Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Music & Writing (and some eye candy)

Here's your eye candy. I can explain.

Steve Almond's latest book has a soundtrack. Joe Hill's latest book has a soundtrack. A friend just sent me the soundtrack for one of his WIPs (which is currently and temporarily in my possession). Why the heck don't my stories have soundtracks?

Except they sort of do. I am, as my friend Lisa would say, a "binge listener." She and I both have a tendency towards "binge reading," in which we discover (or re-discover) an author we love and then devour everything that person has ever written. Or we fall in love with a certain type of book and then obsessively hunt down other books that are its match in some way. I am also a compulsive re-reader, so for big swatches of time I will read nothing but short stories from post WW2, or nothing but intellectual chick lit, or nothing but Stephen King/John Irving... you get the idea.

I take this to a greater extreme with music. I have trouble listening to music while writing because other (less literary) parts of my brain start yammering at me to pay attention to the lyrics or -- even more likely -- to step away from the computer and start dancing. But when I do listen to music while writing, I am very likely to put a single track on repeat. You'd think I'd get very sick of these songs, or perhaps go mad, but I don't. When something works, it works. And I stick with it.

Often, these songs are from movie soundtracks. (Ah, finally we explain the eye candy.) My current song is by Crawl, End Crawl by Four Tet, and you'll hear it as the end credits are rolling on Quantum of Solace. Another favorite end credits song of mine is Drive Away from Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events. Other soundtracks in my possession include but are not limited to: American Beauty, Strange Days, The Frighteners, Center Stage and Coyote Ugly.

Yes, Coyote Ugly is a terrible movie. Don't judge me. Sometimes you have to look beyond something bad in order to see something good. I used to choreograph to this music. Now I write to it. (And I still choreograph when I have the time.)

What are YOU listening to?


  1. Patty Griffin - Mary. And then there's Ryan Adams.

    Love me some terrific music.

  2. Smashing Pumpkins, Siamese Dream.

    End credits songs are the best. Unless they suck.

  3. The Black Keys "Modern Times."

    I just discovered The Black Keys recently. I would inject them into my veins if I could.

  4. Can't resist this topic -- May has turned into Music Month on my blog.

    Normally I mostly listen to classical while I write so as not to get distracted by lyrics or beats. Classical allows me to focus and relax.

    This month since I'm doing the May 17th FIFTEEN FANTASY ISLAND FAVORITES I've been listening to my finalist picks for my fifteen favorite albums repeatedly in order to come up with the final picks. Actually hearing the songs has not been as distracting as I had previously thought, but I will probably go back to mostly classical after next week.


  5. When I was in college, my paper-writing song was REM's "Nightswimming." It focused me, and I played it on repeat until I was done. My housemates were happy it usually only took me an hour or two to write my papers, but they also knew that when Nightswimming was on, I shouldn't be bothered.

    Now, when I write, I sometimes will select music that fits the mood of what I'm writing. Sometimes it distracts me, but I find that silence is worse, and I'll find something and repeat it. It fades into the background, gives the idle parts of my brain something to do while I focus.

    And hear-hear for binge-listening and binge-reading...

  6. I know what you mean about binge reading! I do the same thing. Vampire books, literary fiction, all of Mur Lafferty's audio books, etc.

    I am terrible about music. I love it, but never take the time to buy it, download it, or follow it. However, Darin makes me these great mixes, kind of like soundtracks to our life...

    Great post!

  7. *taking notes for iTunes purchases*

  8. Just think, when digital books become completely mainstream, the soundtracks can be included.

    I find music incredibly inspiring, but I can't listen to it while writing; I get caught in the lyrics, like you do. But I'll often have the tune rattling around in my head while I write.

  9. On my current WIP when I write an action scene or non-serious scene, I listen to a mix of Foo Fighters greatest hits with Paramore's Brick by Boring Brick tossed in. On repeat.

    But when I am writing an intense or serious dialogue scene (or a particularly difficult scene), I can ONLY listen to (and I MUST listen to) Moonlight Sonata. Also on repeat.

    And that's about all I can write (this WIP) to without being distracted by the music...

    (By the way... um... where did you get that pic of me and Daniel? He ~promised~ that he wouldn't show anyone! He didn't give you the video too, did he??)

  10. I recently found the Heartless Bastards and cannot, cannot get enough of them. They're haunting.

  11. Huh? Wha-?

    Oh, yeah. Music. You said something about music, didn't you? You'll have to excuse me--I was a little distracted by the eye candy. ;)

  12. I'm back, and I'm taking notes. Literally. I have a pubescent fixation on music.

  13. I totally love Soundtracks, especially for writing. The Crow, Tomb Raider & Lost Highway are faves. Resident Evil & Spawn. On the mellower side, the Buddha-Bar CD's are great!

  14. Every time I check to see if you updated your blog- I see your question staring at me- screaming for me to answer.

    "What are YOU listening to?"

    What an enticing question. Oh gees- I tried to resist posting because I haven't actually met you...yet (does that sound scary?!)but I think I'm going to give in.

    ...and here's me giving in:
    Devendra Banhart- Carmencita
    The Thrills- Big Sur
    Luna- California (all the way)
    Ben Harper- Sweet Nothing Serenade

    There, now I said it. MAN that felt good. I'm a student right now...I write lots of papers...drink lots of mochas (decaf, so really whats the point?) and I listen to those four songs on repeat. Carmencita gets my fingers moving and the other three put me in a happy zone where my brainwaves feel free to move around and exercise. If you are writing about suicide- or pain- I'd need to give you a different list because said songs don't work for people writing about pain. It just doesn't.

  15. I'm sorry, did you say something? Everything went kind of blurry after I saw that photo of the beautiful hunk of man-flesh that started this blog post.


  16. I am listening to Daniel Craig beg for the chance to kiss my back.