Digging Deeper with Music

I’ve often heard the debate between writers – music or no music?

While I can respect both sides and I myself can write with both silence and with music, I do prefer to have a soundtrack to my story. Not that I necessarily need a structured song by song, chapter by chapter playlist matching every moment, but I do create a writing playlist and put songs on there that I think my main character might listen to or songs that might inspire a certain mood my character needs to be in at certain parts of the story.

How do I put myself into the right frame of mind when I enter my writing space?

Usually I can get back into my scene by just rereading a few passages from my last writing session. I picture in my head where I want to the story to go next and off I go. Other times it takes a bit more work. I may have just had an enjoyable conversation with a friend or just woken up in a pleasant mood. Not the best time to be writing a heartbreaking sobfest moment, is it?

When I’m writing the toughest, most intense scenes in my manuscript and I need to connect with my characters – how they are feeling when their worlds spin apart, when they’ve been dealt a devastating blow – it helps if I can access those deeper emotions in myself.

What music does for me.

The problem is that these feelings aren’t always easily accessible on my complicated surface – I don’t always wear my heart upon my sleeve. For me, the right music cuts through my over-thinking, defensive layers and lets me tap into those deeper emotions. When I listen to music like Bon Iver’s self-tilted album with tracks like Perth and Wash. and Holocene, the piercing melodies along with Justin Vernon’s haunting harmonies dig inside, deeper than I let anybody else in. They help me access the raw energy and emotions that I need to help me bring my characters to life. Once I feel what one of my characters is feeling – maybe utterly and completely alone in the world – then I can write it. That is hard for me to imagine in an emotionless vacuum  of silence. I must have access to the emotions first.

Here’s Bon Iver’s Wash. video for your enjoyment.

13 thoughts on “Digging Deeper with Music

  1. It’s usually instrumental movie music I use as a backdrop for my illustration, kind of akin to having a soundtrack score album to my ‘movie’. I can see the use for this perspective. Might have to try it some time.

    1. love moody instrumental music. i’ve heard many writers swear by soundtracks. i think i should get some. what are your favorites? i like jonsi & alex – their riceboy sleeps album and some max richter. andrew bird is also really good to write to although not all of his songs are instrumental.

  2. I definitely use music, both instrumental and lyrical, as inspiration for writing and when brainstorming or outlining certain scenes. But when it comes to the writing, I need silence. Too much noise and I’m completely distracted! Especially with music, because then I’ll just let myself be whisked off by it instead of working. =)

    My husband thinks I’m crazy because if I’m driving, I prefer the radio be off. I like the silence!

    1. i think i may be just the opposite. the only time i really need to shut off the sound is when i have a complicated plot problem i need to figure out, but then i usually just need to turn off the music with lyrics. when it’s really bad, or if it’s just been a stressful day and the kids have been too loud on top of everything else, i need silence just to rest my ears.

  3. I almost always have music on in the background, normally my favorite radio station. I think it helps me concentrate. If I’m at a coffee shop, doing some writing, the music keeps me focused so I’m not constantly looking up when someone walks by. And if for some reason I don’t have the music on at home when I’m writing, it just feels odd.

    Okay. Below are three boxes where I assume I put my name, e-mail and website if I so wish. But it doesn’t show me where to put what. It’s just three blank boxes. I hope this comes out right.

    1. thanks so much for your comment. i like that it helps you concentrate. i think it does that for me too – especially when i’m out in public writing.

      as for the email thingy. i’m not sure. i’ll look into it. if you don’t get an e-mail update later in the week. come back and try again! thanks for stopping by!

      1. suzi, i checked the three boxes and the first one is for your e-mail address, the second is for your name, and the third is for your website address, if you have one. once you click on each box, the labels disappear. that may have caused you some confusion. hope that helps!

  4. I used to always write and revise with music but with my new historical novel I prefer silence. I’m not sure what changed! Perhaps it’s because of the change in genre. I can write with music or background noise but I’m no longer turning the music on to start writing.

    1. interesting. i wonder if the change in genre is the difference. i have a friend who writes historical fiction and she picks out a very specific piece of music that reflects the time period when she writes.

  5. It all depends on my mood! As with others, certain songs will help me get into that mood for writing. Especially if I’m feeling rather chipper, but must write an intense and emotional scene, music definitely helps.

    However, for the most part I usually just stick my headphones on, then go to youtube and find one of the nature sounds channels. I just sit and write to the sound of rain, ocean waves, a creek, a river, thunder storms, morning birds chirping, a windy valley…really whatever strikes my fancy for that writing day. Some of these even go on for two or so hours, which act as a great timer for my writing as well.

    1. oh! i like the idea of writing to the sound of the ocean or other nature sounds. i might actually be able to picture myself there! great idea.

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