Writing Soundtrack

I can’t write with music on.

I don’t know why, and don’t judge me. I just can’t. It ruins my concentration and I get sucked into the musicality of what is playing and I can never finish a piece and that’s why I’m not published and …

I may be over-exaggerating.

I hear from many writers how they sit down in their favorite spot in their favorite chair with their favorite snack and play their favorite music and then and only then can they begin penning their masterpiece. Some of them even make soundtracks for each individual story they are working on and play them at the appropriate places to inspire the appropriate writing.

Not so with this chick. I can’t even write a blog post with music on.

I know I’m weird. I already talked about that a few posts ago, and just for the record, if you are one of the people who can write with music and does make soundtracks for each of your pieces, I am not judging you. I envy you.

Because I wish I could draw inspiration from the music while it’s playing. It would certainly make the writing process less boring. I wish I could have swing music blasting from my speakers when Laura and Thomas go out on the town. I wish I could play tense songs when Holly is being chased by the kidnapper. I wish I could have soft love songs playing in the background while I write Derek and Candace’s wedding – doh! I just gave some of it away!

Well you probably already figured that anyway. But you don’t know the ending! Muahaha!

I have a different way of looking at the writing soundtrack. My characters directly interact with whatever song I happen to be listening to at the time they are floating around in my head. Even if the song is completely out of their time period (like “Bad Romance” and the 1940s) they still sing along and yell at/serenade each other with the lyrics.

For example. Currently in my car is a mix of Glee: The Music, Volume 3 and Journey to Regionals. The characters about whom I am thinking of late are Laura and Thomas. THeir setting? 1940s. The first song on my mix is a cover of “Hello, Goodbye.” L&T sing this song in the scene I am planning right now. It is certainly NOT a 40s song, but who cares? It’s my story.

So what so I get from Thomas singing this song to Laura completely out of their time frame? Instead of “Hey, Lola,” he says, “Hey Laura” and changes all the other lyrics around to fit her. This is molto importante because she is furious with him right now, and without the personalized apology, she would take much longer to come around to forgiving him. Will it play out exactly this way in the novel? Of course not, L&T are not sixties hippies. Will he serenade her with a personalized song to regain her trust and good-will? You can bet your bottom dollar, he will!

As the CD continues, so does the story. When there is a passionate love ballad, they sing it to each other (aaw/gag). When we get to “A House is Not a Home” Laura makes the fateful decision to find the family who abandoned her. When we get to the Journey medleys, L&T sing “Anyway You Want It/ Lovin’ Touchin’ Squeezin'” in a performance for their music class to stick it to one of his ex-girlfriends who doesn’t understand that he put a ring on Laura so she can’t have him anymore.

So there you have it. Though I don’t use the soundtrack in the conventional way most writers speak of, my music does inspire me; it dictates and aids my plots. Let me tell you, three hours of driving and singing every day all summer has given me plenty of time to plan and work out kinks.

What about you? How do you use music when you write?

Before I forget

Ollin has bestowed upon me The Spotlight Award. Well, shucks, Ollin, I didn’t have a speech prepared, but thanks so much!  I pass it on to

Love you, ladies!

And

Melissa at The Undeveloped Story hosted a Poetry Weekend. I know I’m really cutting it close with the end of the weekend being about three and a half hours away as I post this, but here is what I came up with. It’s really short because I don’t usually write poetry, but I gave it my best shot. Thanks for the fun challenge!

Forget It
I don't want you to ask me anymore.
We talked about it.
It's fine.
You're annoying me.
Drop it.
The more we discuss it,
The more it chafes,
The more it bothers.The more it hurts.The more it reminds me.I don't want to remember.I want to forget.Forget you.
Forget how you treated me.Leave it alone.
Everything is fine.

Copyright Rosemary O’Connor. All rights reserved.

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About Miss Rosemary

is a recent college graduate from NY hoping to complete her novel of ten years. Stop by her blog, Miss Rosemary's Novel Ideas at http://missrosemary.net or contact her at MissRosemarysNovelIdeas@gmail.com with comments, questions and suggestions. She'd love to hear from you! View all posts by Miss Rosemary

56 responses to “Writing Soundtrack

  • Melissa

    I can usually write while music is playing, only if it’s not too loud. Music tends to inspire certain scenes anyways, but it kind of depends on my mood. Lately, I’ve put away the headphones and just wrote in silence. 🙂

    That was a great poem! I can really relate to how that poem feels especially due to recent events in my life. Thanks so much for participating. I’m really happy you decided to take on my poetry weekend challenge! haha. I’m pretty sure another poetry weekend will be happening in the near future.

