–Calypso Grier, Writer/Editor for Wrought Iron Reads
It’s your girl, Calypso Grier, coming to you some writer advice. To playlist or not to playlist? Whatever works for you, but if you want to add music to the mix, and you’re not exactly sure how to pull it off without getting too caught up in the jam to get any work done, then let me tell you how I conquered the beat.
In the past when I was mostly leisure writing for an audience of me, myself and I, I’d pop on a playlist in a heartbeat and zone out. The word count would go like miles on an interstate, easy and fast-paced. But, once I got into the mind-numbing habit of actually trying to make a living off of my craft, it was like music pumped the brakes.
Suddenly I was distracted by every jaunty new jam, and the minutes just ticked away to hours. I wasn’t getting any work done. The pastime that used to make it easier to write had become that one friend who keeps your To-Do list, To-Undone.
Why was this happening to me?
Science shows music has an uncanny ability to mess with how we perceive time. Ever wonder why “elevator music” was invented? It’s background noise to make the walls-closing-in-on-you feeling go away faster. Likewise, restaurants and department stores strategically utilize sound to conversely speed you along or entice you to linger awhile. You can imagine how beneficial that is to business.
So, how can the writer harness the positive vibes of good music without succumbing to the negative effects of time-warping? I had to learn how to put together a playlist that tapped into my creative potential instead of zapping it. Here’s how:
- Energize your writing time. You know the stereotype—the moody, brooding writer hunched over a laptop in a café, earbuds tucked in ear, listening to something mellow and airy—usually indie alternative. No hipster worth his weight in mustache grease would be caught dead listening to a Taylor Swift song, and yet…
Like workouts and rave parties, that hypnotic, throbbing, thumping dub step beat gets the pulse in sync and turns your body into a dancing machine. You can make it work for you. Pick songs with loops that will trick your brain into thinking five minutes is really ten, and feel the anxiety of running out of time dissipate. High-energy music can also subconsciously speed you along. You’ll have that thousand words hammered out in no time with a song like this on your playlist.
“What Do You Mean” by Justin Bieber
- Forget the lyrics. Whether you’re into classical music or jazz, if you listen to mostly instrumental pieces, then you know how pleasant it is to have your life scored without someone else’s words muddying the meaning. When it comes to writing, the less your brain has to separate what you’re thinking from what you’re hearing, the better.
Mood music full of emotive, flowery language might be great for a first date, but it could be too much of a distraction for a writing session. On the other hand, if you find yourself stumped and need some fresh ideas, there’s nothing like putting on a song to match your literary genre and sifting through the verses and hooks for inspiration. The take-away? Brainstorming and outlining might be the right time for lyrical music, but the meat and potatoes of putting words to page (or screen) require a clean kitchen—nix the lyrics. You might want something like this on your playlist:
“The Long Tomorrow” by Tied & Tickled Trio
- Catch the rhythm. Like energetic music can speed along the writing process, itself, finding the right tempo can help you structure your sentences to build the right pacing. It makes sense to have a playlist with variety for entertainment reasons, of course. But, what about for creating action, drama or poignancy?
Try this. Put on a funky beat and write some flirtatious dialogue. Don’t put a lot of thought into it; just free-writer. Now, switch to some classic rock and try the exercise again. Notice how you instinctively go from short, sharp sentences to smooth, flowing prose. If you want to slash your draft-time in half, keep a mix of go-to songs that will match any scene. And, sometimes, you can get a two-fer like this gem:
“I Belong to You” by Muse
- Go with what you know. Every writer has heard the old adage, write what you know. Well, when it comes to putting together a writing playlist, ironically, it applies there, too. Listen to what you know. New music right in the middle of a writing session can’t be enjoyed. Rather than split your thought-space between chiseling a sentence out of thin air and trying to figure out whether you love or hate the latest from that band you never heard of, your playlist needs to stay loyal to the tried and true.
Let’s face it. After you’ve heard a popular song enough times, you can almost sing it in your sleep. That’s actually very great news for the writer you, even if it translates to “totally played out” in every other aspect of your life. Put on that old overplayed track and let it fade into the background while you work. My personal favorite is this one. You can borrow it if you want, but it’ll always be mine:
“Run the World” by Beyonce
The writers of Wrought Iron Reads decided to throw together some mini playlist ideas to get your creative DJ juices flowing. Check them out below and feel free to share what you listen to when you write. Enjoy!
ARSEN WARD’S LIST
- Electric Love by BORNS
- Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow by Amy Winehouse
- Cry Me a River by Justin Timberlake
REATHA BEAUREGARD’S LIST
- If You Ever Get Lonely by Love & Theft
- Gunpowder and Lead by Miranda Lambert
- My Body by Young the Giant
SONDI WARNER’S LIST
- I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing as styled by Vitamin String Quartet
- For Your Precious Love by Otis Redding
- Iris by The Goo Goo Dolls