As humans, we are creatures of emotion, and these emotions can be influenced by just about anything around us. A beautiful sunset, a smiling face, a touching story. Everyday or extraordinary, everything we are surrounded by has the power to touch us and inspire us. And everyone is different. What inspires one person can be an incredible turnoff or distraction to another, and vice versa.
I have always been inspired by stories. The turn of a phrase, the depth of a well-developed character, a surprise ending that I just didn’t see coming. As a reader, nothing made me happier than a story I continued to think about long after I turned the last page, that spoke to me. As a writer, I find the stories of others, whether written or not, inspiring as well. But there is one thing that inspires my writing even more. Music.
Yes, music is my muse. Well, one of them, anyway.
My association of music with stories began long ago, when I developed the habit of putting earphones in my ears while I read. Nothing could block out the distractions of my surroundings better than music as I immersed myself in a new world. But that had another effect as well. My mind began to associate certain songs with certain stories. To this day, I can’t hear Journey’s Wheel In The Sky without thinking of Dean Koontz‘s Twilight Eyes, or Metallica’s Ride the Lightning without thinking of Stephen King’s It. Those connections are permanently in my brain.
It isn’t just stories that I am reminded of when I hear certain songs. I’m sure most everyone has life memories that are attached to certain genres of music. I’ve even met people who associate specific smells with different songs. Our brains also make another connection – between music and feelings. Sometimes I listen to certain genres because of how I am feeling, sometimes because of how I want to feel.
When I first began writing, I would sit for hours and stare at the screen, waiting for inspiration to hit me. Unfortunately, this left me open to all sorts of distractions. I would suddenly notice some mundane household chore that I normally could have ignored – the pile of clean laundry that couldn’t possibly get more wrinkled, the dust bunnies hiding under the bed. I would notice anything and everything, except what was happening on the screen. If I had a story idea already, I would write furiously for a few pages, but then I couldn’t focus on the story, the plot, or the characters. Unless I was actively in a writing class or a critique group and had a deadline, I was lost.
Then, one day, my brain made another one of those amazing connections. If I could use music to block out distractions while reading, why not use it to block them out while writing. It worked, kind of. The problem that made itself immediately evident was that the music I owned had already been ‘claimed’. My brain had made an association between those songs and other memories or stories. Not a good thing when you’re trying to be creative. So I had to find something new.
Enter Pandora Radio. I don’t normally do shameless plugs like this, but since I depend on Pandora for my writing music, there it is. Now I can choose what genre I want and listen to songs I’ve never heard before. I am free to create whatever mood I want for the particular scene I am writing at the time and not worry about dragging in previous associations unless I want them. As an added bonus, it blocks out all the distractions around me, like that pile of dishes in the sink that’s screaming to be washed.
They can wait until tomorrow. Spectrum of the Sky is playing and I have a scene to write.