Writing, or any art for that matter, is an extremely personal thing, and by extension every creator has their own methods to their madness. Some people, like my brother for instance, require silence in order to write. Others enjoy the tranquillity of some nice scenery. There are those who perhaps need to talk to themselves as they perform their art. Often these methods can mix and match depending on the person and their mood, since there’s no right way to do it. I mean, some people study using mind maps and pretty pictures, and I for one can’t get on with that. There’s another method I personally use to inspire my writing when the piece in progress needs a little extra kick, and it’s to do with the power music has to inspire art.
As a side note I was gearing up to begin this paragraph with “I’m no expert on music”, and that reminded me of a particular comic strip:
As you may or may not know I’m currently writing my second book, The Black Glass Killer, and I will soon (hopefully this week) put a third progress update here. While I haven’t yet disclosed all my inspirations for the book yet, as I did with my first book, I will say that the nature of the book itself has made it difficult to find a powerful source of inspiration that is constant. You may think this is in contradiction to what I wrote about aspiring to achieve through commitment rather than motivation, but I never said that inspiration wasn’t useful or valuable, as it’s a powerful driving force if you can invoke it. You just shouldn’t rely on it in order to write is all, due to its volatile come-and-go nature. But the point is that I’ve been finding it tricky to find a sweet spot of inspiration juice from an external source.
That is not due to a lack of enthusiasm or love for the story. I very much believe in what I’m writing otherwise I wouldn’t be writing it, and I’m very much passionate about it. But any artist would understand that sometimes you just want something to speak to you, or resonate with you as you’re in the creating process, whether it’s to set the mood, flick an on switch in your brain or focus. No one can get by without some form of inspiration or spark, and for a while now I haven’t found a suitable one for The Black Glass Killer. As it turned out, music was my saviour.
I’ve often used music during the writing process. The only times I actually deeply listen to music is when writing certain scenes, in a car and some nights before sleeping. It’s a powerful way to unlock your mind and just let your imagination drift. Weird as it may be music has this way of stimulating you, of course depending on what you’re listening to and what clicks with you and what your purpose behind listening actually is. I mean you could be partying or chilling out, or in a moment of private self-reflection.
In my first book I used numerous songs to inspire certain scenes, such as the main tune of the video game The Last Of Us by Naughty Dog, In The Water by Anadel, the main tune of the video game Max Payne by Remedy Entertainment, My Body Is A Cage by Peter Gabriel, The Last Time by Chromium, Hurricane by 30 Seconds to Mars and others. These songs were powerful ways to get me in the mood to write certain scenes, to set the tone for what I wanted to write or at times even to aid in descriptive writing from lyrics. But no matter how many times I scoured my playlist I couldn’t find that one song to fit The Black Glass Killer. I have two pivotal songs ready for a future story (these songs actually helped inspired the narrative of the book on its own), but not for my current one.
Enter True Detective.
This series is one of the best I’ve watched. It’s a rather hectic true crime HBO series spanning eight episodes and starring Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson. But it wasn’t the series itself that helped to inspire The Black Glass Killer. It was the opening theme song.
Funnily enough I watched this series a while ago, and forgot to get a hold of the intro song for my playlist. However when my girlfriend showed me Taylor Swift’s (she’s the biggest fan you’ll find, and what can I say I’m a Swiftie and big admirer of T-Swizzle too) new music video “Style”, I commented that it was rather strange since the song made you expect something young and cutesy, but the video was this awesome, visually interesting, abstract piece seemingly meant for two of her other songs, Clean or Wildest Dreams perhaps. I later found out I wasn’t the only one thinking this. But something about her music video also struck a cord of familiarity, and I commented that I wouldn’t be surprised if it was inspired by the opening of True Detective, because the resemblance was striking.
That reminded me to acquire the opening song of True Detective again, and I just sat back and listened to the words and watched the video of the theme song for the tenth or so time. Next thing I knew I just wanted to write. It so happened that I’m currently on one of the most pivotal chapters of the book, which turns it on its head, and inspiration couldn’t have come at a better time. The song was so captivating and fit the mood of the book so perfectly in my head that for over an hour I literally had this one song playing on a loop while I wrote pages after what has been a pretty quiet week.
Perhaps you can’t write or create your art while listening to music. Maybe it’s too distracting and that’s alright. We each have our own methods. But if you haven’t tried writing or creating while listening to music, I urge you to give it a try. And by listening to music I don’t just mean pick any song you like and just roll with it. Try to find the song that matches the scene you’re writing or painting or building. Try to find one that captures the essence or feeling or emotion of what you’re aiming for. You may be surprised at the incredible focus you can obtain and the way the music will just feed that mood you’re going for. I can’t guarantee it will work, but I can speak from experience that it certainly can. It’s entirely up to you and what feeds your talents.
If there’s one thing I can say though, it’s I’m pretty damn glad I watched True Detective, and certainly grateful to Taylor Swift (what an unlikely match!) and my significant other for reminding me of that. Has music ever worked for you when writing or creating your art?