Thursday, February 10, 2011

Music To My Muse

When someone is as ADD-addled as I happen to be, it's difficult to concentrate on one particular task for an extended period of time. No matter how passionate you may be about said task, thoughts always end up ricocheting around your brain in their own little game of synaptic Pinball. It can't be helped. One minute I'm on a role in exactly the right direction, the next I find myself crossing the mental median, distracted by something frivolous, completely unrelated, and/or shiny.

Having small children isn't helping matters, unfortunately. There are days I feel like I get an average of 30 seconds to myself at one time. (This overdue blog post, for instance, wasn't so much written as it was accumulated over the course of five days.) But such is life. We must either adapt to the seasons, or be doomed to frustration.

I suspect just about anyone with an artistic bent can have trouble getting back into the groove of what they're working on after being sidetracked. Once you've been knocked out of 'the zone', it can feel as though your drive and inspiration went skidding off into a separate zip code. Your time, of course, is limited. So how do you rein in your focus?

*Some find success in the readily available and ever popular mainstay: caffeine.

*Some are able to utilize a set of specific habits/rituals – either intentionally or unintentionally cultivated – which their subconscious has been conditioned to recognize as a precursor. (Not unlike a more elegant, personally tailored version of Pavlov's dog.) This method actually helps me to some extent. If I've gotten derailed too badly, I'll go make myself a cup of tea and read something unrelated while the water is brewing. At least half of the time, once I've gone back upstairs and sat down at the computer with my beverage, I find that I'm able to continue.

*On a related note, some find it helpful to take a short but deliberate 'brain break'. This may involve a walk, a drive, taking a shower, reading, or working on an entirely different project of some sort. It's amazing what a brief change of scenery can do.

*And then, there are some who can regain their desired level of function through music. While I'm not one of those people who can write while there's music going in the background, I do have success with keeping and occasionally tapping a file of melodies that fit the mood of my work. Whenever possible, I assign theme songs to my characters; it actually helps me to play their song if I'm having trouble staying true to their personality. As I'm writing different scenes, I keep an ear out for music I'd find fitting for a soundtrack(In the wildly improbable event that my book were ever made into a movie).

At the risk of sounding delusional, here are three of my top soundtrack picks for the book I'm currently revising:

Bonjovi – It's My Life (This one was just kind of obvious, it being a Memoir and all. Not to mention the fact that it ends up being referred to by name in the third chapter.)

Seabird – Don't you know (I see this coming in as cruising music for any transitional driving scenes.)

Kids In The Way – Fiction (Perfect for a particular dream sequence. Yes, as a matter of fact there IS a freaky emo dream sequence. >.>)

All of that meandering to say... I'm curious to know who else out there uses music as an auditory remedy for mental flightiness. Above and beyond that, I'd like to know what song/songs you would choose for your work, were someone to turn it into a movie. Where would they fit, and why? Go ahead – I both invite and dare you. Dream a little dream. ^_^ (i.e. Make me feel a little less weird about this!)

P.S. For those of you who do better with a brain-break than with reorienting of the musical variety, I would like to direct you to the most recent literary recommendations of a brilliant writer and workshop instructor, C.J. Redwine – God bless the ground her stilettos trod upon.


  1. Hey RedPeril! I love music as a catalyst for moving me forward and providing inspiration. As a rule, I like to listen to classical music, perferably movie soundtracks to help me get in the era I'm writing in.

    But for inspiration alone, I love to listen to:

    Eminem's I'm Not A Afraid
    Eminem's Love The Way You Lie
    One Republic's Giving All My Secrets Away
    Justin Timberlake and Timbaland's (Cry Me A River & What Goes Around Come Around)

    The lyrics are fantastic in these songs. Eminem is a genius with poetry. JT knows how to make emotion sing. Everytime I hear these songs, I just want to put that kind of angst into my writing.

  2. Hi, When I'm working I often listen to Pandora. For some reason, as challenging as work is, there is some channel in my brain that is not utilized and that causes my concentration to wander. The music helps me keep focus and pass the time.

  3. Kathy: Thank you for sharing! I had not had you pegged for an Eminem fan. I love being surprised! ^_^ I have to agree, he's got quite the talent. It's the cleverness that gets me. But then, my favorite by him has always been the satirical 'without me'...which is worth it for the video alone. ;)

    Robin: My husband is the same way! He swears he can code faster if he's got the right music going. Fortunately, they let him have Pandora at work. There's really something to it to be able to stimulate a different part of the brain and benefit the whole. ^_^

  4. Ok, I'm trying this again. Dastardly thing!
    Well, for me, I love music. I can write with it or without it. I usually need only instrumental when I write, but lately on Pandora I've developed a few "stations" that work. One is "Bad Things"-blues. and the other is celtic music. I also have my metal and other stations for workouts etc.

    Now, I have to admit, lately I've dragged the muse kicking and screaming to the chair. I don't have time for it to fight me. LOL

    You asked about songs that would describe my writing/story. Two come to mind:
    "I stand alone" By Godsmack
    "Awake and Alive" by Skillit
    Both different and the same in an odd way.

    Bottom line you are not is wonderful! :D

  5. My Beautiful Angela,

    I'm curious. What would you choose as the soundtrack or theme song to your mother's life?


  6. M.V.: Great selection. I have the same issue -while- I'm writing, I can't be hearing other wordsbuzzing around me. At least not words I recognize, lol. There, I seem to do alright with classical, thugh techno and electronica are more energizing. I am absolutely LOVING an album the hubby just found that blends electronic and Latin choral:

    Mumsy: As of late, I secretly think of you whenever I see this one:
    Don't laugh, I wasn't recommending the lead singer's hair. ;)

  7. Here is something that may help, just don't get hurt with it

    Now as for a song, I can't think of one that fits what I am looking for.