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Writing music, writing feeling

By August 3, 2009How To, Writing

musicMy last post about the differences, or similarities more accurately, between writing words and writing music really got me thinking about music’s powerful contribution to the writing practice. Why not harness it? If it makes me feel so intense when I listen to it, wouldn’t that mean that those emotions would leak into my writing if I was listening as I typed?

Other writers do this apparently, I’m not sure how many, but I’m thinking about one in particular. Stephenie Meyer who wrote the Twilight series does it (and no, I won’t be discussing the books at all, this is about the writing process – promise). This is a woman who I blatantly worship because of her undeniable feat.

If you don’t know what she’s done, let me fill you in. She wasn’t a writer, but she had this dream that she felt compelled to write down…and she couldn’t stop. With her 5, 2 and 1 year old children attached, she spent three manic and sleepless months getting the story (Twilight) down. Then she wrote the sequel/final book (Forever Dawn) – over 600 pages – but felt, along with her publisher, that something was missing, so she scrapped it and wrote two more 500+ page novels (New Moon & Eclipse). And then rewrote the final book (Breaking Dawn). All in short time. Oh, and she’s sold millions of books, she’s a sensation, the books have been translated into over 38 languages and all four of the books were sold for the movie rights. Oh, and she was on Ellen.

I thought I would hate her, be consumed with envy, but I don’t. I feel inspired by her. I didn’t read her books and think, “Ugh, she did it, so now I can’t.”(Which, yes, is insane thinking, but, well, it happens). Instead, I read them and thought, “I can do this.”

But, I digress. When I first checked out Meyer’s author site – I love looking at author sites – I noticed that she had a playlist for each of the four books. Because Twilight is such a phenomenon, I thought the list was purely fan motivated – another ‘thing’ for Twihards to adore, but then I realized that it wasn’t.

As I read her books, one of the first things I noticed was that I was blown away by the emotion in them, by the catharsis, the way that I felt when I was reading them. I believe this is part of the insatiable pull of these books. I was the characters and felt their feelings viscerally. When I stumbled through her playlists, some of the songs brought on the same emotions in my body. And I got it. She had listened as she wrote, they were her soundtrack. Meyer experienced the feelings herself as she listened to the music (like I wrote about in my last post), and those feelings transferred – from the music to her to her words to her readers and back to the music experience.

It’s brilliant really. And if music works for you in that way, it’s an undeniable force and power in the writer’s toolbox.

Image credit: kunstlab

Join the discussion 8 Comments

  • Andi says:

    I workshifted for the first time last Friday at a Starbucks. I used my iPhone to listen to music to drown out the noise of the location. My intent had been to write blog posts for my biz blog, but I was distracted by the music, which is often the case for me. I am one of the gals that needs quiet to write. I don’t have a deep desire to listen to music, but when I do, I am always drawn to songs that are deeply moving/emotional, I do like a lot of the song’s on SM playlist, but I don’t think I can write to them, or any other music without much more practice. I think I need to start with something more ambient.

  • Joely Black says:

    I’ve always used music to write – and in fact even when I’m not writing just to imagine what comes next. It’s a fantastic thing to do!

  • Ann Handley says:

    You are making me wonder if I might try this — I usually require (demand!) absolute quiet to write. But I do get stuck, and so I wonder if the use of music might help keep a kind of momentum in play…

    For the record, though, I do think Stephanie Meyer’s kind of writing is probably suited to this kind of approach. Does that sound snobby? I don’t mean to be. But the Twilight series is less great writing than a great storyline… just sayin’. (Ducking while all the Twilight fans toss tomatoes at my head….)

  • Julie Roads says:

    Ann – your punishment is one Soc Media 101 guest post. LOL

    It’s true – it isn’t great writing, it IS a great story. Though I will say that the writing gets better as you move through the books.

    Anywho…I agree. When I’m writing a bank website or an insurance brochure, I don’t need Bono crooning to me in the background…in fact I can’t have him there. This is definitely about creative or personal writing. Unless, I supposed, the marketing writing needs to be infused with a specific brand of emotion.

    Also – and this speaks to Andi as well – sometimes I don’t actually need to be listening AS I write, but I could listen beforehand – therefore, infusing my brain and my heart before I start.

  • Hi Julie, as you know I’m right there with you in being fascinated by the Twilight phenomenon and the aftermath of the books on ourselves. I definitely think there’s something to music and writing and I will be experimenting with it myself. I’m giddy with excitement about it, actually.

    I don’t think there’s one kind of good writing, or one kind of good art in general. There’s the kind that’s technically magnificent, and there’s the kind that doesn’t appear to be all that fabulous, but it sure makes us feel fabulously strong emotions. You tell me which has more value. Of course a combination of the two would be sublime. :)

  • I actually haven’t read “Twilight,” but I totally agree that Meyer has accomplished something amazing. To write that much in so little time, and to be a raging success as a result… well… don’t we all wish we could do the same? Interesting thought–thanks!

  • CinWrites says:

    Funny. I tried my darndest to hate Stephanie M! I (thought I) was so jealous and bitter with her, but realized I was really angry and disappointed with myself. Then she showed up Ellen, and any friend of hers is a friend of mine… you know how it goes. THEN I read the books and loved her. I have heard criticism of her “writing” but I don’t feel good about judging art. These stories came from her heart and soul AND touch people deeply. That’s what I call a masterpiece. As for the music, I have strong reaction to it and use it to motivate me in everything else I do. Why not writing. DUH! Thanks Julie! :-)

  • i have tried, really tried, to use this method. but i can’t do it. i have to have almost complete silence to write well.

    i do think music can be an important part of the process for me when – like you said – i listen to it before or in the car or something like. it tends to strike something in me i didn’t know i needed to get out.

    (i have noticed that SM always gives different bands tremendous thanks in her books, but i have yet to check out the music itself.)

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