I may be hard at work typing my heart out, but there’s always time for music. I wouldn’t get through most days without it, let alone 30 days of isolation-style writing. So here it is. Back at it with my most recent mix
- Let’s Be Still – The Head and the Heart (One of the loveliest time-out-from-real-life songs I’ve ever heard)
- On the Line – Night Riots (My NaNoWriMo 2018 kick-off song! “Digging dreams out of the fire, feeling the doubt getting tighter, no backing down, take me higher!”)
- Unholy War – Jacob Banks
- *Starboy – The Weeknd, Daft Punk (for better or worse, this is now the song to celebrate my first draft of the Blood and Water manuscript–I just kept saying “look what I’ve done!” to the tune, which had to be followed by “I’m a muthafckn starboy!” PS those are pretty much the only lyrics I understand which makes me feel super-old but it doesn’t stop me from loving the beat)
- Stomp Me Out – Bryce Fox
- Smoked Out of Heaven – Saint Claire (“All of those tiny hollows”…Possibly my favorite song ever. Broken and beautiful and so poetic…and, not that this will mean anything to anyone but my mom–yet–but it is also a perfect song for my main character towards the end of Book 1/start of Book 2)
- The Sound of Silence – Disturbed (sorry Simon & Garfunkel, this version gives me chills every time)
- Come Follow Me Down – George Taylor (Fun fact: this music video has snakes in it, so now we’re all stuck waiting until enough time has passed for the video to end before I click back into YouTube to look for the next video…)
- Bury Me Face Down – grandson
- Gladiator – Zayde Wølf (find me a better pump-up song, I dare you!)
- Marble Floors – Vian Izak, Through Juniper Vale (oh, the whimsy)
- Demons – Jacob Lee
You can find the full YouTube list here. If you missed my previous playlists and are interested, you can find Mix 1 here and Mix 2 here.
It’s no secret how much I love music. I’ve talked about it often enough on here. For lack of anything better to write about (and because I am really loving these tunes), below is a list of my top songs of the moment. These are the songs that crawl under my skin and roll through my blood and settle in my bones, the songs that haunt me until I play them one more time before falling asleep. I know some are pretty old, but they’re all fairly new to me. You can check out the entire playlist on Spotify here, or if you prefer YouTube, I’ve included links to the videos — but viewer beware; I don’t usually like to watch the official music videos because their story can sometimes change what the song means for me, so who knows what you may see.
Blood and Bone Mix 1
- Bossy — Kelis ft. Too $hort
- River — Eminem ft. Ed Sheeran
- Let it Rain — Lucidious ft. Gjr
- When You’re Gone — VERITE
- Breaking Free — Night Riots
- Blood / / Water — grandson
- Bottom of the Deep Blue Sea — MISSIO
- Glory Bound — Matt Hires
- You Didn’t Know — One Less Reason
- Beautiful Disaster — Lost Autumn
What songs have attached themselves to your blood and bones lately?
I’ve read so many books and articles and blog posts full of writing tips. Tips to focus, tips for time management, tips for character development. So many of them recommend silence while writing. If you must listen to music, it can’t have words, or if there are lyrics, they should be in a language other than one you speak.
I’ve made playlists on Spotify for every work-in-progress, and some for specific characters. If I hear a song that evokes a certain feeling or perfectly describes something a character is going through, I save it to the playlist and use it for inspiration later. Most of the time, I listen to these playlists while I’m driving or sunbathing or cooking or packing. They enhance the story I’m working on and help me see characters and events in a new light, the same way music changes my perspective in my own life.
I prefer to write with one of my playlists going. Usually, I’ll start with whichever song most recently spoke to me to jog my memory of all the pre-writing I’ve done in my head, and the rest of the songs fade into the background as my writing picks up. Then I’ll hit a snag and search for a new song to prompt another scene.
It’s worked for me as long as I can remember. Sure, I catch myself singing along sometimes, but I don’t think the lyrics are as distracting as the pros warn about. I mean, I’m also the type of person who needs to mindlessly rap along with T.I. or Eminem while driving through a snowstorm or torrential downpour or other traffic situation that makes me uncomfortable.
I’ve tried listening to the soundtracks of epic movies and shows and games like Thor and Game of Thrones and Assassin’s Creed. I’ve tried creating my own mix of lyric-less songs pulled from soundtracks and classical composers and string quartet covers of popular hits. I’ve tried the Russian Rap playlist I found through Spotify to give me the sound of human voices without the words I understand (although my four semesters of Russian come rearing up and cause excitement when I do recognize a word or two).
What it comes down to for me is this: I have a lot going on in my mind. Maybe it’s quiet, constant anxiety that makes my brain spin in a thousand directions at once. Maybe everyone’s mind runs things in the background and foreground at once. All I know is I need the lyrics to pull the background focus. If the behind-the-scenes-processing part of my mind is stuck in familiar songs, the rest of my thinking can focus outward. Whether it’s keeping control of a vehicle on an icy road or pouring my heart into a half-formed story, the music — with lyrics I can learn by heart — is imperative to my writing process.
How is it that a song can so perfectly capture a complete stranger’s heart? Phantoms drift through a soul, nameless but achingly present, without words to explain the ache or hope or love burning holes through a chest. Then a song will come on and suddenly it all makes sense. Every single lyric is a word plucked from within my heart, every description a tale of my own life.
Lyrics put words to the feelings inside, and the melody spells out in the clearest language the nuances of those feelings, of aches and dreams and faith and fear.
Avalanche by Amasic (originally by Bring Me The Horizon) kills me softly every time. It’s like all of my neurosis and darker days are spelled out in the straightforward yet anguished strums of the guitar.
If I want to dwell on the tragic beauty of the human condition, I can dive into We Fall Apart by We As Human. If I’m in the mood for a darker reflection, I’ll turn to the haunting and desperate Still Alive by Breaking Through.
Nothing reminds me of joy and hope and sunshine like Suburban Legends’ Bright Spring Morning. This song is fun and adventure and a reminder that I can roll down my windows, crank up the radio, and fly away.
I’m not very picky in my music tastes. I’ll listen to anything as long as it moves me in some way — even if just with a really catchy beat. Music infects every part of my life. There’s almost always some song playing on repeat in the back of my mind. If my playlist won’t load, I’ll have an extremely hard time at the gym or driving anywhere. It isn’t a road trip until I’ve rapped along to Forgot About Dre, it isn’t a party until someone starts belting out Don’t Stop Believing, and it isn’t a good writing day unless I’ve started with Waiting in the Moment. I think better with music playing, I write better to a soundtrack, cooking, cleaning, anything is better against a backdrop of tunes.
What about you? Share some of your favorite songs in the comments — I’d love to check them out!