Cue it Up

Cue it Up

Playlist of records
Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

The ancient Greeks divided up inspiration among nine different Muses, crediting their influence for the creativity that flowed over the known world. Terpsichore held dominion over music and dancing. So the Greeks felt music held the same importance as poetry and comedy. Probably because separating music from writing is damn near impossible. And when you’re stuck, mired in writer’s block, Terpsichore lies in wait in the wings, waiting to assist you.

Simply put: Turn on the radio.

Nowadays, finding inspiration has myriad forms. Music lurks everywhere, in every form. CDs reside in hefty binders or stacks against the wall (don’t deny it – you know you have them), records have returned to weigh down shelves, and computer drives hold decades of MP3 files. Not to mention the variety of streaming services open to people – free or paid. If you can think of it, there’s a station for it. Type it in, and you have music blaring from your computer, laptop, or phone.

I’ve said before that I refuse to work in the vacuum of silence. The music calms my brain, but it also helps me when my writing brain locks up and refuses to work. I have playlists designed specifically for inspiration. They’re chock full of songs that take my breath away and energize my imagination. They transport me into different places, different times, even different worlds. They drop the curtain on the world around me, giving me a chance to breathe and reorient myself with what I’m struggling with. And they jolt electricity through my imagination, sparking new ideas into my writing.

Magical playlists? I guess you could say that.

The funny part is, none of the lyrics have every prompted a story idea. I don’t take inspiration from the words, from the scenery (a lot of the entries on the playlist come from Broadway shows), or even the original concepts. It’s the feeling generated by the music that does the trick. And I know you have songs that engender that feeling in you. Music that gets into every nerve fiber, causing you to freeze up. You find yourself in another place – somewhere YOU created – feeling emotions only your writing brain has words for. Maybe it’s the beat, or the harmony, or something less definable. You just have to stop and let the power sweep over you.

And then the words flow – so fast your fingers can scarcely keep up.

Maybe that’s why the Greeks felt there were demigods behind inspiration. It’s an immediate rush. Or, sometimes, it’s perfect quiet. Other times, you break down completely. The music provides the emotional connection your brain needs to break down that wall blocking your creativity. Or it ignites the imaginative spark in the first place. The rush is crazy, and when you “wake up” from it and see how much writing you’ve accomplished, you’re amazed.

Everyone needs that playlist.

Think over the songs that resonate with you. Start setting them aside into their own playlist. Organize them into the order you need – or leave them on shuffle. (I get some amazing results when I do that) Keep it labeled so you can find it the next time you need a jolt of inspiration. And each time you stumble over a new piece, add it. Will the songs have any kind of cohesion? Of course not. Will people look at you strange if they hear that particular playlist? Probably. (Mine bounces from classical music pieces, through musicals, to modern instrumental pieces, to hard rock, some pop, a couple 80s – it’s a crazy hodge-podge and I love it!) It doesn’t matter. If it resounds with your imagination center, that’s what counts.

And the next time writer’s block rears its ugly head, sit back and cue up the list. You’ll clear the obstruction in no time.

Background

Background

Screen shot of Groove playlist

Everyone has their own preference for a working environment, and no one is wrong (okay, scratch that: standing around gossiping about people and not actually working is wrong).

Much as it drives me insane, my fiance’ likes to have the television on while he works, despite the fact that it isn’t even in the same room as his office; the noise reaches his office and provides sound.

Some people require absolute silence and make me question how in the world they function (seriously, what is wrong with you?!) How you don’t go insane with nothing but your own internal dialogue and buzzing of your surrounding electronics (or worse – the scratching of your pen) is beyond me, but if that’s your modus operandi, more power to you.

I’m a music afficiando.

Regardless of what I’m working on – contract work, speculative fiction, or even personal essays – I have music going through my speakers. Music keeps me from tearing out my hair, greases the wheels on my creativity, and even manages to loosen stubborn plot knots. (It also blocks the sounds of the television, but that’s a different story)

What I decide to put on depends on what I’m writing. Contract work tends to flow best with hard rock. Why? I think because it’s what I usually listen to, so the lyrics don’t distract me as much. If the assignment is particularly difficult, I switch over to Disney and show tunes. Again, I have those lyrics down cold, and the familiarity is soothing on my brain. There’s the slight chance of my getting distracted with the need to perform, though, so I have to use those playlists sparingly if I actually want to stay on schedule.

When it comes to my sci-fi and fantasy work, it really depends on what I’m writing. My novels DO have playlists, and I’ll leave them on endless loops when I get into writing/editing jags. I think by now most writers have playlists for their novels – assuming they don’t fall into that silent category (the very idea of writing an entire novel in silence makes me want to climb the walls – and not in the good Ghost-Spider way).

And, yes, songs cure writer’s block.

I can’t explain how or why, exactly. I’ve had lyrics supply me with words I needed. I’ve also just had instrumental bridges strike the right chord (I know, I’m hilarious) in my brain, and an entire scene has bloomed under my fingers. If something isn’t working with one type of music, I change playlists for another. Tempo, rhythm, tone – the variety is pretty much endless, and it can provide whatever emotion I need at the time. These days, there’s also no shortage of streaming services available. You aren’t even limited to music from your country; the entire world is open to you. Some of my favorite musicians hail from Norway, Spain, and Japan.

Music really is universal.

My work gets done, my writing becomes richer, and I don’t have to sit at my computer in complete, utter, sanity-zapping silence (I really have to know how you work in silence. Have you never heard music?). Since my taste in music encompasses just about everything (except Country – do not bring that twanging mess in here), I also get to incorporate a wide variety of emotion into my work. My writing is better for it, and so is my mental well-being.

Just give it a try, especially if you’ve been staring at the screen for more than 5 minutes without a thought of how to proceed. Pick a song – even at random – and see what comes of it. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.