    • Miss Rosemary

      Thanks! I enjoyed writing it. Sometimes emotions like that just have to come out.
      And I can’t wait for the next Poetry Weekend! It was one of those forced me to be productive things 🙂

  • Maimoona Rahman

    Wow. Though you claim not to be a poet, your poetry is quite, quite good.

  • Brown Eyed Mystic

    Just like you.
    I can try and try, and still remain trying to pen down something readable while the music’s on. At times, it is more of a distraction (even my fav tracks) when writing. Perhaps two crafts can’t sustain and fight for attention in my queendom. Meh.
    And just like you, how I wish I could too! I should be giving it a try once more, now that you remind me of it.

    -BrownEyed

  • Lar

    Dear Rose-
    Ya know I hadn’t heard that statem. . .er, rant. . . uh, poem in a very long time. But in that time, the last time, all came rushing back. Quite clearly I might add. I could see her face, her glinting eyes, feel and smell her always sweet breath as she fired on me. Her face alive and red, lines of force cutting the typically smooth face. I didn’t know then and I still don’t know what prefaced her version of your words but remember it as yesterday. I could see it building. I could feel the weather change. I was the lightning rod but could not be otherwise. My bewilderment remains in place today. Yet I would give anything of value in the universe and my life to just once more face that face. Even in its wrath.

  • Lar

    Now with that out of my system, hmmm, anyway to your feelings you can not write with distraction. I used to be that way and found I was spending more time pacing than writing. I am not sure how it began really but I started to write with DVD’s on TV about ten feet away. Doesn’t matter what’s on but with most I see being written pretty well, it originally was background noise when I was writing late at night. Soon though I found I was seldom locked up and once I hit a wall I simply italicized while I wrote the dialog I heard. Then once the block was breached, I continued as if OK all along. Now I never get the dialog right. So it ends up being my version of it. And interestingly enough I can sometimes use parts of it as I am writing it in the present voice at the present time. So it’s just my way to write sometimes.

  • junebugger

    Ooh awesome post! It’s really interesting to read about the experience of a writer who CAN’T write with music–as almost every writer I know seems to claim they write best with music on.

    For me, I’m the writer who writes best with music. I take a lot of time a week to arrange the perfect playlist (comprised usually of soundtracks without lyrics…lyrics distract me). I need music because it focuses the emotion I need to feel while writing a certain scene. It keeps the mood of my story constant.

    So I need music not only because it inspires me, allowing me to draw emotion from each note, but because it’s my writing technique of keeping me in line.

    Thanks for sharing this. Now I want to base a post on this subject. Will definately reference you as the source of my inspiration teehee

    Btw, thank you for passing on the award ❤

    • Miss Rosemary

      You are certainly well deserving of it ❤

      And maybe the key to my musical blues lies in what you said here. You write to music without lyrics. It's the singing that distracts me because I just can’t help myself from singing too. I’ll have to scour YouTube for some appropriate lyric-less songs 🙂

  • T.S. Bazelli

    I can’t write with music either. Once in a while I’ll realize there’s a song stuck in my head, playing over and over in the background, but when the radio’s on, or even if there’s noise from the TV I have a hard time blocking it out.

    I wish I could concentrate better, but I’m so easily distracted! So I don’t use music – only the memory of music at times… I need quiet.

  • jannatwrites

    I don’t write with music either, but I have to have some kind of background noise. If it’s too quiet, I can’t concentrate either.

    P.S., I liked the poem!

  • Agatha82

    I’m the opposite, I MUST have music on in order to write. The music directly affects the moods and things I am trying to say BUT you are in a way, doing the same, just in a different manner by taking inspiration from those songs. Love that 🙂
    (Impressed by the poem, I don’t do poetry, god knows what rubbish I’d write lol)

  • Rowenna

    Oh thank goodness! Someone else who can’t write with music on! I get so distracted if I try. I love music–and therein lies the problem. I’ll be trying to concentrate and then get completely sidetracked by a lovely harmony or a unique melody line and poof! No more writing.

