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Writing to Music

Earlier this week I talked about writing as a tactile experience –– about how switching from keyboard to pen and paper can, among other things, help the words flow. It can also be an experience that is enhanced by sound… more specifically music.

I wrote Standing Tall: A Daughter’s Gift while listening to tracks from Chris de Burgh’s CDs The Love Songs and Sparks to a Flame. This was long before iTunes, so when I’d sit down to write, the first step was to put a disc into the CD-ROM drive of my computer, and pop in my headphones. It was like the music would cause a door to slide open with the first note.

Choice of music is important. If you’ve read A Daughter’s Gift, you’ll likely understand why Chris de Burgh’s songs of love, war, loneliness and hope fit that story. Different songs can, of course hold different meanings –– the trick is to find songs that mean the right things for you.

An interesting exercise that Kenneth uses in workshops is to have participants write whatever comes to mind as they listen to a particular track. This experiment produces fascinating results –– different people get very different things out of the same songs –– and it helps writers learn more about their own processes.

But writing to music, especially on a regular basis, doesn’t work for everyone. I know lots of folks who prefer total quiet when they’re working. I know others who are comfortable in a busy environment with the sounds of keyboards and telephones as their backdrop. Whatever your preference, I’d encourage you to try your own writing-to-music exercise.

Like switching to pen and paper, you might be surprised by the result.