should be no surprise that I listen to music while I write or paint. I was thinking about this quirk of mine recently, as I queued up my iTunes playlist, and wondered if other writers found music distracting or helpful.
I know that in his book titled On Writing, Stephen King says he writes while listening to Metallica, AC/DC, and Guns 'n Roses. I smile just thinking about that. When I did a quick Google search of famous authors and what kind of music they like to listen to while they write, there were three answers I saw repeated over and over again: 1.) nothing, 2.) classical such as Bach and Mozart, or 3.) the Beatles. I suppose genius inspires genius?
When I'm painting, I usually listen to whatever fits the mood I'm in, and the music isn't really related to the subject matter of my painting. When I'm working on a brand new piece of writing, I gravitate towards listening to classical works. In both cases, the music is there to simply drown out the rest of the world and it helps me to focus somehow.
However, there are times when I'm writing, when the music I listen to is purposefully selected and intricately connected to what I'm working on. For example, I recently wrote a short story that utilized some of my experiences from college. Thanks to the power of iTunes, music from that period of my life pulsed in the background as I plucked away on the keyboard.
Then there are those certain characters, the ones that live and breathe outside of me, the ones that I feel like I'm taking dictation from instead of creating myself; they practically demand a soundtrack. I have a playlist for one angry character, Jeremy, that is full of rock music that I just know he listens to whenever he is in his car, with the volume turned up as loud as he can stand it. Every time I go to write a sequence featuring him, I turn on his music and once I hear it, I can settle into his skin. Not only does the style and tone fit who he is, but most of the lyrics in some way reference him, his personality, or what has happened to him.
There are also certain locations within my stories that demand a soundtrack. I will hear a song and think, "The feeling this song evokes is how I feel when I'm visiting 'the forest', or 'the mansion', or 'the high rise', etc." So I have several location-based playlists as well.
The music is a type of mental shorthand, a way to clear out the noise of my day and to tap back into that character, or that environment.
How about you? Do you find music a distraction or a helpful tool when you sit down to write (or paint, or craft or create)? Just for fun, if you would like to listen to Jeremy's angry playlist, I've replicated most of it for you on Spotify. (Although it looks like the band, Tool, isn't on Spotify.) Just click below, hit shuffle, and enjoy - but be sure to turn it up to 11!