Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Menace to Society

(Alternate title: Music as Muse.)

Like a lot of other writers, I have a playlist that inspires me as I work. In my case, it's a soundtrack to the book - the songs relate to and follow the storyline and characters. I've picked up new songs along the way and tweak/shuffle them according to what happens and changes as I edit.

My husband, who's way into music (like High Fidelity kind of obsessed), sends new songs my way every now and then that he thinks relate to the story. That's how I knew, in fact, that he liked my book. He was my first true beta reader, and while he read, and especially once he finished, he reacted by sending me names of songs for my book playlist.

That was, like, a huge compliment from him. A stamp of approval.

So what's on the playlist? Killers, Coldplay, Dido, Iron & Wine, Drive-By Truckers, U2, John Mayer, Anya Marina, Postal Service, Otis Redding, Aerosmith, The Cure and my current band crush, Band of Horses. Among others.

And how, you might ask, does all that relate to the title of this post? Well, here's how. I don't actually listen to my playlist while I write. I've learned I like to write fiction with little background noise. If the TV's on, I mute it. If music's on, I drop the volume to barely audible. If my 4-year-old is running around, well, I do what I gotta do. There's no mute button on that guy. ;-)

When I do listen to my playlist, it's at times I can't physically be at the computer working on my manuscript. While I clean the house. While I'm at the office. While I'm busy. While I'm living life. And while I'm driving.
Most often, in fact, while I'm driving.

Hence, the post title. My playlist is the means through which I enter my fictional world when I really want to be at my computer moving around inside that world. And the songs on the list really put me there. They get me thinking about my characters, which gets me thinking about scenes in the book, which gets characters talking in my head, which leads me to pull out a pen and the closest receipt or take-out menu or playbill and start scribbling out ideas and dialogue while hurtling down the highway at 70 mph.

I try to pull off the road. But sometimes it's just not possible, and we all know how elusive and valuable and fleeting these sudden, random tidbits of story can be. Guess I should invest in a mini voice recorder ... but that would be organized. And organized I am not.

So instead I'm a menace to society. But in my defense, my in-transit notes look more like blind contour drawings - because at the very least, I keep my eyes on the road. That's more than I can say for the chick texting in the car beside me.

Lord help us all.


  1. I am gonna suggest you go ahead and get that iPhone and start using the voice recording feature. Just talk into it and transcribe later. Safety First.

  2. No recorders. They waste time and are a crutch. I've done an interview while driving on the interstate: notebook held with right hand on right knee, left hand writing, steering with knees. All at 80

  3. I've interviewed on the road too. That's tougher. Dialogue notes? Easy-peasy.