Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Writing from Soundtracks and Other Oddities

I know all kinds of creative people. Writers are an interesting bunch because we have all kinds of ways we engage the process of our art. Some people like to sit down and crank out ten thousand words in a day. Others like to chip away at a novel in bites of three to four chapters. Some of us prefer procrastination, and whatever the case I’m sure I’ve been all three of these before.

But there’s one question about creative methods that really intrigues me because of the magnitude of the response usually given to the question…and that question is, “Do you write to music, and if so what?” That gets an undiluted reaction every time.

It’s usually an enthusiastic yes or a condescending no. Let’s explore those, shall we, because I’m both. Really.

First, the quiet-lover. I get this. I bought noise-cancelling earphones when I bought my laptop. I go to the public library to write quite often. And I have become an old fuddy-duddy apparently, because I give sternly crushing glares to the stupidly ignorant people who insist on having loud cell phone conversations in the fiction stacks. Sometimes I wonder what has happened to us as a nation, and then I remember: it’s the teachers’ unions, plus young skulls full of mush, plus an abandonment of Biblical truth that equals this, the youngest American generation. Ah, but I wore ridiculous clothing once myself, ‘tis true. ANYWAY. I sometimes like to write in dead-quiet environments. Rare as they have become. Especially since I have children of my own. Destruction, thy name is boy.

Second, the Stephenie Meyer. She famously writes to music. Muse is her muse. How quaint. I get that, too, because most of the work I did on Airel was to music; specifically movie soundtracks. One of them was Howard Shore’s brilliant score for The Lord of the Rings. Writing fight scenes with that kind of accompaniment, the imagery simply pours out in a torrent of words. Plus it's easier to write scenes that are supposed to be frightening when you've got appropriate music blasting in your ears, and there are some of those in Airel. I also stuck some Switchfoot songs on repeat all day, and more than once. The Hello Hurricane record (2009), if it would have been vinyl, would have been worn out on Sing it Out, Red Eyes, and Stitches, and quite a few of the more intimate moments between Airel and Michael received their treatments thanks to another song on that record, Yet. Still more musical inspiration helped me out on another book: The Marsburg Diary (coming soon). This music, however, came from another modern genius: John Williams, the man behind the music for movies like Indiana Jones and Star Wars. His score for Memoirs of a Geisha has been motivating my writing off and on for the better part of a year now.

So writing to music or writing to silence—as for me, I can do either. It just depends on my mooditude. If you’re a proponent of either camp, I’d encourage you to test the waters on the other side and see how things get on over there. I personally was amazed at how music greased the creative skids for me.

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