    But–I listen to a ton of music while I edit, mostly classical and early music. Tallis, Des Prez, Satie. Keeps it from getting boring 🙂

    And plenty of times music inspires or captures what I’m going for in a particular piece, so I’ll listen to it as writing warm-up to get in the right frame of mind.

    Thanks for the award 🙂 Aww,shucks 🙂

    • Miss Rosemary

      I may try that music while editing, just to be able to say that I can kind of write with music. But otherwise, I’m with you and the harmonies and melodies get tangled up in my head and detract from what my characters are trying to say.

  • Megs

    I get inspired by songs but there’s no way I can write with them playing, I too get too caught up in listening and/or singing along. I can’t write when it’s too quiet either – could never study in the library, for example.
    I’ve found that for me, if I listen to instrumental music I write best. There’s some form of background music but it’s not distracting and its just quiet enough to not be quiet.

    • Miss Rosemary

      Well see, I could never study to begin with whether it’s in the library or somewhere else. lol

      I’m getting an instrumental theme from several comments … I think I may have to take a crack at this while writing.

  • Barb

    see? Another thing in common! I don’t listen to music when I write, only when I draw – and only when I draw by hand, not when I’m coloring with Photoshop. Sitting at the PC automatically shuts off the stereo – and it’s been muted too, I hate “talking” computers! 😉
    No music doesn’t mean I need a quiet place to write, though, I can do it whenever wherever, handwriting on notebooks and moleskins even on trains if they don’t shake too much! 😀

  • Emily and Her Little Pink Notes

    I don’t do silence so I listen to tv/noise/music all day and it does inspire me but it’s also a distraction, yet if it’s not there I feel as if something crucial is missing

  • sharmon

    So nice to hear there are other writers who have to create in silence! I simply can’t write a word if music w/ lyrics is playing and it freaks me out a little that S. Meyer wrote all those honking novels w/ that freakazoid (to me) music blasting in her eardrums–though I do love the background music of the baseball scene in Twilight (movie). But I digress. I did discover though, that for a certain date scene I needed music. I needed to know what the couple was hearing over the speakers at the bistro to put me “there”. It drove me insane till I found the perfect soundtrack. I listened to it while I wrote and it had lyrics, but it was simply background along w/ the other diners, dishing clanking, etc. of the scene so it wasn’t distracting. I do know music can set the mood for me, and I do think that if I were writing an Irish historical I could really use music to get me there. But for the most part, no music, just lovely, lovely silence.

    • Miss Rosemary

      haha! Freakazoid music! I’m with you 100% – I pretty much onle like that one song from the movie and it floors me how she could write so much with so much noise behind her. But power to her, she’s rolling in cash.

  • Lua

    I think I conditioned my brain to get creative whenever I hear Conor Oberst’s voice haha!!! No seriously- I mean I wrote an entire 90.000 words long novel just by listening to him! I guess I’m lucky he has 20+ albums otherwise I could have been brain dead by now 🙂
    About writing and music- I’m one of those weirdoes who just can’t write when she doesn’t hear music. But that’s not about writing; music has been a great source of motivation for me for many things… So no headphones= no writing 🙂
    Congratulations on your award Miss Rosemary and that is a lovely poem you wrote there!

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  • Mckenzie

    Oh, I am absolutely terrible with writing to music! My brain starts to listen to the music instead of paying attention to the page, and then nothing gets accomplished. I can completely relate.

    Congrats on the award! Woohoo!

  • Clare Sager

    Don’t worry, I can’t write with music either (fiction or poetry, that is, blog posts and essays are different matters), which is extra-strange because I used to ALWAYS play music when I wrote. It changed over the past 5 years or so.

    Other than that, I probably use music in a similar way to you, writing-wise – my characters can interact with it, or a song can remind me of one of them or a scene or it can give me the idea for a scene or an emotion one of them is feeling.

