. We’re both doing something we love and tapping into the creative wells that are a big part of who we are. The guitar is strumming, the keyboard is clicking, and all is right with the world.
I love those nights. It is wonderful to finally be able to have a soundtrack for my words.
It is the soundtrack of creativity.
What is YOUR writing or creative soundtrack? Do you listen to music while writing or use certain songs to help kick in your creative mojo? Or are you a total “silence writer?”