Saturday, January 30, 2010

Play On

The rest of that quote, obviously, is "If music be the food of love," but since "I've Never Been In Love Before" (sorry, couldn't resist) that's obviously not the point. Music, however, is.

I've survived my first week back at college after a month and a half break. I've also survived subfreezing temperatures and a killer case of writer's block. I think I'm finally starting to get over the latter (the former is still raging on outside my dorm room) and partly because I have been listening to my "Repeated for Writings" playlist a gazillion and five times.

Music encompasses a lot. It can be anything from getting dressed up and braving the Ithacan cold to go see an opera, plugging headphones into your computer, that obnoxious stuff they pipe into elevators, or listening to the girls in the dorm room next to mine belt out "Eye of the Tiger." There are songs you hate, songs you love beyond all reason, songs that won't get out of your head for days and have you inadvertently humming whilst walking along the street or tapping out the rhythm with your pen in class.

Music is very important to me. I love to sing, and I've been dancing since I was four. But for writing, it has another purpose. Sometimes, when you can find just the right song for just the right scene, it can be monumentally inspiring.

Take, for instance, "Rose's Theme," written by Murray Gold as part of the (really amazing) soundtrack for Doctor Who. I have listened to this song on repeat more times than I can count, although my iTunes tells me I've played it 180 times. Not only is it beautiful, but it goes along perfectly with the sweeter aspects of my Rose's character.

"Samson" by Regina Spektor is one I've been listening to a lot lately. It's a great deal more mainstream than my normal music tastes (I listen to an absurd amount of Broadway musicals and movie soundtracks) but the words and melody of the first line - "you are my sweetest downfall" - just leapt out and grabbed me. It helped me reshape a scene (which I won't tell you about for fear of spoiling it ;P) that I was worried I'd have to cut. And I've had it stuck in my head constantly of late; if the next few chapters are intensely fluffy, I blame this song.

I'll also jump away from my writing playlist and listen to the Chronicles of Narnia sountrack, or Pirates of the Caribbean, or Lord of the Rings, or Da Vinci Code, especially if I'm writing an action scene. Nothing like some well-scored action adventure to get you in the right mood. I also have entirely too many Disney soundtracks, and aside from listening to Beauty and the Beast a LOT (after all, A Bridge to War did start out as a retelling of that) I've also put together a playlist of just the score from various Disney CDs. Alan Menken, you are a musical genius and if I ever get published, you are so going on my acknowledgments page.

That being said, I've also listened to music that is completely opposite from what I'm writing and it's worked all right. For instance, recently when I was writing the beginning of "Letters to Oliver," I was listening to my playlist of "normal music" (yes that is actually what it's called on my iTunes list) which consists of Five for Fighting, KT Tunstall, Charlotte Martin, Landon Pigg, Imogen Heap, Regina Spektor, and Jon McLaughlin.

That being said, I suppose the point of all this is that music is God's gift to writers. However bizarre the connection might be, it is so intensely helpful, especially if you need to get yourself out of a writing rut. Often, the right music is exactly what I need to get me into the right mood for the scene at hand. And hopefully, now that I'm a bit more relaxed and all music-ed up, hopefully this writer's block will soon become a thing of the past.


  1. I've had many novels inspired by songs, as well as characters and scenes. Every novel I write has a soundtrack, although sadly I've spent less attention on perfecting those for more recent novels.

    I bought a picture for my room from Bed Bath and Beyond, and even though it's really simple, I really love it. It's all in browns and has a guitar on it, and the words, "When words fail, music speaks." This is so true for my life and my writing world.

  2. I have a song that actually inspired this big, *hopefully* powerful scene at the end of WIP. It was "I Found You" by the Fray.