    I a confession: although my WIP is more rococo than regency, the scene where my main characters first meet is mentally soundtracked with and inspired by Mr Beveridge’s Maggot from the BBC Pride & Prejudice (in the first draft I even named the piece of music something shamelessly derivative!): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JUC4hmCyxZ0

    I just love that music – even though the acting/script/everything is brilliant, I don’t think the P&P scene would be as electrifyingly tense without the dark sweep that the song opens with.

  • 83October

    I’m in the middle when it comes to this. There are times I can write with music. I wrote a good number of my poems with music playing. But there are also times when the music just confuses the writing. I don’t think its a bad thing not to like music while writing. I imagine that while writing one can suddenly find yourself with lyrics running in your head rather than the actual story.

  • tomd73

    Late in getting into this conversation, but while I love music, I wouldn’t go so far as to say I need it to write. In fact, I’d rather not have to make a decision about the music one way or another, mostly because I love music so much.

    Case in point: if I’m at a coffee shop writing and there’s music, fine by me, whereas if I’m at home writing and I feel compelled to listen to something in the background, I find that I spend too much time and mental energy choosing the artist or band – not the best use of my resources.

    So, to make a short story long, while I sympathize, I don’t suppose I”m in quite the same boat as you.

    Best wishes with your writing.

    • Miss Rosemary

      Funny you should mention it, I can write with music in a coofee shop. It’s part of the atmosphere, but when it comes to creating my own atmosphere it’s better if I leave everything quiet.

      Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  • milkfever

    I’m with you on this one, Miss Rosemary. I can’t write with music on. I must sing, or hum, or dance if music is on. But write? Forget it.
    Love the poem btw.

  • slytherclawchica

    Music and I have a love-hate writing relationship. I have learned that I can write with music only on certain conditions, and those conditions depend on everything from what I’m writing at the moment, to what time of year it is. I’ve made up playlists based on characters so that when I NEED something more than silence (or the ominous echoes of the too-loud tele in the other room) there are certain songs that move smoothly with my train of thought and therefore are less distracting.

  • Biddie Babykins

    forgot to sign in but whatevs.

    When there is a passionate love ballad, they sing it to each other (aaw/gag). <–haha love that

    great poem!

    i think your idea works just as well as motivational music: cue Chariots of Fire theme. speaking of said theme, I really want to write an epic scene that have readers thinking of that song immediately,

  • ABlankWhitePage

    Hmm…you know, I do listen to music as I write, but it actually goes a bit like this:

    Listen to song have idea…

    write about idea…

    start listening again and realize have missed majority of playlist…

    find song appropriate to what I’m writing…

    And repeat…

    Does that actually count as listening while I write?

  • Hema P.

    Rosemary, I can never write with music on in the background, especially music I like. Reason? I get sucked into the lyrics and get all tangled up. Having said that, there is some music that puts me squarely in the writing mood and I switch it off and words tumble out of me on to the paper. Guess it tales all kinds :).

    • Miss Rosemary

      It seems like you know yourself and the way your creative juices operate, which is a good thing! You know when you need music and when you don’t and when you do, specifically what kind of music. No one can be disappointed in having a system down!

  • Smander

    Yep I have to agree I am just like you. I am very easily distracted though. I mean very. So I have to shut the door, put up a ‘do not disturb’ sign and focus focus focus. Sometimes that doesnt even work!

  • cappy

    Agreed – my characters tend to live their lives out to songs I love. The Strokes have been playing a major role in my current “novel”/whatever it is.
    But I have the opposite problem: I can’t write without music on. I can’t do ANYTHING without music on, practically.

  • Ollin

    I CAN’T CONCENTRATE WITH MUSIC EITHER! MEEE TOOOO!

    We are writing twins Miss R!

    I’m incredibly focused person. I need absolute focus, and music just gets in the way. I remember there are people who would listen to music when they STUDIED for a final exam in college–that’s insane to me!

    I don’t judge them or hate them, I just don’t understand how they can possible focus! It baffles me to no end.

    However, I would say music, or certain songs have inspired stories, or even scenes in stories. It helps me to picture a scene, or understand what mood I want in a story.

    But I certainly cannot listen to music while I am trying to actually WRITE the story.

    Great post, as always me lady.

  • amanda

    No music for me, either…the words of the songs distract me too much, and I already have enough excuses and distractions I’m trying to avoid! Fabulous poem…reminded me a little of Alanis Morissette (since we’re talking music).

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