Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Paperback Writer

Yesterday I picked up a copy of Cosmo. It isn’t something I often do (actually I can’t remember the last time) but something on the front cover caught my attention. I’d like to say it was “10 songs to put you in a good mood” but I’m honest enough to say it wasn’t. However, when I settled down in front of my computer tonight, wracking my brain for a topic to write about, that article is what came to mind.

Interestingly, a new University of Toronto study identified happiness-inducing tunes (I couldn’t find any literature on this so I’m taking Cosmo’s word for it). The songs listed in Cosmo were fairly current: “You belong with me” – Taylor Swift; “Your love is my drug” – Ke$ha; and “I gotta feeling” – Black Eyed Peas made the list. While these tunes usually have me humming along in the car as I drive to work, being a child of the 80’s I’d add “Lucky Star” and “Holiday” by Madonna. There are days where the oldies (I grew up with only AM radio) are what put a smile on my face: “My Girl” – Temptations; “You Really Got Me” – Kinks; “Pretty Woman” - Roy Orbison, “The Loco-Motion” - Little Eva; and “Brown Eyed Girl” - Van Morrison are just a few.

While happy songs are sure to bring me out of my funk, sometimes I’m in the mood for something well...moody. Other times it is an ear-splitting heavy metal song that has my body vibrating to the beat. No matter what genre, the right song can really make my day. (The same could be said for novels, but that’s not the direction I’m going here.)

I think we’d all agree that music can affect mood, but can it actually improve performance? Robin Lloyd, in an article for MNBC, writes that athletes use music to regulate their mood before and during an event. They use music like a legal drug. “Science is backing up our intuition and experience, showing that music really does kill pain, reduce stress, better our brains and basically change how we experience life.”

Music is a motivator. How many gyms pump dance music through their speakers? Have you ever seen a runner without headphones? The right music can be all you need to get your fingers (and brain) working.

There are times when writing is like running a marathon—or maybe a triathlon: plan, type, revise—and many people write to their own specially selected soundtrack. (Stephanie Meyer actually posted her playlists for the Twilight Saga on her website.) The right music can really set the tone (sorry, couldn’t resist) for the story. The right music can help you picture a particular scene (i.e. eerie music for the dark forest scene). Sometimes I associate a song with a character I’d like to develop or I might hear a song and imagine a particularly interesting scenario for my two characters to get into.

I thought this song might make you smile!

Dear Sir or Madam will you read my book
It took me years to write will you take a look
It's a thousand pages give or take a few,
I'll be writing more in a week or two
I can make it longer if you like the style...

Do you write to music? Or do you prefer the sound of silence?


Anne Germaine said...

I'm on the road today so I'm not sure when (if) I'll get a chance to respond to messages.

Thanks for stopping in!

Helena said...

Hi, Anne. When you get back and look at responses, I'm sure you will see a variety. Factors include generational differences, as well as individual preferences.

I cannot write new material with any "noise" around me, so no music, even in the background. Right now I'm commenting on blogs with CBC Newsnet on in the room, and it's not easy. It makes me feel jittery; however, that's talk and info. Different from music.

I find music useful in setting a mood in advance of writing, like when I'm tring to re-create the setting and ambience of a location in my head. The music I play when I'm driving falls into that category. (So, sometimes I play my favourites from The Fifties!)

[okay, tv is off, time to focus]

My current music listening ranges from Andrea Bocelli (thanks to Connie for introducing me to his voice) and Il Divo to Corb Lund, Michael Buble, and Leonard Cohen, to name a few. Other times, I will choose a completely instrumental selection of classical music.

I remember not liking music played during aerobics sessions I used to do at noon; liked yoga better for the silence. But my son's junior hockey team loved loud crashing rock music during practices. Same son told me he learned in his psych course that classical music was best for the brain to absorb information. My husband liked to listen to music that was in synch with the heartbeat of the body.

Interesting topic today, Anne. So individual and so universal!

Jana Richards said...

Hi Anne,
I'm one of those writers who enjoys the sounds of silence. I can't concentrate with music playing, and definitely not with the TV or radio on. I'm too easily distracted. If I listen to music, especially music with lyrics, I totally lose my train of thought.

But many writers need music when they write so I won't knock it. To each his own.

Thanks for the "Paperback Writer" lyrics. I've never actually made out the lyrics before. Makes me wonder where the inspiration for the song came from.


Anne Germaine said...

Hi Helena,

I can barely function with the television on--it's like a bug and a light bulb!! "I can't look away!!" So writing with the TV on is not an option. I do write with the radio on sometimes, but it is mostly to set the tone.

Anne Germaine said...


I had never heard the song "Paperback Writer" but when I found it, I had to chuckle. Sometimes I work myself in a circle trying to find out what will get me published.