the how of writing · writing

Music and Writing

I grew up around music and heard it in various forms, from marching bands to rock to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.  Oh, and the Dallas Symphony, but that was only once.  As for performing, my dad played an instrument, and when I was nine I joined a local church choir.  (No audition, and they were desperate for voices, but at least I didn’t make any member of the group ashamed to be seen with me.  I think.)

My point is that music has been a large part of my life growing up.  Even now, when my focus is definitely not on music, I’ve found it’s still part of my creative endeavors.

Anyway, here are the different ways I incorporate music into my writing life:

  • Clearing the clutter – The most obvious of the list, I’ll listen to music when I want to forget about writing for a while.  Sometimes it’s because I’m struggling with my story, and sometimes it’s because I’m tired and need a break.  When I listen, I usually make up little stories in my head.  Usually, they’re nonsense, but the act is still creative, and always gets me excited about writing again.
  • Plot resolution – When I get stuck (which usually happens when I deviate from my outline), I’ll start flipping through channels on the radio, or check out some CD’s from the library.  This actually begins as “Clearing the Clutter” but before I know it, I’ve got a music video in my head with key scenes and images.  I spend the next few days listening to that song over and over and soon I’m connecting them into something resembling a plot.  Not everything I imagine during this process gets kept, but I’ve found it’s very invigorating.
  • Deadhead editing – If the editing doesn’t have to do with the story structure, I’ll listen to music as I edit.  It keeps me from messing with the story any further.
  • Searching for inspiration – If I’ve finished a story, I usually have a month or two where I sort of mentally meander with no real purpose.  I’ve been writing long enough now (like I’m an expert!) that the idea of not having a writing project stresses me.  I always calm down when I have something to write or edit.  If I’m not interested in any current ideas, I’ll focus more on listening to music.  And often, I’ll get an image or series of images that I like as I listen.  Sometimes these images will take the song’s meaning and twist it.

Photo by LaertesCTB

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