Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Oh Music, My Fickle Muse...

She led me astray this weekend.

I rely heavily on music to motivate and inspire me when I write. In fact, I create a specific playlist for each project I'm working on, and always listen to it when writing. The songs become entwined with the story in my head, and hearing them gets me into the story faster and deeper than I would on my own. Once there, the music affects my mood and fuels my creativity.

This weekend, however...that process let me down. Or, well, iTunes did.

See, I had a few blissful hours all alone in my house Saturday morning, and I was all geared up to sit down and write. I actually got off to a great start. I had a few little ideas I wanted to get down right away, and I managed about 250 words on my current novel before I realized something was missing. I hadn't turned on the music yet.

I clicked iTunes to fire it up, but instead of giving me my playlists, I got a small grey box asking if I wanted to start the installation. I shrugged and clicked "Yes", but was perplexed because I KNOW it was already installed. When that led to error messages, I assumed Something Was Bad in the World of Computers, and decided the best thing would be to just download and reinstall.

* So I pulled up my browser to download iTunes

* But while I had that open, I should check my email, right?

* and LiveJournal?

* All right, THEN I went to the Apple page and downloaded iTunes

* Since that would take a few minutes, I went to get a can of pop

* While I was in the kitchen, I grabbed a few things to throw in the recycling

* and the dishwasher needed loading

* Back in the office, I had to shut everything down and start the install

* Which would also take a while

* So I went to run a load of laundry....

You can see where this is all going. By the time I got my music up and running, and was getting back into the flow of writing, my husband called to see what I wanted for lunch, since he was on his way home.

Two lessons learned here: Keep the iPod charged so next time I can just use that. And don't become so dependent on any one writing tool that you can't work without it. Personally, I think if I had time to kill somewhere and was handed a notebook and pen, I could produce something...But on Saturday, I let my writing routine become more important than the writing itself, and sucked up all my quiet time with little to show for it.


Alexis Grant said...

Ouch! It happens...

Here's what I worry about with music: That the tone of what I'm listening to will set the tone for my manuscript. I suppose that's ok if you're writing fiction, since you're trying to set a tone (right?). But with memoir, I'm trying to let ideas/experiences/memories flow freely into my head, and music that I don't associate directly with that experience interferes.

I'd be interested in hearing more about how you make music work for you!

Elle Parker said...

Alexis - In may case, I do want to set a tone, and I specifically choose songs that will create that feeling for me when I sit down to write the book. There's certain music that can put me right back in Florida instantly.

I can absolutely see how this might actually work against you for your memoir, and I find that really interesting.


Patricia Stoltey said...

How funny that my critique group discussed this very subject last night. The horror writer plays eerie stuff and Gregorian chants while he writes, so he's obviously setting the tone. Others like soft music with no lyrics because lyrics are distracting. I prefer silence. To me, music is its own thing, and I always listen to it instead of letting it be background noise.

Elle Parker said...

Patricia - Happily, I don't find lyrics to be too distracting (although I do play my music pretty low). I use things like Jimmy Buffett and Dean Martin while I'm writing the Dino Martini books. But I do have an eerier soundtrack for my paranormal.

I have a friend who can only write to musical scores of movies - no lyrics.


N A Sharpe said...

Oh, ouch...familiar scene. I make specific playlists for specific projects (and sometimes certain characters) too. I know I end up kicking myself when something like that happens. Once you start down the path of distraction...it can get ugly and eat all your creative time. Fast. Sigh. Sorry :(

Nancy, from Just a Thought…

Elle Parker said...

Nancy - One good thing, I guess, is that I know I'm prone to it, and if one good thing came out of this weekend, it was to think up back up plans for future issues like this.


Sara said...

I've been thinking about burning my writing music to a CD, so if iTunes goes utterly tits up on me I have a hard backup I can put into the computer, or the DVD player on the TV or whatever.

Maybe that wouldn't be a bad idea for you either?

Elle Parker said...

Sara - that is an excellent idea! I actually have a disc of the Dino 1 soundtrack that I just liked to cart around for listening, but having them as a back-up is a fantastic idea. *searches for blank CDs*


Galen Kindley--Author said...

Yes, for my first novel, I used lots of background mood music and it worked, I think, to help communicate the mood. Additionally I used lots of lyrics from familiar songs within the book, that for sure sets a mood because everyone (well, many readers) are familiar with the songs.

For book two...no music...go figure.

Best regards, Galen
Imagineering Fiction Blog

Elle Parker said...

Galen - that's interesting that you switched that way. What kind of book was it?


Galen Kindley--Author said...

Hi,Elle, Two very different books. The first is a contemporary love story, the second, and action adventure/historical type fiction.

Not to pump by web site, but synopses of both and chapters are posted there.

Best regards, Galen
Imagineering Fiction Blog

K. A. Laity said...

Excellent realisation: no day is wasted in which you learned something. Always a plan B! Glad you'll be getting back to it.

Elle Parker said...

Thanks - It's a lesson well learned, I'll tell you that!


Enid Wilson said...

I have a playlist when I write too but the songs are on CD so I won't have the same frustration as you.

Hope your muse returns soon.

Bargain with the Devil