J to tha M: Music as Inspiration

Gettin’ Our Jam On

music as inspiration for writing

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M:  You use music to write quite a lot, don’t you?

J:  oh, yes

it’s my favorite

and it’s important to me

M:  we use music with writing so differently

J:  I think so, too

you’re usually a silence only

M:  I can’t have any distraction while I’m actually sitting in front of the computer writing

J:  exactly

and sometimes I can’t write that first word unless music is filling my head

M:  when I listen to songs, I get distracted by the music and the lyrics and tend to sing out loud and get into it too much

J:  for me, it becomes a setting, a mood

if I’m writing action, I like to have driving, hard, fast music going

and for romance, something lush and chill-inducing

M:  I use it before I sit down to write, but pretty much for the same things

I use it more during my mulling stages for a scene or a character

Listen to songs that fit my character, what they would like

or ones that fit a scene, or ones that inspire a scene

J:  I actually use it that way, too

but accidentally

sometimes I’ll hear a new song out somewhere, and a scene will come to me

maybe something I’ve been contemplating for a while but couldn’t get quite right

and all it took was that tiny door opening

whatever trigger that song tripped

M:  I love that inspiration

when a melody or lyric or combo of the two hits a nerve – an emotion

and I want to translate that into a story or scene

J:  music has always been so important to anything I do

it is my first love

I can’t imagine not including it in my daily activities

I’m listening to music right now

while I chat and work and train. I think I’d freeze up without it

M:  music has been a huge part of your life – more than just a basic appreciation

and it’s interesting how you integrate them in your creative processes

J:  I imagine most musicians would be the same–even when they’re not creating more music

like, I wonder if some of them need music in their head just to walk around

can’t function without it

M:  just like writers

finding constant inspiration, ideas, scenes and stories floating around in their heads

J:  what song inspired you most recently?

M:  oh boy

the oddest things inspire me from songs. A line, a thought, an emotion

One of my all time favorites is “The pleasure, the feast, and the memory, the soar of kissing her lips”

just yes

from Bobby Long’s “Being a Mockingbird”

and Foo Fighters’ “These Days” was a big inspiration for our hockey hero Brody. The song itself, and as something he’d listen to.

It’s so great to have a song trigger a visceral response – happy, sad, romantic, tragic – and then try to interpret and take that feeling, that response, and put it into a story and character. I love that tug right in your heart or belly

That’s the response I think we all aspire to, no matter what you write in any discipline

J:  I have a playlist for every story

like a soundtrack of sorts. And an unofficial/official song for each. Like “Do Not Hang Your Head” by Elizabeth and the Catapult for Side Effects, and “Visions Part II” by The Ugly Club for Oracles.

M:  a lot of people do, and a lot of readers really enjoy them

I just am not that organized

J:  I think it helps me keep the mood consistent throughout the story

but I often add to the list as I find new music

M:  Inspiration is great no matter where you get it

J:  Getting some right now

brb

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On Writing: Music as Inspiration

Music and Prose

Guest post by Jack Croxall

writing inspiration with music

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What I’d like to reflect upon here is how useful I’ve found assigning particular songs to certain sequences, settings or even whole chapters of my novel.

I first tried this because I wanted to create a kind of reference point for the feel of some of my scenes; a way of standardising say, a certain location’s mood or the mindset of a particular character. It seemed like a decent enough idea and, once I’d decided on a suitable selection of tracks for a sequence, I always made sure to have a quick listen through any time I wanted to add anything more to said sequence, hopefully preventing myself from accidentally bolting on any tonally dissimilar sentences.

However, I soon realised music could do more for my work than just help with continuity.

I think everybody’s experienced that moment when a familiar song comes on and you’re instantly reminded of how you felt when you first heard it; I know when I hear tracks from Echo Park by Feeder, I suddenly feel as sad as I did at the end of the book I was reading when I bought the album (Watership Down). I mention this because, as I began carefully allocating scene X with track list Y, I started to realise a lot of the older songs in my music library put me in the precise mental state I’d been in when I’d first listened to them during my teenage years.

Now, a lot of teenagers have an incredible amount to deal with and dredging some of that back up could perhaps be considered a bad idea, but upon taking the plunge myself, I recognised I’d discovered a priceless writing tool.

Let me explain a little bit more. The two main characters in my YA novel are, unsurprisingly, teenagers and having not been one for a while, I was sometimes finding it difficult to work out how certain events in the plot might affect them. In rediscovering some of my older music, I realised I’d stumbled upon a valuable window into how I’d felt during the more testing times (but comparatively meagre in the grand scheme) I had gone through as a teenager; insecurity, break ups, cancelation of my favourite TV show etc.

So, the point is, I was suddenly able to construct more realistic reactions and responses to some of the more emotive events that occur throughout my plot, simply because my old music could reminded me of how I’d felt and thought during similar, albeit far less extreme, situations. It really was somewhat of a revelation.

About the Author

Jack Croxall - Author PhotoBorn in High Wycombe, Jack Croxall now lives in rural Nottinghamshire with his chocolate Labrador, Archie. He has a degree in Environmental Science from the University of Nottingham and currently toils away as a science writer in between working on his books. A YA Victorian fantasy, Jack’s debut novel, Tethers follows Karl Scheffer and Esther Emerson as they become embroiled in a treacherous conspiracy. The book is available through Amazon and you can find out more by visiting Jack’s blog or the book’s GoodReads page. You can also follow Jack on Twitter or Facebook.