Wednesday, June 18, 2014

What's the Best Soundtrack for your Writing?

I'm not talking about what music would play best behind the movie version of your story. I'm talking about what you listen to while you write. Of course everyone will have different tastes and different answers, but I'd like to present a few styles you may not have considered.

First off, I'll say that I usually prefer music without lyrics. It does me no good to occupy the language portion of my brain while I'm trying to generate words. If the music is in a foreign language, like the Amadou and Mariam I'm listening to right now, that's usually okay because my brain doesn't even try to translate.

One exception to my 'no lyrics' rule is that if I'm really tired and need a boost I'll put on something I can dance to – literally. I dance for a song or two, get my blood pumping and then sit down to write. And no, I can't dance for squat, but I do it anyway. It's fun, and will sometimes keep you working that little bit longer when you've already had a rough day at work and are trying to churn out a few hundred more words before turning in.

Movie and video game soundtracks make excellent writing music. It's best if you can find a soundtrack that suits the mood of the scene you're working on. Sometimes a soundtrack's mood will swing wildly because of a character turn or a quirky scene. Consider making a playlist and editing out anything that might bounce you out of the creative writing mood you're trying to set. Video game soundtracks are less likely to have such a big swing because the play of most games is fairly consistent. If the game has a dramatic story, the swings of emotion usually happen in the cut scenes, not in the main soundtrack.

Classical music is a close cousin to movie soundtracks. It's not my personal favorite, but I know some people swear by it.

One of my favorite types of music for writing is drumming and percussion. No flutes or high pitched singing for me, please. Just pure drumming. Drum circle with strong djembe influence is some of my favorite. There are drumming styles from all over the world to choose from. This type of music, usually with the volume fairly low, provides a nice motivational rhythm that keeps me moving forward. If you want specific recommendations here, feel free to ask in the comments.

If I need something that feels modern and upbeat, I often turn to Afro-pop. It falls in the same vein as US rock and blues without those annoying English lyrics that block my brain. Again, there's a whole planet's worth of pop to choose from. You need to find what suits you best.

Of course, that's the biggest answer of all. You have to do what's right for you. If blasting speed metal at top volume gets your creative juices flowing, by all means go for it. But I think it's worth it to try different things to see how you, and your writing, respond. If you have a used music store in your neighborhood, by all means, check out their cheap bin or the international section. If you're lucky enough to live in a city with an Amoeba Music, you're golden.

Whatever music you choose - Rock On and Happy Writing!

Note: On June 30th and July 1st, I'm going to be at Vandenberg Air Force Base to cover the launch of NASA¹s Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2). I will be tweeting everything live. If you're interested, you can follow me on Twitter @TrinaMPhillips.

Second Note: The advanced writer's workshop I'm attending, Taos Toolbox, runs from July 6th -19th. I'll tweet interesting tidbits from there as often as I can, depending on the workload.

1 comment:

  1. I might have to try the drum circle. That's a great idea! I usually prefer complete silence while I write, because my weird brain turns any sort of harmony into a conversation between instruments--a byproduct of too much Fantasia, probably. But the drum circle might work for me, and I'm especially willing to give it a try because at the moment my sink has a slow drip, and trying to write while listening to it is tortuous.


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