Music as a Writing Companion

Image provided by Robert Proksa and Stock.xchng

Image provided by Robert Proksa and Stock.xchng

It’s been a while since I wrote about music as a writing companion. I’ve noticed recently that many authors are sharing their playlists, either on their blog tours or at the end of their books. This concept is so cool. I love getting a glimpse inside the emotional well of other writers. That’s what a playlist is to me, an emotional well.

Tamara Heiner and I spoke about writing to music on Facebook one night. She needs quiet when she’s writing. I don’t always listen to music, but there are times when I need that emotional stimulation to really get a feel for the scene I’m working on. It’s for that reason that I create playlists. The tone and beat is matched to the dynamics between specific characters and the setting.

Largehearted Boy is a music blog and there you’ll find a recurring feature called Book Notes. One of the contributors for the series was Evan Roskos and he shared the playlist for his book Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets, a book I loved.

Roskos has eclectic tastes and it shows in his playlist. I found all the songs from the list on Spotify and listened in a way I’ve never listened to music before. I was looking for the characters in the lyrics, the mood in the melodies and discovered a great deal more about myself than I did Roskos or his book.

I’ll share the list with you here, but I encourage you to visit the original article and read his reasoning for each song. It’s quite funny and enlightening.

  • “Tron” by Foals
  • “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” by Neutral Milk Hotel
  • “This is How You Spell, ‘Hahaha, We Destroyed the Hopes and Dreams of a Generation of Faux-Romantics” by Los Campesinos!
  • “Sad, Sad Song” by M. Ward (I love this song!)
  • “I Wonder” by Blind Melon
  • “It’s All in Your Mind” by Beck
  • “Uncontrollable Urge” by DEVO
  • “Optimistic” by Radiohead
  • “Fitz and Dizzyspells” by Andrew Bird (Although upbeat, this one connected to that part of me that battles depression.)
  • “Little Bird” by Eric Bachmann (I love most songs that speak of flying away. This is no exception.)
  • “It’s Not Up to You” by Björk
  • “Sorrow” by The National (This is almost autobiographical for me.)
  • “The Darkest Side” by The Middle East (This one appealed to me for reasons I can’t explain.)
  • “Dark Night of the Soul” by Sparklehorse & Danger Mouse (featuring David Lynch)
  • “Clenched Fist” by Sepultura
  • “Dignity and Shame” by Crooked Fingers
  • “Honest” by Band of Skulls
  • “You! Me! Dancing!” by Los Campesinos!

I couldn’t make the connections with some of the song choices. I don’t know if that’s because the music didn’t appeal to me personally or if it went against the image I had built in my mind of the book’s elements. It was a fascinating exercise though and one I plan to do again. That is if the authors I’m reading will divulge their playlists.

  • I’m one of those people who can’t listen to music (or anything) while I write. I need silence. I find that having songs in the background throws off my natural rhythm, etc. But I do love making playlists for books! I’ve made them for myself, in which case I’ll listen to them before I start writing, as well as for readers, in which case I’ll share the playlist someday after my book is out.

    • I’ve heard several people say they need silence while writing. Sometimes music distracts me, but when I get in the zone it’s difficult to pull me out. I mostly listen to my playlists when I’m planning or trying to work through a problem with a scene. There are a select few songs that bring my characters to mind no matter where or when I hear them.

      I look forward to seeing your playlist. 🙂

  • I’m one of those people who can’t listen to music (or anything) while I write. I need silence. I find that having songs in the background throws off my natural rhythm, etc. But I do love making playlists for books! I’ve made them for myself, in which case I’ll listen to them before I start writing, as well as for readers, in which case I’ll share the playlist someday after my book is out.

    • I’ve heard several people say they need silence while writing. Sometimes music distracts me, but when I get in the zone it’s difficult to pull me out. I mostly listen to my playlists when I’m planning or trying to work through a problem with a scene. There are a select few songs that bring my characters to mind no matter where or when I hear them.

      I look forward to seeing your playlist. 🙂

  • ejr

    Thanks for featuring my playlist, Missy!

    I’m proud of this list of songs because, for me, it’s almost perfect in the way it traces the emotional arc James experiences in the book. I have a scene or sequence that goes with each song, though I didn’t compile this list until after I’d finished the manuscript. the lyrics help in many cases, but even the energy of a song like “Clenched Fist” by Sepultura is appropriate for the scene where James freaks out in the restaurant. (There’s also a musical link between the alarm clock sound of the opening track “Tron” to the more serrated repetition of nearly the same sound in “Clenched Fist”.)

    In addition, some of the important lessons James has to learn are featured: It’s Not Up to You, Honest, The Darkest Side, Dark Night of the Soul, It’s all in Your Mind, etc — I was so happy to work some of these fantastic songs in without forcing them.

    many of these tracks have been with me for years and years. In fact, that Blind Melon song, (which ends with a line that always hits me hard “I only wanted to be sixteen / and free”), came into my life when I was 14 years old and has never left me. So, I think it’s a great representation of Dr. Bird and I’m so glad that someone else saw connections!

    • I find a lot of similarities between James and myself, that could be why I saw connections. Like I said in the post, I didn’t get all connections. That could be because no two people see or feel things the same way. Great playlist though. Reminds me of my music collection. I have Tchaikovsky and Metallica sitting side by side. LOL