Writing and Music

From September 2010:

I remember, years ago, reading a quote from Louis L’Amour, my favorite writer all through high school.

”I could sit in the middle of Sunset Boulevard and write with my typewriter on my knees.  Temperamental I am not.”

At the time, in high school, I agreed wholeheartedly.  Surroundings–comfort, noise, distractions–what did they matter?  I could focus entirely on my typewriter, my pen, or later, my computer, and it really didn’t matter what went on around me.  Back then, I wrote with all kinds of music playing; it just didn’t bother me.

Enter marriage, kids, the internet, and aging–in my late twenties I found if I wanted to write, surroundings suddenly mattered.  TV and music, both had to be off for me to be productive.  My brain became too easily distracted, and if I tried to write one thing while hearing another, what actually tended to come out was a mangled-up mish-mash of the two.

So now, my regular routine is writing in silence, with a fan to cover up the noise of the rest of the house.  Until the other night, when I had to write a difficult scene, and I was having a hard time of it.  It was a scene where something bad happens to my main character, at the hands of someone who is supposed to be a friend.  It had to be compelling, I had to get in that scene.  And I didn’t want to.

And that’s when I discovered the value of writing with music, again, as though I had never realized it before.  My iPod, which was shuffling through a classical playlist, hit a movie soundtrack (why are they in my classical playlist?  Don’t ask 🙂   )  I don’t even remember specifically which soundtrack it was, it may have been Lord of the Rings, or it may have been Spiderman (LOVE Danny Elfman’s work), but either way it was a dark dramatic track where scary things were clearly happening onscreen.

And I found I could write my scene.  I was pushed to write my scene, and the tempo of the escalating music pushed me to write even faster, with more urgency.  My scene fed off the music.

So–moral of the story, I’ve rediscovered a tool I had discarded years ago.  I can decide the mood of the scene I’m working on, put on some non-distracting music that matches, and everything goes easier.

Non-distracting is the key.  I tend to work with classical music for just that reason; but there are certain pieces I know to keep off the playlist, even so.  The Mendelssohn Violin Concerto, for instance–I can’t hear it without getting instantly sucked in and forgetting whatever I was working on.

So why am I bringing this post from the old blog now?  Because I just had a reminder last night, again, how important this little trick can be.  Another tricky couple of scenes–another couple of appropriate movie soundtrack and classical concerto titles picked–another couple of difficult scenes down 🙂

It sounds simple, and it is, but it’s really useful, too.

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