This is a departure from my previous posts aimed at young writers. This one is for everyone because this post is something I really needed to know ages ago but instead had to find out the hard way.
Music while writing can be controversial. Some writers, like Ian Rankin, swear by it and some, like Philip Pullman, can get quite salty on the subject. Even the writers that like to write to music tend to say that they can’t listen to music with words.
For years I resisted writing music, even though I love music, even though my husband would make me writing playlists based on the book I was working on, even though I tend to turn to music videos for inspiration when I’m all out of ideas. Gentlepersons, I was wrong. Sort of.
I come to you today not to praise the writing playlist but to suggest a new use for it.
One reason that we use music in films is because it’s great at setting the scene, creating mood, driving emotion. That’s not necessarily great while you’re writing. Unless you’re very careful you can end up with the music you’re listening to driving the scene instead of the characters. But writing doesn’t just happen while you’re sitting at a keyboard or a notebook.
My best writing often happens while I’m standing at a bus stop, or shopping, or looking out of a moving vehicle. It’s not really writing then, of course, at that point it’s still story. It doesn’t become writing until I sit down at the computer and write it. But that purposeful daydreaming of story is a vital part of my creative process and I can’t be the only one.
Here’s how to use a writing playlist to make your purposeful daydreaming more useful.
- Create a playlist for each writing project. Name it after the working title.
- Give each of your characters their own theme songs, they can have as many as you like.
- Pick some songs that reflect the major themes or moods or events of the story.
- Every time you add a new element to the story try to add a relevant song.
- Listen to this playlist whenever you’re doing something boring, like housework or shopping or walking somewhere.
- Only listen to the playlist that’s related to the current project. When you switch projects switch playlists.
This is so useful because the playlist creates a headspace that you come to associate with the project. That means that you can stop working on it for a while, do something else, come back and the music will take you back to where you were when you were working on it. The music pulls your imagination in the right direction. It becomes the soundtrack to the moving pictures in your mind.
Try it out, folks, don’t make the mistake I did and write another four first drafts before giving it a chance.