The other day I saw a fun conversation going around about author’s creating playlists for each book they write. It was fascinating because I love hearing about others’ writing processes. It took me to Delilah S. Dawson’s fantastic post. (Seriously, go check it out) But it got me thinking: I’ve never created a playlist for any book I write. Why is that?
I opened up the ol’ Spotify and tried to put together a playlist for my current WIP. Right away, I ran into a problem: what sort of music works with a secondary world fantasy novel? An orchestral score of some kind? That’s not really my jam. I knew the mood of the book I’m working on. It’s a sword and sorcery novel starring an older woman who’s been around the world a time or two, who’s struggling to figure out what’s next, and how to do what’s best for her found family. And what happens when what you think is best doesn’t line up with what your family members think is best? Oh yeah, and there’s some political intrigue, some magic, annnnnd fantasy equivalents of weapons of mass destruction.
K. Cool. I got all that in my mind. How does that translate to music?
Fuck if I know.
Now to be fair, I gave into one of my worst habits: stopping when hitting a minor wall. I stopped trying to come up with a playlist for my WIP.
Now to be unfair (and let me rationalize), after I did that I saw down to analyze why the exercise was so difficult for me.
One: Spotify is overwhelming.
Spotify is great when you have a starting point in mind. You go to an artist (or an artist from an already existing playlist) and then you can explore the “Related Artists” and then just keep going. Plus Spotify shows you an artist’s top songs. Once you got a starting point, an initial artist for your book playlist, it should be relatively easy to keep adding to it.
But what if you don’t know where to start? You could potentially try searching some keywords and see what other user-generated playlists come up? But that just seems overwhelming. You could crowdsource this and ask social media? Again that just seemed overwhelming to me.
Okay, but that’s kind of a surface level rationalization. It’s one that with sufficient time and willpower, I could overcome.
But then I went a little deeper.
Two: I am a visual learner
I’m a much better visual learner than an auditory one. When I read something it sticks in my brain much better than if I’d listened to it. I don’t know why that is. That’s just how I work. If I need to learn something I like to read it or watch somebody show me how to do whatever the thing in question is.
How does that connect to writing and music and playlists?
I like to construct scenes visually as I write them. Sometimes I go so far as to draw out diagrams or blueprints of how a place looks and how the action occurs. That’s just how I process the information, and it helps me get it onto the page.
I love listening to music as I write, but! I do it more as a distraction. Strike that. Distraction’s not the right word. It’s more of a certain noise (pleasant noise! though some might call death metal unpleasant) threshold I like to have while working. Words or no words, the music gives me that background buzz.
It doesn’t matter what kind of scene I’m working on. I don’t connect the music to it. Sometimes I even put my headphones in and forget to turn something on. Just that slight dampening of real life helps me get into that creative space.
To Each Their Own
And now the thousand dollar question: should I try to connect my music to my writing more?
This is a bit of a cop out, but fuck if I know.
Part of writing is learning what process works for you and when to try shaking it up. If I was starting a new project or felt like I was in a creative rut, that feels like it could be the right time to try and change how I use music with my process.
But now? In the middle of a WIP in the middle of a series with one entry already done*? It doesn’t feel like the right time.
Maybe when I finish this draft and start on a brand new sci-fi novel I’ll try to find some killer synthwave music to work as a soundtrack.
Right now, I got some tunes to jam to and some ink to sling.
How ‘Bout You?
Writers, authors, heck even painters, illustrators, and other artists: how do you use music as part of your creative process? Does it help you find a mood for whatever you’re working on? Or is it more of a “block out the world” kind of thing? A combination of both? Or do you not listen to music while you create at all?
Oh and if you’re curious about what I’m listening to (please don’t judge me), I’m here on Spotify. And here is my greatest playlist.
Enjoy. Remember, no judging.