Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Musical Muse

Melissa Marr has a playlist at the end of her books and Stephenie Meyer made the incorporation of music and writing a national phenomenon.  But this is not a new concept. Music and the creative process go together like, well... music and the creative process.  

I am a hard core musical person.  That's not to say that I can carry a tune, though I do a lot of singing in my car.  And I can't play an instrument to save my life.  I just love music. I find that I have a tendency to go through musical phases.  One month I'm all about classical, and my Sirius radio (my guilty pleasure) is tuned to the symphony station non-stop. The next month, I'm waxing nostalgic and I'm glued to 90's alternative on Lithium.  Music really speaks to me, in all its forms.  When I'm searching for inspiration, I pop in the earbuds and my ipod takes me to creative bliss.  

Music really sets the tone for my writing.  I have to be careful sometimes or I drift from my original course and follow the tunes.  While writing my first novel, I was fixated on one band. I downloaded every Bush song I could find and whenever I felt the onset of writer's block I'd go lay down and listen to my Bush playlist until I'd start to drift off. As soon as my mind was relaxed enough to wander, inspiration would strike.  So I'd jump up, grab my notebook and jot down the ideas, speech, whatever, and start over again.  The dark, emotional lyrics coupled with wailing guitars, mournful drums, and gravelly voice set the tone for my story and I listened to that playlist so many times that my family wanted to flush my ipod.

If I'm not looking for a particular 'tone' to inspire me, classical is my go-to music.  Maybe it's the lack of lyrics, I'm not sure.  But I think my brain's production level triples when I'm listening to Bach or Motzart, Beethoven or Chopin.  Plants grow to classical music, so why can't my brain?  

Of course, I do have 'thinking places' that inspire sans music.  I do a lot of my best brainstorming in the shower.  It could have something to do with the fact that there's no distractions in there, just me and running water.  I can ask a question like: 'okay, how do I get my characters through this dicey patch?' and have an answer by the time I towel off.  But it's not the same reaction that music elicits.  Music speaks to the soul, and isn't that where my writing comes from?  It's not a perfunctory brain action, it's me.  The basest part of me that I don't share with anyone but my keyboard.  Music pulls the plug on my soul and the words spill out like water sucking down a drain.  

I've put music on the back burner while I do edits and revisions.  My WIP is on hold while I decide how to finish the last five chapters and tie up the loose ends.  I did have some Marilyn Manson queued up while writing this second book (my MC is going through a rough patch). It's time for a new playlist though, and new inspiration to go with it.  There's a million musical options out there, all waiting to spark my creativity.  Who will be my muse this time? I'm dying to find out.

1 comment:

Kate Karyus Quinn said...

Like you said, I find music helpful in setting a tone while writing, but sometimes the lyrics can distract me - maybe I should try listening to classical, that is not something I'm usually drawn to, but maybe I will give it a chance!