A scenic place? The cute barrista at your favorite coffee shop? Inhuman contortions of your body during meditation? Many writers use some form of stimulus to incite binging and purging of ideas like a bulimic master of prose. For me, it’s music.
Here is where I confess something very nerdy about myself and my hope is that I don’t lose fans because of this: I was a band geek. Ugh, I said it. Not the kind who rolled her eyes by the time 6th hour approached; the bona fide ‘Band Pride’ type. Now before you track me down to give me a wedgie, let me explain myself.
Unlike most high school Marching bands, I had a cool teacher who didn’t mess around with the songs of Dorkdom. In fact, my most memorable moment in band (and because I had a short attention span for school activities, memorable moments with any one sport for a given amount of time were very few) was playing House of Pain’s, “Jump Around”, at a football game. I’m about to offer up some insight into my age here by saying that the song happened to be popular at the time, and the crowd loved it. What I remember most, was how it added to the tension of the game.
High school bands have come a long way since the days of “Pomp and Circumstance No. 1 in D Major.” And, my gosh, has anyone else seen that kickass video on Youtube of the George Mason University band playing RATM?! Check it out: http://youtu.be/gqG4oSfQYIY Maybe you wouldn't necessarily jam to this in your car (maybe you would), but if you heard that at a game?? Whoa.
I was a cheerleader in high school too, so I wasn’t entirely consumed by geekness.
Music has a way of influencing people. It can build adrenaline, triggering electric pings of excitement to surge, depending on the song and the situation. Take an ordinary baseball game and add a little “Supermassive Black Hole” by Muse – you’ve got a heavy shot of cool infused in an otherwise not-so-memorable scene. And by the way, while we’re on the topic of sports and song, I have a bone to pick with the Chicago Blackhawks. Can someone please explain what the hell “Chelsea Dagger” has to do with hockey? Grrr. Thanks for taking one of my favorites and sucking the awesomeness right out of it.
That aside, let me explain how music affects my writing: sometimes I just happen to stumble upon an extraordinary tune and Boom! A story is born. Other times, the chicken comes before the egg. I might have a rough sketch of the character in mind, but need to add a little bit of soul. iTunes to the rescue. I happen to like Alternative and am a huge fan of songs not typically droning on every radio station across the globe. Finding a newborn song that embodies my character’s personality is like being able to find a matching bikini top and bottom in my size at PacSun – rare but exciting when it happens. And for me, lyrics are key. Even if the rhythm is rockin’, it’s kind of hard to write a love scene when the singer is crooning about gouging his eyes out with toothpicks. Spoils the mood, know what I mean?
Once I marry the lyrics and beat to the perfect character or scene, a bouncing baby story is sure to follow. I’m in the zone. And if we’re talking word count here, the right song can crank out speeds of 1000 words an hour; which typically only happens to me when certain Earthly phenomena are involved.
So for funsies, here is a list of my top five songs for writing (I will not be held responsible for linking any goofy videos that should have been better envisioned for the song):
- Sail by Awolnation
- Bulls on Parade by Rage Against the Machine
- Here We Never Die by Sister Crayon
- Undisclosed Desires by Muse
- These Days by the Black Keys
What’s on your playlist?