The Intertwine of Music and Writing

As I wrote my first two horror novels in 2016 and 2017, I was creating a playlist of music to go alongside them. The music was instrumental (aside from a few peeking words, since I added some songs from movie soundtracks). The music carried some of the movement of writing and put me into the world of my novels rather quickly. My brain recognized the repetition of the playlist and adjusted accordingly to the task. I do the same for running. I have a playlist that gets me there every time. Whenever I delete it and create it again, it shares a lot of the same songs.

When I say that this playlist is the soundtrack of my novels, I speak to the mood I was fabricating and letting flow onto the page. Words slipped out of my fingers at an alarming rate as the tempo of the music quickened. Every time, I would reach a feverish state in which I was under the utter influence of the beauty that these composers and musicians created. My art is a shared one. I used this music as a collaboration tool.

For writing, I prefer contemporary composers like Danny Elfman, who have a clearer instrumental narrative. I steer away from exaggerations generated by wind instruments as they can sometimes be harsh. Since novels are a marathon feat, I aim for smoother compositions that play more gently with the ups and downs. And those ups and downs are very necessary. I didn’t add music that remained level. I wanted the hills and valleys, for they whipped my sentences into more exciting forms. At a meeker segment, I described the landscape and when the music stirred more vigorously, I intensified and played with the less controlled human elements of the story.

The playlist is ordered intentionally. I wanted to train my brain to get into a particular state of consciousness that would allow me to break out of the mundane world for the two hours I spent at my desk each night to complete the novels. When I look back at my process, I see that it was heavily reliant on consistency. I got home from work and waited for it to get dark and cool out. Then I went out for a four mile run to the state capital (I lived in Sacramento at the time). After that, I immediately sat at my desk and did not get up until I had written 2,000 words. But back to music.

Music is a remembrance tool. It has associative quality. It moves about your brain and forms connections in memory and movement. That’s why there’s such an emotional resonance around it. And I’ve just used music for an alternative, that of forging consistency in my writing practice by moving my neural connections in sync with the playlist narrative to put myself into the state of writing.

Maybe you want to try playing a particularly captivating song and letting the words move freely from your fingertips?