Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Static, Enya, or Does Good Music mean Good Writing?

When my husband and I babysat our first infant grandson, we were told that if he started to fuss to drive him around, jiggle his car seat, and turn the static up on the radio very loud. We got awfully sick of static. It made me distressed and fidgety, but less distressed than a crying baby would have, but not much. Later when we visited them in their new place in Colorado, at around five months of age something wonderful had happened to baby Isaiah. He had graduated from STATIC being his listening preference to ENYA music—the louder the better. Driving around the beautiful canyons and mountains near Vail is wonderful with Enya music blaring.

I have found that when I write, Enya is a good choice. It’s inspirational while not being too distracting. Typically though, I have music on 90 percent of the daytime hours. We have a 25 CD player, so I just turn it first thing in the morning and it plays all day--no matter what I'm doing. I do enjoy music when I write, and if the tune is very catchy, I definitely write faster. Right now I have Celtic music on and the beat is fast. Every once in a while I change either all of them or some of them. Currently there are about five Neil Young albums, three Cat Stevens, some Enya, various others from my 70's favorites, and ending with Dave Matthews, Grey’s Anatomy soundtrack, and the last album in the line-up is a wonderful group called The Waifs. The end group represent the tastes I've acquired from my twenty-three year old daughter, Ginger.

Thinking about our grandson’s preference for background noise, I wondered whether my author friends also listened to music while they wrote. Here’s some of the answers I received. Enjoy! You will also note that some don't listen to music at all and yet write great stuff,so I won't make any judgment on what is best.

Annette Lyon said: I generally only listen to music when I'm ultra stressed/feeling blocked (like on a deadline!). I have certain music I listen to specifically clear
out the mental clutter. Works every time. But generally I'm writing in small snatches, on the go, so music isn't part of my writing routine. I don't have the luxury of sitting down, putting in a CD, and getting carried away in the moment. Instead, it's 45 minutes in the dance class lobby, frantically catching a scene on my trusty AlphaSmart Neo while a little first grader in a tutu peers over my shoulder. I guess there's music there, but it starts and stops and could be anything from Disney to (currently) "Freeze Frame" blaring through the building. Yeah, that can be a little distracting when you're trying to get into the historical romance mentality!

Jim Rada said: I like smooth jazz, new age and oldies to listen to while I’m working. I find it helpful to either relax me after a long day of working or get me revved up on weekends to write. I listen to music downloaded on my computer. The quality is not as good, but it’s much easier to select and play the music without having to get up from my chair to change CDs.

Josi Kilpack said: I don’t really do music at all. It’s distracting and I
have enough of that without adding one more :-)

Jaime Theler said: When I am writing my nonfiction it has to be instrumental, words are
too distracting. But when I'm writing fiction, I go for music that
inflicts the mood I am after for the scenes I am working on. I have
certain songs that "belong" to a story - usually the song when the
idea blossomed into being in my head. Sometimes the words of the song
doesn't mesh with the story, but when I'm writing the words sort of
fade away and I am left with just the mood.

As you can tell, I love music when I write. Plus, I can more easily
ignore the phone, the TV, etc. with headphones on. I have to write
around life and that's how I figuratively shut the door of my office,
since my computer is in a public spot in my house.

Crystal Liechty said: For myself, I begin by
listening to music that gets my imagination going-
movie soundtracks (Garden State has been a good one)
or songs with great lyrics that make you wonder what
the story behind them is. I just close my eyes and
listen while I play out in my head what I want to
write. Then I switch to classical for the actual

Tristi Pinkston said:
I can't listen to music while I'm writing because I hate instrumental; I have to have words. And I like to sing along to those words. And I
can't sing and type words that are different from what I'm singing,
hence, no music while I write.

Marsha Ward said: I listen to music as I write, usually stuff I've downloaded to my computer. Neil Diamond has some great mood-setters. MoTab when I want an exultant feeling. Alan Jackson, Rosemary Clooney, Roger Whittaker--they all help me find my groove.

Tamra Norton said: I can't listen to music either and write. Well, except when I go to Whataburger and write, and then...somehow...I'm able to tune out everything (something I have
a hard time doing at home).

These author’s musical tastes are as varied as the group itself. We have some young with their first book—cute and funny Crystal wrote The First Year, which I hear is awesome, and some on the other end of the scale with lots of books to their credit and lots of years as well. Some take their music very seriously and others don't listen, like Josi a young thirty-something who has seven books to her credit, a new one, “Sheep’s Clothing,” released this week. We have some who write historical fiction, women’s issues and relationship, romance, non-fiction, historical romance, and Westerns, and suspense and mystery and some that don’t fit neatly into any category. If you want to know more about the authors I blogged, some have their own blogs or you can go to our website http://ldstorymakers.com

Read,write, and enjoy MUSIC! What's your favorite?


Julie Wright said...

ah music. I think music is a great writing tool, but I'm like tristi. Can't do songs with words or i start singing along and it's hard to write brilliant dialogue when I'm singing . . . :) Good BLOG!

Luisa Perkins said...

What an inspiring post!

I have a mix on my iPod called "Minor Melodyes for Lady Novelistes." I made it for a writing group pal and myself right after having read Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, so it is quite melancholy--which works well for the kind of fantasy I write.