02 April 2008
The writer’s soundtrack
Microsoft Word or black gel ink pen and lined yellow legal pad? Coffee shop or home office? Webster’s Third New International or the Complete Oxford? All writers, it seems, have strong preferences for the tools and working conditions they need to produce well, down to the music they listen to.
One friend of mine chooses a theme song for each of her main characters and listens to it as she writes each one’s scenes. That seems a really cool idea, but I’ve never tried it. Other friends thrive on the chatter and clatter of coffeeshops.
My own soundtrack varies with my mood and what I’m writing. Sometimes, I need silence to get the focus I need, particularly with nonfiction. Often, I choose Baroque or Renaissance instrumental. If I do choose music with singing, I’ll pick something that’s not in English. Otherwise, the words in my ear interfere with the words in my brain and fingers. If I'm doing background research rather than actually typing words, I listen to many kinds of music: early music (music of the Baroque era and earlier), folk, blues, Cajun music, Zydeco, gospel, Celtic, R&B, bluegrass, New Age.
Although I have a large CD collection, I tend to be lazy and tune in a station on iTunes or Live365 so that I don’t have to make choices or get up to change the CD. If you’ve never heard of Live365, it’s an Internet site with thousands of stations in every genre—and even subgenre—imaginable. For example, I have several early music stations among my fifty-one presets, including a station that plays only European sacred music of 1400–1600, a station that plays only Gregorian chant, and a station that features archguitar, lute, and theorbo music.
What is your soundtrack when you write, and why?