1. Getting Started — Putting you back in the writing ‘zone’
Inspiration can often hit you at inopportune times. For me it’s when I’m driving long distances. For some it’s walking the dog or mowing the lawn. I’m sure you’ve been there. You can’t drive and type at the same time so you scribble down your brilliant new ideas in a notebook or on the back of a shopping list and you can’t wait to get to your writing desk to turn those ideas into stories.
But it’s often sometime later before we actually get this opportunity and by the time you sit down at the keys…nothing. Why is it that the fabulous imagery you had while you were driving in the car seems to have faded into nothingness the minute you sit behind a screen? It’s because when you are driving or walking the dog or mowing the lawn, your left side brain is distracted doing the menial task, leaving the right creative brain the opportunity to soar into action. As soon as you sit behind the computer, the pesky logical left side gets back in the way. And it can start wreaking havoc. It tends to power the negative voice in your head – for me, it tries to convince me my ideas are stupid or don’t make sense, that readers won’t understand it, or I’m really not a very good writer. Logic brain tells me I’m wasting my time. So how can you swing your right brain back into action?
Solution: Put on some music. When writer’s anxiety kicks in try some relaxation or meditation music at a low level in the background. The kind of music you might hear while getting a massage. Baroque music or early classical music works well also. Anything that helps to soothe your nerves and calm you.
On a subconscious level, it can nudge your right brain into action and help you find that ‘writers zone’ where your imagination and creativity can stand up to that harassing left brain.
Of course it’s not a complete fix. I still struggle with those negative voices every time I write. But music quietens them a little. And sometimes a little is all you need to get started.
2. How not to stop, once you start — blocking out distractions and helping with focus
Distracting noise can bring you out of your story. You don’t wont arguing kids, traffic noise or that pesky oven beeping telling you dinner’s cooked to drag you out of your writing zone.
If your writing space is a noisy one, listen to music using headphones. It will keep you writing longer, and help head off distractions. My kids see the phones in my ears, the computer on my lap and a faraway look on my face and just turn and walk away. (Okay not every time, but sometimes).
Music is a great tool for helping to stay on task and improve outcomes. There have been multiple studies on the benefits of music in this area. In Canada and the former Soviet Union a study revealed that a barn of chickens that had The Blue Danube playing in their pens laid more eggs than chickens that did not. Cows yielded more milk.
Students will retain up to five times more information if they study whilst listening to Mozart.
So there’s a very good chance listening to music can help you stay on task for longer.
3. It can add depth and emotional resonance to your writing
Why do we use music in all the major events in our lives? Music at weddings, at funerals, celebrations, sports events and ceremonies. Because music adds emotional impact to events. So why not use it while you write?
Listening to music can influence the type of scene you are writing, be it a romantic moment, black moment, call to adventure, conflict, suspense. Whatever your scene, there is a soundtrack to suit.
I like to avoid music with lyrics when I write. Words in songs just tend to pull me out of my own story-telling world and into the songwriter’s world. That’s not the case for all writers. But for me, instrumental music works best. I use a lot of orchestral music, much of it movie soundtrack based. From the battle scenes in Troy, the gentle romance in The Young Victoria, or the suspense of Atonement. Whatever mood or tone you are searching for, there is a good chance you will find it somewhere in the middle of some of your favourite movie soundtracks.
Take care not to use music that is too recognisable. Steer away from main themes such as Jaws, Psycho—anything that your mind will associate with certain images— otherwise you may find your writing moving in a direction that isn’t useful!
For writers who really can’t stand orchestral music and prefer more contemporary types of music, you should try European or Asian pop music where the lyrics are in a foreign language and can’t distract you.
Let music take you to places in your story that you hadn’t expected. It can enhance your emotional impact and distract that pesky logical left brain long enough to get some actual words on the page.
I don’t use music every time I write. Sometimes silence is golden. But if you haven’t already, try making music a part of your writing routine every once and a while and see where it takes you.
Photo credit: Freeimages.com/photographer/miamiamia