The Unanswered Music Question

Two weeks ago, I did a post answering questions about my writing. There was one question I left out, because I wasn’t sure at the time how to answer it. I’m going to do my best now.

Do you listen to music while writing?

Seems like a fairly simple question, right? Well, the answer is yes and no. Honestly, it depends on my mood, and what I’m writing. For example, yesterday I wrote around 1500 words on the long form story I’m currently plugging away at (which now stands at 6000 words), and I wrote in silence. Right now I’m listening to Sin & Bones, the new Fozzy album. It’s a pretty solid album by the way. Lots of cool riffs, some memorable choruses, and Jericho’s vocals continue to impress me, but I digress. The point I’m making here is that writing something like this for my blog is a lot different from writing something I have to focus on maintaining continuity and characterisation for.

When I’m working on something like this, I can afford to listen to music with lyrics, or even work with the television on in the background, because it requires less focus. To me, this is conversational, sort of like I’m just shooting the shit with my friends. So I use blog writing time to listen to new music or perhaps resurrect some old favourites. Recently I’ve leaned more towards new music. As I already said, I’m listening to the new Fozzy, but I’ve also given the new Black Light Burns a few spins by now. It’s doing a lot for me, especially since it’s the closest thing I have to filling the Nine Inch Nails sized hole in my life.

As for older music, I confess that I have spent an inordinate amount of time lately rediscovering Start Something by Lostprophets. I imagine this will be an unpopular opinion amongst the younger people living in the South Wales area, but I honestly hate what they’ve become in the years since, but at the time of Start Something’s release, they were transcendent. Everybody of my age at the time, no matter what social clique they belonged to, was into that album. It was an odd phenomenon in that it only existed in a very small area of the country, but it was our Nevermind or White Album. Is the album as good as it was? Probably not, but I’m happy to be clouded by nostalgia on this one.

When I’m working on something, for want of a better term, ‘serious’ or ‘proper’, my relationship with music changes. I am not a friend of the editing process, so I like to get as much right on first pass as I can. This requires a degree of focus that I simply cannot achieve if I’m listening to something like the albums mentioned above. The lyrics steal my attention away. Like I say, I often prefer to work in silence, but certain ambient music can work for me. As cliché as it has become, soundtrack music can work. Much of All of Death’s Children was written to the soundtrack to Amnesia: The Dark Descent, a psychological horror game. It’s music that is barely there, providing more of a tone than an actual listening experience.

On my current project (apologies for being vague, but I feel like talking about it extensively at this point would be bad luck), I have switched up slightly. I find myself coming back to the Storm Corrosion album a lot. Again, it’s perfect background music. Even though there are lyrics, they are inconsequential, and the whole thing is atmospheric and, as much as I hate the term, cinematic.

My playlist otherwise is an esoteric mix of instrumental music, ranging from Chopin to Skrillex. I wouldn’t suggest that anyone who listens to music when they write is wrong to do so. In fact, I know there are many writers who do, but the music I traditionally listen to does not mix well with my process.

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