I like to have music playing when I’m writing – it helps me switch off from the thousand other things I have to do, so I can focus. Usually I put on a playlist of my latest faves, but sometimes an album comes along that is the perfect soundtrack for a scene or a section or a character, and I put it on repeat.
I love it when that happens because it gives me immediate access into the work. As soon as I hear the first few notes, I’m in the scene and everything flows.
This happened during Saving Grace while I was working on a section set in a fictional remote country town. The main characters are teenagers at that point in the story, wrapped up in their own little awkward world and barely registering that the real world is falling apart in the background. I selected one of my favourite albums and when it finished, another came on that I hadn’t got around to listening to. It was Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs. It captured the mood so perfectly, for a moment I thought my iTunes had developed a mind of its own and chosen it deliberately (side note: it’s actually scary how often it does that, maybe there’s something Apple’s not telling us?).
To me, this line from the song really sums up the same combination of teenage disinterest and fear I was going for: ‘But by the time the first bombs fell, we were already bored.’
Here’s the song:
Listening to it helped me tap straight into the mood of that section of the book, and became my go-to soundtrack during the rewrites. So thank you Arcade Fire and thank you scarily appropriate iTunes.
So if you get stuck with a scene or section of your book, maybe try searching for a song that fits the mood of it and see where it takes you.
I always like to have something playing in the background when I write, and I find music (lyrics) to be such a good source of inspiration too.
Great post. I’ve actually envious you can listen to music when you write. I can’t write to any songs with lyrics–I can’t concentrate on my own words while also listening to others. Instrumental stuff is okay but I’d love to be able to listen to anything.
Thanks Niels. I know what you mean, I can get lost in the lyrics too, but somehow when I’m writing I can go into a different headspace where it all blends into the background. I also usually have a lot going on around me when I’m writing, so I think I’ve learnt to use the music to block out everything else. Good luck with your writing!