There is always a lot of talk around your writing environment. ‘Is your writing environment feeding your productivity?’ and such questions. Finding your ideal environment can be a long process, but it is a process that won’t magically happen. You can’t find the answer in a book. You need to alter things, try new ideas, and generally find what works best for you.
Where some people like writing at a desk, others prefer the couch. Where some need complete silence to concentrate, others like having music. Even the choice of whether to wear headphones or not is a decision that can sometimes help.
Over the next few weeks I’m going to be going through some of my writing environment points, talking about what I like and things I find distracting, hopefully leading some more people to consider their environment and increase productivity.
Which brings us to:
#1 Music and Playlists
I go through phases on how much music I like when I’m writing. There are times, mostly when I am focusing on getting something perfect (and this is especially true of editing) when I cannot have music on at all. Occasionally, if I’m trying to figure out a particular name or phrase, I need to hit pause on the music. However, for the most part, I need a little music playing.
I find it most helpful to listen to music through headphones, even when I am alone in the house. This is because it blocks out all other sounds that might distract me, like traffic noise.
The most important part for me is that I listen to music that relates to what I’m writing. This can be found, for me, in a number of ways:
1. Genre – Does the music give the right feel? If I’m writing a grungy post-apoc story, I mostly don’t want to listen to happy love songs.
2. Character – Is this the sort of music my character listens to?
A great example of this is the soundtrack to the TV show Supernatural. The entire soundtrack is based around Dean Winchester’s love of classic rock. Music is a wonderful connector, and hearing those songs, we feel a stronger connection to one of the main characters.
3. Lyrics – Do the lyrics of the song relate to the topics you’re writing about?
Another aspect to be conscious of is my familiarity with the song. This, for me, relates especially to number 3 on the list above. Yes, I want the lyrics to relate to what I’m writing about, and I might choose a song for that reason, but I don’t want it to distract me from the scene I’m writing. Therefore, I find that choosing songs I know backwards and forwards cuts away the distraction element. I let it fall into the background to the point where four songs have passed and I’ve not even realised.
Side note: My go to writing album is Mad Season by Matchbox Twenty. It’s my favourite album, and I know every song so well that, when writing a new story I haven’t gotten a beat on yet, I will automatically go to this album for my background music.
Once I’ve gotten a beat on a story, I like to give it its own playlist. I have one for the Out of Orbit series, and one for Le Cirque Navire, but I thought I’d share the one for Teeth, as it’s quite eclectic, going from light metal all the way to country music and covers by Glee.
All of these songs were chosen because they fit one of the three elements listed above, Genre, Character, or Lyrics. Some fit only one criteria, and others all three.
1. Teeth – Lady GaGa
2. Locked out of Heaven – Bruno Mars
3. She Left Me – GoAudio!
4. My Dark Side – Glee cover sung by Darren Criss (originally Kelly Clarkson)
5. Burn it to the Ground – Nickelback
6. Loaded Gun – Tyler Hilton
7. Bad Girlfriend – Theory of a Deadman
8. How to be a Heartbreaker – Glee cover sung by Dean Geyer (originally Marina and the Diamonds)
9. Teenagers – My Chemical Romance
10. Disease – Matchbox Twenty
11. Shiver – Maroon 5
12. Papercut – Linkin Park
13. My Turn – Hoobastank
14. Broadway – Goo Goo Dolls
15. Mad Season – Matchbox Twenty
16. Hotel California – The Eagles
17. Renegade – Daughtry
18. Inside of You – Hoobastank
19. Not Strong Enough – Apocalypta feat. Doug Robb
20. Carry on my Wayward Son – Blue Oyster Cult
21. Oaklahoma State of Mind – Kane
Do you have any specific way you like to listen to music whilst writing? And specific albums or genres of music you like?