Monday, 25 February 2013

Writin’ Tunes: Part I



Hey all,

I hope the lot of you enjoyed the post from last week, it gave me a very nice break from the blogosphere, and gave someone else a chance to stand on the podium. I’ve just been fiddling away with Dreamstate II, as one would expect, and waiting around for that shipment of paperbacks to come in. DHL is being less than simple to contact about the missing tracking numbers and the fact that the books shipped out a month ago. The border does play wonky with shipping times, but still, a little ‘hey, they’re heading your way and not lost by the side of the road,’ would be nice.

Anyways, enough about my rather dull week(end), we’re here to talk about my slightly less dull writing, and the things that I listen to while clicking away at this here keyboard. Now, I know there are going to be a number of people who, as soon as they see this article, will say ‘I don’t get it,’ and they won’t. For them, doing anything while listening to music, especially writing or other thought intensive works, just ends up being a distraction. I know a few people like this; there needs to be complete silence so that they can zone out and focus on their work, otherwise the world turns to chaos.

I am this way with certain types of music, which I may as well jump into right now. Songs, or bands, that have extremely lyrically focused aspects completely throw me off. Now, while you might be thinking, ‘don’t all songs have lyrics except for those that are instrumental only?’ this is only partially true. There are plenty of bands where the vocals are only part of the canvas, where the other instruments are just as, if not more important that what the singer is saying. I very well might throw out a few links to youtube videos to illustrate my point later on, but then again I might not… we’ll see how long this gets.

‘Why,’ you might ask, ‘are you listening to music at all? Doesn’t silence function just as well? That way you won’t have to pick out songs that fit your strange definition of not being too lyrically oriented.’ The answer is because I need it to focus, and no, silence does not work nearly as well for me. When I’m writing with nothing to listen to, I oftentimes find myself letting my brain wander. This happens during those odd breaks between ideas, generally when I’ve reached the end of a small scene, or paragraph, or when I’m trying to figure out just how a character should respond to something. My brain says, ‘I wonder what’s in your email?’ and then I go check. At this point, my concentration is elsewhere, and it’s a bit of a pain to get back into it. On the other hand, when I’ve got some music going, if my brain decides to wander off to its special place, it has something else to focus on for a few moments before coming back to be. It’s almost as if the music distracts that little voice in the back of my head from bothering me. The worst that happens is I might start listening to a particularly good section of a song for a few seconds, but then I’m back to work.

The thing that you have to be careful of, though, are the vocals. There have been a few bands (usually just after I pick up a new album of theirs) that I’ve just had to turn off and set aside in favor of something else. I really wanted to listen to that first band, I did, but my writing stalled because I kept on stopping to listen to what the singer was saying—or I started typing what they were singing. This, as you would imagine, more or less kills the writing process, and puts you at risk for copyright infringement as you just wove half a page of fairly popular song lyrics into your novel. The best response, as tempting as it is to keep on listening, is to throw on one of those older albums that you know will work, and listen to the new one later. I have a pre-built play list that I almost always put on when I start writing. It’s a lot of the same, but it keeps me focused, and most of the time, I’m not really listening to the songs anyways.

This post got really quite long, and I think right here makes for a rather nice split in the two halves. Next time I’ll talk a bit more about the weirder aspects of why I listen to certain things, and why I do not; more depth than just lyrics or no lyrics. I think I’ll put the youtube videos in at that point—as examples. It’ll be a strange post, but possibly interesting in that ‘I wonder if I’m the only one in the world who thinks this way,’ sorta way.

-Trevor

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