It seems like writing and music go hand in hand for a lot of people, me included. Some people can’t write to songs with lyrics, others don’t mind. I generally can, unless I’m reeeeally unfocused that day (go team ADHD) or if I’m writing by hand. For some reason, if I’m writing by hand, I end up writing the lyrics by accident.
I’m old enough that I remember the glory days of the mixtape, the joys and frustrations of making one–running out of room on the tape! trying to catch the right song off the radio!–and the delight in receiving one, especially if you spent the whole time listening to it wondering if the creator was trying to send you some sort of message with the lyrics. The days of mix CDs seem really short to me now, before along came MP3s and playlists. I love playlists. I love that I can pretty much find any song I want to hear, legally even!
One of the best ways to procrastinate when starting a new writing project is to come up with a playlist for it! It may seem like waxing the cat (which is the most useful writing-related term ever), but I’ve found for me, it actually does help me focus to pull up the book’s playlist. And one of my go-tos for some scenes is to pull up a single song and put it on repeat in my headphones–and it seems like I’m not alone in this.Usually if I’m doing this, though, it’s something from a movie score. The score for Captain America: The Winter Soldier has been a favorite lately.
Creating the right playlist is an artform under normal circumstances, but creating one for a writing project can get even more intense. Am I looking for songs for specific characters? Specific scenes? The overall mood? And then, of course, there are the songs that seem to crop up on every playlist I make. (As I asked on Twitter earlier: what is it that makes Imagine Dragons such good writing music?? I know, I’m typical.)
For the book I’m writing right now (which really needs a working title beyond “lesbian supersoldier road trip”), I specifically wanted to stick with female artists, which has been a lot of fun, and as a result Halestorm is one of my new favorite bands. Sometimes a single song seems to sum up a book, and in this case, it’s Emilie Autumn’s “Fight Like a Girl”: “I’m giving you a head start, / You’re going to need it, / ’Cause I fight like a girl.” (warning: some explicit lyrics at the link.)
It’s always interesting to revisit the playlist for a book that’s already written. I had a monster playlist for Vessel initially, but as the book took shape, some of the songs stopped seeming to fit. I put together a public version of my initial playlist on Spotify, if you’d like to listen along.
“Extraordinary”, Liz Phair
“When I’m Gone”, Three Doors Down
“Monster”, Imagine Dragons
“World Falls”, Indigo Girls
“Not a Pretty Girl”, Ani diFranco
“Cosmic Love”, Florence & the Machine
“Radioactive”, Imagine Dragons
“Somebody’s Watching Me”, Rockwell
“The Language or the Kiss”, Indigo Girls
“My Demons”, Starset
“Demons”, Imagine Dragons
I’ve been trying to think if there’s a song that sums up Vessel, and really, the closest I can get are a couple of songs that I associate most strongly with Catherine herself once she comes home. Ani diFranco’s “Not a Pretty Girl” captures the exasperation of not being listened to, and treated as something delicate.
And one of my personal favorite songs, “The Language or the Kiss” by the Indigo Girls, talks about feeling like an outsider, and about having to make choices between career and personal relationships. In particular, the lines, “But I’m made mute by the virtue of decision / And I choose most of your life goes on without me…” always make me think of Catherine’s relationship with Aimee, and the sacrifices that Catherine made–but also the sacrifices she asked of Aimee as well.
Inevitably, long after a book is finished, I hear a song that I hadn’t thought of and end up slapping my forehead. And knowing me, it’s probably by Imagine Dragons.