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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Write Playlist

Okay, horrible pun. But I do wonder how many people have soundtracks for when they write. The songs I listen to while I do work are different than the songs that play while I write. And that also depends on what kind of story (or poem, if the mood strikes) I happen to be writing. Usually, there's a list filled with melancholia when I'm using a lot of dark, magic-realist elements and while I'm doing things like paperwork or housework it's almost always trance or happy-hardcore playing in the background (I defy anyone who would laugh at me). Classical while I'm driving. Pandora while I'm doing homework. The Beatles while I'm cooking. And, of course, nothing when I meditate.

With the advent of the iPod and iTunes (and the like, of course), it's possible to literally mete out your life in different, appropriate rhythms. And, contrary to popular belief, having all this going on actually helps me to concentrate. It gets to the point where the music I hear is absorbed only subconsciously. It's white noise that gives the ADD side of my brain something shiny to play with while the workaholic side of me gets down to business. And songs are often stories and poetry in their own right. "Hallelujah" as performed by Rufus Wainwright and "Hide and Seek" by Imogen Heap are great examples of this. Then there are the times that you just need a good political dissension song like "Handlebars" by Flobots or "Hands Held High" by Linkin Park or "Master of Puppets" by Metallica. (Hey, if it's good it's good).

When I hear a song I like, often I'll write down the lyrics in my journal and usually they fit perfectly with a character, or an aspect of a character, I'm working on. Or sometimes they fit with a situation instead. When I heard Linkin Park's "Leave Out All the Rest" for the first time, I immediately imagined one character saying it to another if perhaps my story was a musical instead of a novel and that revealed a part of him I hadn't necessarily considered prior to that moment. That was an exciting day! As writers we're trained to read other writers within our genre (poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction, etc.) but I think it's possible that songs and songwriters get overlooked at times because their art is oral and aural rather than something that's encountered first as words written on a page. I've only had one teacher present songs (by Bob Dylan, of course) as poetry before he would let us listen to them. But perhaps my own experience is not the norm. What has your experience been?

So, here's a list of songs I like to listen to that get me into the mood for writing:

Xanax, by Maria Taylor
Imagine, John Lennon
Yellow, Coldplay
In My Place, Coldplay
Into the Ocean, Blue October
Breathe Me, Sia
My Sweet My Lovely, Plumb
Further Away, Evanescence
Breath, Breaking Benjamin
Everything, Alanis Morissette
All the Things She Said, TaTu
What a Wonderful Word/Somewhere Over the Rainbow, Brother Iz
Better Than Me, Hinder
Leave Out All the Rest, Linkin Park
Become, Goo Goo Dolls
Sympathy, Goo Goo Dolls
Hide and Seek, Imogen Heap
Hallelujah, as performed by Rufus Wainwright
Mad World, as performed by Alex Parks

I think that's a good start. What do you listen to, Readers?

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