Writing for a song

The title of this entry may be misleading if you recall an old saying, which would refer to performing a task or acquiring goods for little money as “for a song”. However, I’m thinking more along the lines of listening to music while you write.

This is something I do with a fair degree of frequency. And it got me thinking about how I choose the songs which accompany my work. Do I choose them for the feelings they invoke, and how well they match the scene, or is my writing more directly affected by the tone of my music?

If I kept a record of the songs I’ve listened to, you might see a soundtrack to my stories. When I find the right song, I play it on repeat, anything up to several hours at a time. The melody fades into the background, the vocals become something I might hum along with, and the emotions expressed in those sounds become a state I can fall into. There have been a couple of really important tunes which helped shape some of my favourite scenes, but funny enough, listening to those songs now will not transport me into the story. Only the words on the page can really do that.

With this is mind, I think the answer is that I utilise specific music to keep me in the right mindset. Yes, this sometimes means I seek out very depressing music (sometimes I have to write incredibly depressing scenes!), and wallow until I’ve either finished the scene, or grown so sick of the song I have to find something else.

For the curious among you, my most recent listening habits have actually been slightly different from usual, maybe because I have been doing more editing and less creating. I’ve been streaming a radio station that plays music from the 1920s and 1930s. Although it’s a slightly earlier era than in the game, it makes me feel like I’m still playing Fallout 3. And that is good!

Signing off with an update! I re-discovered why I loved the yWriter software (http://www.spacejock.com/yWriter5.html), created by Simon Haynes, author of the sci-fi comedy series Hal Spacejock. It’s organised and packed with useful tabs and features. I do tend to get distracted easily (hence I forgot how much I appreciated this gem), but I should be able to get back into the habit of using this awesome program for all my writing. I imported my current project into yWriter, and got a lot of work done. Nothing like seeing your progress clearly laid out.



10 thoughts on “Writing for a song

  1. Ha, I cannot listen to music when I write. I can listen to it while I plan, but not at the page. Not even during editing. Takes me to a whole new place and then nothing gets done.

  2. I do the exact same thing with music! Less so for writing creatively (I haven’t done that in a long while), but certain songs help me stay focused or energized for writing tasks.

    And that program sounds really cool – I’ll have to check it out sometime. 🙂

      1. Hahaha, YES! Every time – it’s the only way I can pump myself up to do chores in the first place! Every thing, from cleaning, to cooking, I listen to upbeat music to ‘get in the mood’ so to speak.

  3. I’ve actually metered some of my poetry to synch with parts of songs before. I don’t start off thinking “oh, I think I’ll base something on this song”, but rather just start coming up with words that happen to scan along with the verses of “No Rain” or “Iris” or “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”…
    Songs have given me ideas for screenplay moments, though, & there it IS deliberate.

    1. Do you get the ideas from the feel of the song, or from the lyrical themes? Because I’ve also found that sometimes the music is actually what dictates the emotions I associate with the song, and not the specific lyrics!


      1. A little bit feel, & a little bit lyrics: The beginning of “Communication Breakdown” always makes me think of somebody running & striking & running & striking, so I tagged it for a sequence where a character infiltrates a building & is dashing through the hallways dropping guards. However, based on the words to the chorus, I decided to have the character also wrecking communications systems, & the chorus also helps build to the climax.

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