The Soundtrack of Creativity

musicFortune Days by The Glitch Mob. Or perhaps Sweet Escape by Paul Cardall. Or maybe Milo by Fredrik. Or James Horner’s film score for Avatar. Or even 4’33” by John Cage.

We are sensory creatures, with the world around us serving up a constant barrage of input. Maybe you can write with a baby screaming rage and slobber all down your ankles, your mouth grainy and sour because you forgot to brush your teeth last night, with the smell of burning eggs wafting in from the kitchen… but I can’t. I am highly distractible.

When I’m writing, I do best sitting in a dark room beside the white noise of the fish tank filter. That’s about as crazy as I can handle. Music is especially problematic for me because my heart clutches at it too hard. I can’t hear a song without it coloring my mood, and through that, my writing. So I do best with absolute silence- and when that’s not possible, mid-volume white noise.

But that doesn’t work for everyone! I asked a few of my writer friends what they listen to while they’re writing, and here are some of the responses:

Soundtrack1 Soundtrack2 Soundtrack3 Soundtrack4 Soundtrack5Just like so many aspects of creativity, what works best differs from person to person.  There’s no one right way!

Not sure which camp you fall into?  Take the time to find out!  Try listening to film scores for a few nights, then switch over to white noise.  Endure the silence, then flip on some Italian opera, or traditional Chinese.  Maybe punk or classic rock.  Play around with it, have fun.  And after giving each its fair shake, assess which worked best for you.

Maybe you’ll count by words on the page.  Maybe you’ll count by the cleanest prose, stuff that needs the least editing.  Maybe it will come down to what led to the most compelling scenes, or what helped you through the hardest scenes.  Or you may find that a different sound type helped in each of these different areas.  But if you don’t put in the effort to try it, you won’t know.

I used to listen only to movie scores while writing.  Someone told me it was the best thing and so that was what I did, because I was young and ignorant and dazzled by anyone who professed an opinion.  For years, that was how I did it!  But then I had kids, and kids have this magical way of derailing entire lives, haha.  Soon, I could only write during naptime, and, terrified as I was to lose one precious second of that time, I turned off my music.

Suddenly, I was writing more.  I was writing better.  I could concentrate sooner and longer.  My scenes were no longer victims of the mood of whatever song was on.  I was free.  Who knows how long I could have continued stilting myself, stuck writing in one way because that’s the way I had always written?

So if you’ve found yourself floundering, or are just ready to shake up your writing routine, start with your playlist.  You never know what might happen on the page!

What’s your soundtrack of creativity?  Let us know in the comments below!  And extra points if you tell us how you found out!