I’ve always written. I remember as a child writing Ghosts ‘n’ Goblins fan fiction. I didn’t know that’s what it was at the time, but looking back on it, that’s what it was. As a teenager, I would write short stories based on the adventures of my Dungeons & Dragons characters and really bad Goth poetry. Most of my fiction writing took a back seat in graduate school to the academic research I had to do. And now, I’m back to writing fiction. One thing has remained common: I’ve always had music in the background while I wrote.
No, this blog post isn’t about writing music. I’ve done that, and I would describe my compositions as average at best. No, this piece is about the music I choose to listen to while I write.
First, I want to say that my musical tastes are varied, but they do lean toward the darker side of music. I love baroque and romantic music for chamber ensemble and orchestra, opera, musicals, heavy metal, goth music, German pop music, blues, jazz, and anything connected to Eurovision. I’ve got songs for just about every occasion. Most people wouldn’t know that, because I only listen to a small portion of my music around others.
When I write, I tend to listen to instrumental music. I find this helps me focus, because if there are lyrics, I eventually end up singing along and sometimes acting out scenarios related to the song’s lyrics. And yet, even a bombastic symphony from Beethoven keeps me calm and focused. As someone who has ADHD, keeping me focused but not hyperfocused can be a challenge, and, to an extent, instrumental music aids in that.
I don’t pick pieces that relate to the content of my writing. Now, I will go and create Spotify playlists for characters and narratives after I’ve completed the story. I choose pieces that speak to me at that moment on an emotional level.
Lately, while drafting Liam’s Doom, I’ve listened to the lofi hip hop on various YouTube channels. I’m a huge fan of Chilled Cow and Homework Radio. The music on these channels is amazing, and the “radio-style playlists” help me time writing sessions to roughly one hour before I take a 10 minute break. For me, these timed sessions with breaks between them also help me avoid hyperfocus, which can lead to a 10-hour writing binge where I forget to eat.
When I’m focused and calm, I find inspiration flows more smoothly. I’m not an emotional writer who believes that I must sit in silence or torture myself for inspiration. Yes, ideas can come from anywhere, but inspiration – the spark that sets words to page – comes from striking the match of the pen against the paper, or from striking the matches of the fingers upon the keyboard. I remember reading where Stephen King said that his goal was to write between eight and ten pages each day, knowing that he may trash most of them during the revision process. I received similar advice in a writing seminar during graduate school.
As a side note, I pull out the death metal and Wagnerian opera when I edit my work and when I grade student work. The power, the energy, and the bombast really help me during that time – especially when I need to take a merciless red pen to my own work.
I’ve always found that inspiration comes through doing the work. The more I write, the more freely and consistently inspiration flows. Does this mean that I need fewer revisions? Well, each time I write, I need fewer revisions than the time before. I’m not perfect, but the more I write and the more consistently I sit down and devote my time to my writing, I find small improvements. And music helps me accomplish this. With NaNoWriMo starting today, I will probably be posting my writing playlist as well as the playlist I make for the story itself as it emerges.
So, what music do you listen to for inspiration?