I write to music, always. I must have Noise.
For a number of years, I’ve leaned toward instrumental music. Anything from classical (with a preference for the baroque) to drum and bass, so long as there isn’t a voice human or synthetic worming its way through my earholes and into my precious thought jelly with someone else’s words.
So when it comes to writing soundtracks, which is a thing I see other writers talking about fairly often, well … I tend to select a mood, and just go with whatever vocals-free genre of music seems to fit that. Drafting the first 100 pages or so of my cyberpunk novel in progress, I listened to a lot of ambient, trance, drum and bass, and occasionally house. It’s difficult to find house music with zero vocals, though.
I’m not sure why, maybe because none of the stations I fiddled with ever quite hit the spot, but recently I said fuck all that and started working on a writing playlist. The first one I’ve made in, like, decades that didn’t avoid vocals like some kind of … what’s that thing everyone avoids? The word’s on the tip of my fingers … Man, why can’t I think of that thing that people avoid things like? Hrrrrm.
Anyway, I was thinking about how I used to write twenty years ago. Picture the cramped dorm room with the shitty heater under the too small windows and the beds built into the wall and the tiny wardrobe and the built-in desks and about ten square feet of empty space between it all, and there’s a fresh faced young man, collegiate type, All American, he’s pledged the biggest frat on campus, he’s taking 18 hours this semester, he’s got this beautiful girlfriend, and most importantly he’s not me, see, he’s my roommate.
And he’s freaked entirely the fuck out by this weird goblin creature that’s infested that dorm room. See, that other side of the room? That’s my side of the room. Bed messy and rarely slept in, because here’s me perched atop my desk chair like some kind of gargoyle, with a cigarette clenched in my teeth and about a thousand butts overflowing the ashtray, dear Christ I think that one’s still burning, and there’s a giant steaming coffee mug and a mostly empty bottle of rum and a full one on the floor, and yes, yes I am on drugs, the kind that make your fingers go fast on the keys.
I’m typing so fast and so hard that you can’t sleep in the same room for the NOISE, I’ve broken two keyboards this semester alone, shattered them with the force of my hands turning thoughts into thousands of words, I haven’t slept in days, but it’s not because of the banging on the keyboard. I can’t hear that because I am blasting heavy music, angry music, rage music. Anything with some serious bpm or a face melting solo, anything where somebody screams and writhes and you can feel it in the sound.
I think I wrote something like a quarter million words that semester. Not including, like, papers for class and shit.
Anyway, I’m a sober person now. Well. Soberish. Soberer? I hardly even drink when I write anymore, and just thinking about drugs makes me need them — except the ones I need are the ones a doctor told me to take when my palms get sweaty.
But boy would I like to be able to pump out a quarter million words in four months. I can barely do that in four years these days. And I’m not going to think too long or look too deeply into whether or not I can, in fact, write 250,000 words in four years anymore.
So what the hell, let’s try out some different music.
The music I’m currently playing too loud (but not near as loud as I used to) while working on my untitled cyberpunk draft:
- Blood in the Cut .. K.Flay
- Glitter .. Ghostland Observatory
- Los Ageless .. St Vincent
- Silicon Jesus (Break the Screen Mix) .. Psychosonik
- Push It .. Garbage
- Ready Steady Go .. Paul Oakenfold
- We’re No Here .. Mogwai
- Cop Shoot Cop .. Spiritualized
- Hunted by a Freak .. Mogwai
- As Heaven is Wide .. Garbage
- Silence .. Delirium (feat. Sarah McLachlan)
- Pay the Man .. The Offspring
It’ll change, tracks coming and going, over the next few months. So far, these tracks are getting me in the headspace I need. The playlist isn’t very long, but if I can get off to a decent start and pick up speed, it’s good for about 500-750 words before I hear the same song twice. And that’s not terrible for a writer’s quickie.