Writing / Music

Before you start reading, if you want to listen to the music linked in this blog post you’re going to need Spotify. It’s free. And smashing.

Now, if you’re sorted/not bothered/whatever, please read on. If you something in bold-italics and you have Spotify you can click it to play.

OK, on with the show. I’ve clicked play in iTunes and it’s set to shuffle as I write this…

God is a DJ, Faithless

I read an article at Dog Horn Publishing this week about writing habits.

“The truth is stranger than fiction, and writers are stranger than anyone: Victor Hugo wrote naked. Gertrude Stein wrote in her car. Nabakov wrote standing up.”

Dog Horn Publishing Newsletter, January 2011

When I write, I listen to music. I have a pair of Sennheiser headphones (which have seen better days*) and iTunes on my computer. Bit off-topic, but I have iTunes linked to Sonos which pipes music through to the dining room and to ceiling-mounted speakers in the upstairs en-suite (yes, music in the shower!). I have plans for expanding my musical empire to the bathroom and through to the kitchen but that’s another project and another blog post.

American Idiot, Green Day

But back to writing. Writing to music isn’t that original – many writers use music to massage the right-sides of their brains into spilling words onto the page. Classical perhaps or Jazz. Something intellectual.

I like something noisy. Dance. Or new/punk/alternative/whatever rock. Anything that’s loud and light on the lyrics.

“Truman Capote often wrote laying down. Hemingway wrote while schnockered to the gills, Balzac wrote stoked on enough caffeine to give a sloth jitters (to the tune of fifty cups a day).”

Dog Horn Publishing Newsletter, January 2011

I use music as a filter, dropping me out of the real world and into the story.

Chime (Edit), Orbital

Whilst I applaud writers who listen to something more intelligent like, well I dunno, Handel or Elgar, I just can’t write to that stuff. And don’t get me wrong, I like all sorts from Prodigy to Peggy Lee, but when I’m writing I need a beat to hit the keys to.

It’s also an emotional key. Listening to music gets me pumped up, the adrenalin starts flowing, and then so do the words.

Suburban Knights, Hard-Fi

I can’t cope with strong lyrics. Eminem, for instance, stops me writing. The lyrics are just too strong to ignore. I generally end up feeling pretty angry after listening to Eminem, so it certainly has it uses. I can dial it up, listen, and then switch to something a little more monotonous to let the fury burn its way into the page.

And this is interesting, because I’ve found I can dial up an emotion or a scene by playing the appropriate track. Listening to Beth Orton will forever bring me to the locations inside my novel Kyoto Grove. Whenever I hear Central Reservation I drop straight into Kings Cross Station a hundred years from now. I can see the shanty town that it has become, vertical columns of prefab cabins reaching to the ceiling.

This is down to several weeks of writing that circled around ‘The Ward’ as it has become known in my novel. I love wandering around that place with Beth’s melancholic tones bouncing around my head.

Rock is Dead, Marilyn Manson

I use playlists to sort out what to listen to. I have a ‘Craig’s Noise’ playlist which includes a little over 300 generically noisy tracks which I listen to most of the time when I’m writing.But I often build specific playlists for writing to a theme. ‘My Kinda 30s’ for example, which I often use for writing my strange little steampunk stories, doesn’t actually contain very much 1930s music but it does the trick. There’s some Paloma Faith and a little Eliza Doolittle, a Peggy Lee remix (Why Don’t You by Gramophonedzie), Basement Jaxx (both with and without Paloma Faith).

Firestarter, The Prodigy

You can judge me for my poor taste in music. But I’m listening to Prodigy right now, so all I have to say is…

Bite me! RAWR!

(* OK, I’ve just treated myself to a pair of new wireless Sennheiser HDR120s and they rock by the way!)


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