I find it difficult to write without music. This could be because my first successful serious attempt at writing took place last summer while I was still living at home.
I’d always dabbled in writing but I re-read Stephen King’s On Writing and decided to take his work ethic literally and write 2,000 words a day. Whatever anyone’s opinion on Stephen King you can’t say he didn’t work hard, especially when he was starting out. I was this ambitious because I was unemployed and had no financial commitments. I also took weekends off because I was an arts graduate dammit. That’s how we roll. So I had a goal of 10,000 words per week. At the same time I was reading Randy Ingermanson’s Fiction Writing for Dummies in which he recommends penalties for not reaching weekly writing goals. So I decided to forfeit €50 (of the money that I wasn’t earning) for every week I didn’t reach my goal. You’d be amazed at how well this motivates you.
But the fact remains that I was working at home which is less than ideal. My sister was sitting exams so I’d often hear her pop music (ew) from across the hall. During her breaks I’d hear her playing basketball incredibly loudly right underneath my window. There’d be interruptions from parents, the sound of lawnmowers, the dog barking, visitors talking downstairs or the train going by my house.
So rather than be distracted by random noises I couldn’t control I decided to have constant noise that I was in control of.
I can’t listen to every type of music at each stage of writing, I find different bands work better at different stages.
- For Brainstorming and Research: Glam Rock. You can’t beat it. That and Hair Metal. Anything cheesy and upbeat really, 80s stuff, Def Leppard, Bon Jovi, Bowie, Motley Crue, KISS etc. etc. It really fosters creativity for some inexplicable reason.
- Writing; 1st 2nd and 3rd drafts: Any Heavy metal really. I love Slipknot, Metallica, Iron Maiden, Marilyn Manson, Avenged Sevenfold. Anything heavy and loud enough (oh, and Pantera) to distract my inner censor or critic (and AC/DC, though they’re good for brainstorming too) from getting involved. When I write without music I keep going back, editing, second guessing everything (and Alice in Chains are awesome too) and never actually moving on. With music like this that critic’s voice is eliminated without, hopefully, deteriorating the actual quality of my writing. (And Tool) It’s fast enough to get a rhythm going too, When I listen to Metallica’s Master of Puppets album or Iron Maiden’s Piece of Mind I can knock out 1,000 words an hour on good days. It has to be music I’m familiar with though. I’ve started listening to more Ozzy Osbourne recently and because I’m not as familiar with him (Korn have clawed their way back into my playlist too) I find myself stopping and listening to it, trying to hear the lyrics and just getting distracted. The same happened with Mastodon. (I can’t believe I almost forgot Stone Sour)
I’ve written some of my favourite scenes while listening to Bat Country on repeat
- Revision, Editing and Polishing: while I occassionally like listening to Duke Special, Wallis Byrd and other folksyish acousticy stuff at this point I prefer instrumental things like Bach, the Montovani Orchestra, Yanni (don’t judge me!!), Apocalyptica, some heavy metal instrumentals like Metallica’s Orion and Cacophony’s Speed Metal Symphony. Film scores like Lord of the Rings are good and Led Zeppelin also work here for me, at any other stage they’re just distracting. These types of music allow me to concentrate without distracting from the agonisingly monolithic task of editing a novel.
I often want to scream like this when I’m editing a scene for the 17th time and it’s still not right.
So what about you guys. Do you listen to music when you write or work? If so share your playlists in the comments.