Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Is Music Your Muse?

So one thing that I've definitely noticed now that I've written a couple of manuscripts is that music DEFINITELY helps boost my creative brain cells. This probably isn't anything revelatory, but it really kicked in for me this past weekend when I was walking the dog and listening to The Killers over and over again. They have a theme running through a lot of their songs that sort of echos small town life - the joy, the despair, the claustrophobia - and I found, while out with the pooch, that the songs almost played as background music for me while I ruminated my characters and their next plot development. Like, I could see the songs playing in the movie trailer, and while on this walk (and listening to said music), I worked through the next part of my book. Something clicked in to place for me, and voila, I knew what I had to write.

This isn't new for me - when I wrote TOML, I was definitely influenced by more female-oriented songs about loss, longing, regret, rebirth, and even now, whenever I hear a song like Chantel Kraviazuk's Time or Sheryl Crow and Sting's Always On Your Side, I think of my characters and how those songs shaped them (and my writing process). Ditto the Ben Folds song, The Luckiest for The Department of Lost and Found. But still, this weekend was a good reminder to me that sometimes, I just have to let my brain go, listen to the literal music and see where it takes me. Try it - if you're a music obsessive like me, it might work.

Anyone else use this technique? If so, what are you listening to now?


Susan Helene Gottfried said...

I have ALWAYS operated this way. Music is my muse. I can't listen to the same thing over and over -- it makes my ears bleed -- yet I need music in order to function.

Small wonder I write about it, too.

Allison Winn Scotch said...

Susan - I think I remember you writing about this on the blog, and me then writing about it on mine in response. :) So yep, we're definitely on the same page!

~ christine said...

It's funny you mention this - when I read Stephanie Meyer's books, she always thanks several bands for helping her get through. That's the first time I've seen an author actually credit the band for helping her through.

Maybe you'll have to give the Killers a nod?

Anonymous said...

I was gonna mention Stephenie Meyer too. She's pretty insane (in a good way) about her music muses, and aptly enough her main muse is the band Muse. The bands she listens to while writing her books are all over her acknowledgments. I don't write fiction regularly (yet) and as of now I cannot write nonfiction (as in, articles -- not personal nonfiction) with music playing. Too distracting. Fiction, though, I can totally see. Music is so emotionally evocative.


Allison Winn Scotch said...

I didn't know that about Stephanie Meyer - very cool.

What I'd love to do, rather than thank them (which could be a possibility), is find a line to use as the epigraph, but I haven't found a perfect one. But we'll see! I'm kicking around a few other songs as well.

Anonymous said...

What a great post! I hadn't realized this, but the past few weeks I have had a public radio jazz station playing in the background, and I have been in the best, most creative writing mood ever. After reading this post, I stopped to just listen to the music and realized that this music was definitely my muse.

Nathanael Green said...

I've found, perhaps because I'm also a musician, that if I try to write with music playing, my fingers want to tap to the rhythm or write out the lyrics instead of my story. So it's dead quiet for my writing.

But I agree - music can certainly inspire. And not just the lyrics, but also the tone. For instance, the first time I heard Zoe Keating, an avant cellist with no lyrics, I felt like she was playing my main character's theme. Another time, it was Tom Morello's new folksy, protest songs that created an atmosphere for a particular scene.

You mention music, but I find I get just as much inspiration from other sources (tactile experiences, the news, smells). And I wonder, do other writers tend to get their inspiration from one particular thing, like music, or a variety of sources?

Thanks for the post,

Trish said...

Totally into this after reading the Twilight series, then watching the movie, and now listening to the soundtrack (The Muse song is a hit from the movie) and now I'm all over iTunes creating a "soundtrack" for this book to fit what it looks like in my head. I'm obsessed. But glad everyone (like A) is obsessed right along with me. I will post my soundtrack on my blog next week.

Trish L.


Anonymous said...

Funny, I don't use music to create a background for my characters or to inspire me to write about a certain topic. I have a certain set of music that sort of creates this virtual closed room, if you will, that tells my brain, OK, the door's shut now and you have no distractions--let's get to work. I'm almost embarrassed to admit that this music of choice is Enya. It just has become my go-to writing music since before I wrote my first non-fiction book 13 years ago.