Writing & Music

Yes, here it comes. The blog that every writer writes (especially the YA ones, for some reason. We love our music, I guess). The blog…about music and writing.

I never used to be able to listen to music when I wrote. From my first “novel” (I use that word loosely in this case) all through college and a year beyond, music would just distract me. This fact actually kind of bothered me, because I wanted to listen to music while I wrote. A lot of times, as soon as I would finish something, I’d pop on the music just to feel some relief, to get something else in my head.

The only time, during all those years, that I used music when I wrote was when The Husband and I got our first apartment together. It was in a house divided up into three or four apartments, and there was one right next to ours. The couple that lived next door was…interesting. He was, as I called him, the Jack of All Trades. If I needed something, he would tell me that he used to do it, but for some reason was unable to now. Case in point: when I locked myself out of the apartment, and needed to get to my very last class of college–ever. He informed me that he used to be a locksmith, but his equipment was in Ohio. Then he told me that I should keep a key in a magnetic box under my car. Buddy, I thought, I left the barn door open and the horse is already ten miles down the road–and you are not helping. Also, when we got our wedding pictures back, he informed me that he could edit them all to look absolutely perfect (*ahem* I already looked gorgeous, thank you, and the photographer did a great job with editing)–but he didn’t have his computer anymore. I wondered if, should I need a Sumo wrestler for some unknown reason, he would offer his services except that he didn’t have that weird loincloth-diaper thing they wear handy.


His live-in girlfriend was quite loud, and spoke very slowly. She was quite nice otherwise, but this could get annoying to a serial-sentence-finisher. I’d be sitting at my computer, trying to write, and she’d be talking on the other side of the wall, and I could hear every word. And I wanted to finish her sentences instead of the one I was trying to craft in whatever masterpiece I was working on.

So–in that case–music. Loud, loud music.

Then I got my first tech writing job. For the first few months, the small office I worked in with about seven other people was rather quiet. I never bothered listening to music, because it was easy to get wrapped up in my work in such a (relatively) peaceful environment. Then an employee returned from a long business trip. An employee I’d been warned about.

You see, he had severe untreated sleep apnea. He would fall asleep quite frequently at his desk, which was two over from mine. And snore. Loudly.

That first day he was back, he fell asleep three times before lunch, for an average of a half hour each time. I spent my lunch hour at Target, picking out headphones. From then on, as soon as I heard the first snore, those headphones got popped onto my head, and blissful music would replace all sound.

And from then on, I vastly preferred having music handy while I wrote.

This preference slowly evolved into something. I was still working on my first (real) novel then, and I can honestly say that no particular songs popped out at me as appropriate for it. Once I started my second novel, however, a few did, and I created a small playlist of about nine songs. The trend continued with my third, and a bigger playlist was created–about thirty songs. I used it when I needed to get back into the mood for the story, when I felt blocked, whatever. What at first seemed a procratinatory tool became very useful at my lowest writing moments.

I never organized these playlists, however.

Until now.

Let me tell you, this was an otherworldly experience. See, usually I just scribble down a song in my notebook if I’m writing and it speaks to me; if I hear it while I’m writing, I pop over into a special document I keep just for my playlist and add it. Sometimes I’ll hear a song while I’m driving, and I practically melt at how perfect it is for the book. But it’s always just a random group of songs, never a structured set that reflects the book itself.

When I actually ordered the songs in a manner that follows the plot and pace of Grim Light, I felt this natural high come on me, this feeling of completion. Here was this set of songs that rises and falls with my plot, that speaks in the voice of my narrator, that follows her path. And it was wonderful.

And now I’m sharing it with you. I posted it in the sidebar, so if you’d like (and if it works, ahem) you can pop over to Rhapsody and look at the track list or even listen (although I think you have to sign up for that, but I’m pretty sure there’s a free account that will allow you to listen to up to 25 songs, and there are only 24 in the playlist).

And in case it doesn’t work, I’ll post the plain tracklist in my next post. It won’t make nearly as much sense to you as it does to me–obviously, since you haven’t read the novel. But what is a blog if not for sharing things that don’t make sense to others.

Anyhow. I’m all hyper now, so I’m going to go channel this energy into something useful. Like revisions. Or bouncing around the house like I’m on a pogo stick. Or chasing the cat. Something.

What bands or songs speak to your novel, if you have one? Do you listen to music while you write? If you have a playlist to share, please do in the comments, or on your blog (and post a link back to it in the comments), because I’m always open to finding bands and music I haven’t heard before.


3 thoughts on “Writing & Music

  1. I can’t write and listen to music, for that matter, I mainly listen to music when I’m doing something (cleaning, exersizing etc)
    Music motivates me to ‘move’! (With the exception when I’m driving, although I’ll probably bounce around in my car seat 🙂

    Jena, in Into This Mind loved music and there was a funny scene with a song called MilkShake. I had to take out the quote, since I didn’t have permission from the artists, so that effected its impact.

    (or is it affected, I can never keep those two straight but I use them often – big problem.)

  2. I do, actually, occasionally bounce around a little bit while I write, if a particularly awesome song plays. And yeah, it distracts me a bit, but damn does it ever add a little more fun to the process.

  3. Kristin,

    I love music and cannot read/write/study/live without it. Probably has something to do with many years of noisy roommates…

    I have both a playlist and a soundtrack for my MS. The playlist is ridiculously long, so here’s the soundtrack: Starstruck – Santogold; One Line – PJ Harvey; Little Sister – Jewel; Disposition – Tool; The Thing About Love – Alicia Keys; King of Pain cover – Alanis Morisette; Hello Benjamin – melpo mene; Diary of Jane – Breaking Benjaim; I Shall Believe – Sheryl Crow; Lose You – Pete Yorn; What New York Couple Fight About – Morcheeba and Kurt Wagner; Realize – Colbie Caillat

Comments are closed.