Discussion → Music while writing...what a wonderful thing I'm denied

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    See ya
    Sep 30, 08:14am

    Music is huge for me as a writer. William Elliott Whitmore, Townes Van Zandt, The Pogues, Warren Zevon, and it just goes on and on. I often talk with writers who mention in passing they just finished this story or that novel while listening to (Insert awesome band or singer here).

    I've never been able to write while listening to music and it kills me. I often listen to music for hours before getting started and that's enough to get me through, but I can't while I'm actually working.

    Okay, I'll stop whining and just ask...what are some things you guys listen to while working or, if you can't like me, what do you listen to in order to get that jolt before sitting down to work?


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    David Ackley
    Sep 30, 02:39pm

    Since you asked, Sheldon, it's from among some of the following:

    Ali Farka Toure, The Red and the Green; Robert Johnson, The Complete Recordings. This doesn't work great because I start listening to the words which kills concentration. A lot of jazz: Mal Waldron and Steve Lacey; Dewey Redman;Cecil Taylor; Ken Vandermaark;Sonny Rollins. Well, such as those.


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    See ya
    Sep 30, 10:09pm

    Hellfire, David. I've gotta check out many of these. Many. I'm mean, Robert J. I'm familiar with, but I'm gonna have to check these others out for sure.


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    Kari Nguyen
    Oct 01, 02:45pm

    Sheldon, I find the discussion of writing and music to be completely fascinating. I usually write to music, although I have found that some pieces are better written in silence. When I’m writing something, I make a note at the bottom of the draft about what music I’m using. A lot of the time it’s one song, so it’s something that’s playing on repeat to help me sustain the feeling/mindset of the piece. When I wrote the first drafts of “Star Anise,” I kept a playlist by chapter. I wrote to the playlist and did most of the edits that way too. When I thought I was just about there with the story, I chose one of the songs, this really amazing guitar instrumental, and finished the edits and reads with it playing on in the background. It just seemed to be the perfect song for the entire thing. When I posted the story here on Fictionaut, I almost included the songs so that others could listen along too, but I thought better of it. I guess I wanted the words to speak for themselves, and I didn’t want to dictate someone else’s reading experience. But there’s definitely something about music and melody and song that seems to free something up, at least for me.


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    See ya
    Oct 01, 03:04pm

    You're going to think I'm just saying this, but I swear I was about to write you today, Kari, and my day job got kicked in high gear and I was side-tracked. I've wondered how it's been going with you and wanted to catch up.

    Very cool process you talk about here in relation to listening to music and how much it weighs on your work. THAT'S the thing I want so badly and can't manage. I love the idea that you kept a playlist by chapter. I think you should include the songs as you mentioned on something you've written here at Fictionaut. That would of major interest, I think, and not something I've seen done before.


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    James Lloyd Davis
    Nov 06, 01:44pm

    Old school here. Springsteen, Marley, Mozart, the usual. Sometimes, when I really wanna write dark, I listen to any tejano song that does not have a squeezebox anywhere in the backup, which is unusual. Also, I'm a sucker for gitano guitars.

    When I'm writing, I like to spend a certain amount of time every day driving nowhere and listening to music. For some reason, the combination of driving and tunes stokes the creative juices. Anyway, it works. I never get 'writer's block.' Ever.

    As for the piece I'm including today, "Pineapples and rust," the music that preceded its creation was the song, "A better place to be" by the late, great Harry Chapin, a fine story teller himself.

    Specifically, it was these lyrics, "I am the midnight watchman at Miller's Tool and Die. I watch the metal rusting. I watch the time go by."

    That, and the fact that I worked in heavy industry for many years, industry that, finally, disappeared. Places where I worked are, today, empty shells of buildings, waterfront condominiums, vacant lots.

    I worked as a journeyman in many trades, but have one skill and trade that is no longer practiced today by anyone, one that existed for generations before me. It was supplanted by computers and computerized equipment.

    The things I did, the places I worked. Where does all that stuff go? To rust, eh? Or did it ever exist? Was it real?


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    Teresa Cortez
    Apr 17, 01:11pm

    I can't listen to music while writing. I can't listen to ANYTHING but silence or a steady white noise - meditation room or rock concert - while writing. There's no inbetween. However, I can EDIT while listening to music. Ahhhh....


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    See ya
    Apr 27, 02:18pm

    Hey Teresa...thanks for joining the discussion. An update on this, however:

    I can now listen to T. Monk while writing. Jazz, no lyrics. I think it has been the lyrics that have been throwing me off.

    So T. Monk. Yes. At last.



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