Writing to music — what’s your inspiration?

I was on the NaNoWriMo site today (tmupchurch) and it asked about musical inspiration: what music inspires me when I’m writing? Well, loads… I write to music (but edit in silence), I also turn to music for the energy to start writing and the choice is really, really mood driven, so it varies. So far I’ve listed Sia, David Bowie and Caroline Lavelle, but there are loads more.

Bowie is really this year’s writing music for me, I didn’t listen to a lot before. For people who like Bowie and stories, you might enjoy his VH1 Storytellers album, it’s on Spotify and each song comes with a little preamble, the background of the song. I like hearing singers speak, it brings it closer.

Caroline Lavelle is an old favourite, just music that I’ve listened to for so long that it doesn’t interrupt my flow and I love the bass undertones, it kind of thrums along inside me, especially Moorlough Shore.

I have a few specific songs that dig into me in very specific ways — Tanita Tikaram’s Good Tradition (again, the voice), Kate Bush’s The Red Shoes, Lily and others, The Stranglers’ You, Camille Saint-Saëns’ Danse Macabre in G Minor.

Funnily enough, some of my favourite songs block my writing — I Can See Clearly Now by Johnny Nash, love it, can’t write to it to the extent that I stop typing till it’s finished. Same for a lot of Bob Marley, which takes me out into holiday / beach mode, and Pink Floyd which is so nostalgic, it hurts. And I never write to Bob Dylan or Leonard Cohen because their poetry isn’t compatible with my writing; they’re something that I listen to specifically for the lyrics and so I wouldn’t do that while trying to put together my own work. The exception is Cohen’s Suzanne, which holds a personal resonance beyond lyrics (beautiful though the lyrics are).

There are two songs that I listened to so much during my first ever draft/unpublished novel, that I can’t think of another piece when they play. Clocks by Coldplay and The Ballad of Lucy Jordan by Marianne Faithfull. I love that last one — I had a cabriolet, used to drive it through London (not Paris), and I’ll never do it again, which is why I liked the song in the beginning, but now the symbolism is all tied up in that unpublished story. I’m so different from the person in that song, so much more robust, but my MC had many parallels and it fitted the mood of the story. I love music that pulls out my guts and I wrote some of my most torn up chapters to that song.

And now Sia, this is a new inspiration for me; I love her voice, I use her music for running, and it’s energising for writing too. Sometimes it carries me away (Breathe Me) and I have to stop, pull back, make myself write… but I can alternate. Something about her music resonates with me. I listened to a 2015 Sia interview with Howard Stern the other day and found a lot of what she said easy to relate to: she doesn’t like showing her face as a public profile, she wants to write (songs for pop stars), she loves dogs, she’s straight but dates women, and then we get to her writing technique (at 18 mins) which she describes as just coming out of her head; non-analytical, just straight out. I can’t sing for toffee, but as a writer, I know what that means — when words just come out and the story flows, and it’s done. Sure, that’s not always the way, but when it flows straight from the ether into the final piece, the energy carries through and it’s special.

I find that uplifting.

I hope that everyone doing NaNoWriMo this year experiences that moment, when the words flood out, just as they were meant to be. It’s a great feeling.

So what does everyone else listen to when they write? Answers on Twitter or down here in the comments, I’ll listen to them all!

Fling your veg: