Many of us lead hectic lives—and inevitably must brave the ups and downs of our professional and/or personal lives while toiling away on a short story, book or chapbook, et cetera. For the most part, I’m incapable of weaving beautiful words the moment I plop down on my hard desk-chair. First and foremost I need to prune my scattering thoughts and focus on my story, my characters and their conflicts—and in order to do so, sometimes I take pensive walks (but only when the Texas heat is bearable) or better yet, listen to music.
It’s difficult not to be a tad persnickety about music—not to mention music that’s meant for whirling the creative wheels in your brain. Whereas some writers are keen on listening to smoother varieties of music, like Chopin’s Nocturnes or Henry Mancini’s jazz soundtracks, for example—others may prefer the jarring sort, like rock or metal. (Stephen King comes to mind.)
Needless to say, these are only the most obvious examples—there’s a myriad of musical genres out there, many of which I probably haven’t even heard of—that other writers may appreciate when inspiration-hungry.
As of now, I’m working on a short story with a bleak, wintry backdrop, so I’ve had to persuade myself against listening to smooth jazz (while writing), which played a tremendous role for my summer ’16 novel—but doesn’t mesh well with the minimalist prose style I’m currently dabbling in. So for the time being, I’m substituting Bill Evans with the atmospheric, haunting soundtracks of Her (2013) and The Revenant (2015)—give them a listen!
Most of my writing/musical choices depend on what I’m working on. Lately, “Lovely You” by Monster Rally has been putting me in the right headspace. Most of Monster Rally’s stuff is an uncanny blend of whimsy and melancholy.
I often find that writing in a darker setting sparks my creativity. I’ve been getting back into ’80s goth, new wave music now that it’s October with bands like Bauhaus and Joy Division. If I had to pick one song it would be “This Night Has Opened My Eyes” by The Smiths.
Bloom by Beach House is an amazing album to listen to while writing. All the songs flow together perfectly, and their sound is so whimsical–it’s like being in one long, dream sequence that, for me, really facilitates the creative process. It just gets me in the right head space, just super relaxed and ready to let my mind wander freely. I could listen to them forever.
My music choices tend to change depending on what I am writing. However, my go-to song tends to be “The Call” by Regina Spektor. I love the way the song builds as the artist describes a single person’s idea growing into a group of people’s actions. It’s a soothing song, and the lyrics remind me of the writing process.
Because I write a lot of fantasy fiction, which (for me) requires world-building and fast-paced, action-packed but character-driven plots, I have two playlists I listen to exhaustively on Pandora: one, a Heart of courage station, and two, a Lord of the Rings station. The first gives me the feeling that I am about to walk into battle, and the second makes me think I am stepping into some eco-friendly hobbit hole, meeting the faun Mr. Tumnus outside of a wardrobe, entering through the Room of Requirement, or falling down a rabbit hole with a very Luna Lovegood-esque Alice. Definitely recommend!
~Mika Jang, Fiction Editor