Writing Music

I like music. A lot. I like most types of music, at least a little bit, although I lean more towards the country/folk/bluegrass world, and sometimes I just need a little old-school rock n’ roll or hair metal to get a scene going. So today I’ll give you a little sample of some of the stuff I listen to when I write.

For example, Pentatonix’ version of “Starships” by Nicki Minaj just came on as I was starting up this blog post. Don’t hate, you know it’s fun. That’s on my “Driving Music” playlist that I run in the truck when I’m on a long road trip and don’t feel like listening to an audiobook. That playlist also includes Taylor Swift (because I’m not Tom Hiddleston), Reckless Kelly, a pile of Willie Nelson, some Macklemore & Ryan Lewis (who I have to thank Delilah Dawson for turning my on to way back at a JordanCon dinner with her, Seanan McGuire, James Tuck, Stuart Jaffe, and a pile of other people years ago), Blake Shelton, Turnpike Troubadours, and Tori Amos. I like to sing along with the radio, so I know most of the words on my Driving Music playlist. If you ever ride any distance with me, you’ve now officially been warned.

When I write, I keep a little more low-key, usually (he says after taking a break to make a futile attempt to blow all the cat hair off his keyboard). That means a lot of Lindsey Stirling, The Piano Guys, John Williams, Ray LaMontagne, Jessica Lea Mayfield, Guy Clark, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Darrel Scott, and Flogging Molly (they have some mellow stuff, just not a ton).

If I’m working on a fight scene and I need to get things rolling, Rob Zombie is my go-to. Dragula or More Human than Human are a good place to start for me, then I’ll move into some old mid-90s Nine Inch Nails or old Jay-Z. The Hamilton soundtrack has been a really good piece to write to lately, but sometimes I get lost in the words and don’t write much because I’m singing along too much. Occupational hazard, it’s for real.

There are a couple of reasons I play music while I write. One is that I love music. It transports me back to where I was when I first heard the song, it makes me feel more energetic, and it gives me a little more rhythm and speed to my writing and typing. Also, it gives my wife a signal as to when I’m actually working and I’m not just screwing around on the computer. It’s hard to tell sometimes when it’s okay to come into the office and chat with me, and when it’s a lot better not to interrupt me. I usually don’t play music when I’m surfing Facebook or CNN, because I watch a lot of videos linked off those sites, so she knows that if there’s music playing and I’m typing, then I’m probably working, and only to interrupt if it’s an emergency. If I’m just screwing around on the internet, then I don’t care if she comes in to chat about the weather. I also use music to drown out the TV in the next room, so it helps me focus, especially the instrumental stuff. I don’t really dig classical, but some of the newer, jazzier instrumental stuff is really good background noise, and I don’t find myself getting interested in the noises coming from elsewhere in the house, so I can focus on getting my words on the page.

What about you? Do you listen to music when you write? What helps you get words on the page?

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