My Writing Soundtrack Revisited

In a previous entry, I babbled about listening to music while writing and how I usually stick to two general playlists, cleverly named Writing Music 1 and Writing Music 2.

“Demon Dreams” was one of the rare stories where I started writing to a very specific playlist–and subsequently found it difficult to work on the first draft without it. As an experiment, I put on one of my general writing playlists partway through the first draft. My brain rebelled. It just folded its arms, shook its head, and went “Nope, I’m not working under these conditions.” So I put the original playlist on, and voila! My brain went to work without complaint.

By the time I had finished the second draft and was starting the editing/revision phase, though, things changed. Suddenly the original playlist was a distraction and conversations with my brain went something like this:

ME: Um, brain? You want to help me out here?
BRAIN: Shhh! I’m listening to the pretty music.

So I switched to one of my general writing playlists, and this time it worked. My brain got down to business.

On Sunday I started writing a new short story inspired by the town of Longyearbyen, part of Norway’s Svalbard Islands. I went with my usual routine of putting on one of my general writing playlists and sitting down with my AlphaSmart to get to work on the first draft. But as I started to settle into the story’s voice, barely a few hundred words in, I realized that the music was all wrong for the setting and the whimsical, slightly fairy tale-ish feel I was going for. From there, the math went something like this: pondering my musical options + a brief discussion of Norwegian folktales with AsYouKnowBob over dinner = light bulb going off

I was writing a story based on a Norwegian town, so how about a Norwegian composer? It just so happened that I had an excellent recording of Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes playing music by Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg at the composer’s home, Troldhaugen, and on the composer’s Model B Steinway piano dating from 1892. So I put it on after dinner, and ta da! It worked. I don’t know if I’ll continue writing to that particular recording (I unfortunately haven’t been able to work on the story much since Sunday), but it certainly helped put my brain in a place that gave me a good start.

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