Put on a dance number from the early 1990s and I tell you, am ready to put on my bodysuit and cut-off shorts (over my leggings), lace up my Doc Martins and hit the dance floor.* No matter what I’m doing, including cooking dinner for my family while wearing pumpkin flannel pajamas, the music still makes me feel like I’m getting dressed in my dorm room, ready to storm the clubs of Montreal. Or play the CD of lullabies that I listened to every. single. night. while nursing my son and trying to get him to sleep and I swear I can smell the Burts Bees apricot body oil I used to use on him after his bath.
But play the song Fallout by the local and hugely talented folk singer Susan Levine and I will start writing the angst-puppy emo-boy scenes of Dangerous School. I think I listened to that song on endless repeat for hours, literally hours, while writing certain scenes.
The point to all this is that music can unlock whole kingdoms in writing, at least for me. When I wake up at 5:45 and stagger downstairs (in the above-mentioned pumpkin p.j.s) it can be very hard to get my head into a longing-filled, romantic high-stakes drama between my characters. But early in the writing process, as I am outlining the story, I build a playlist that builds the mood I need. There is an alchemy in those songs after a while – they magically turn my mundane coffee-seeking-bill-paying-school-lunch-making mind off, so that my writing mind can take over.
I’m a little embarrassed to admit that the book I’m working on right now came to me while I was listening to a bootleg copy of Glee and the song No Air came on. I don’t even know who sings the song originally (I just know it as sung expertly by Rachel and Finn). I just was listening to these teenage singers belting out how they can’t live without each other – that it would be like trying to live without air. And voila – I suddenly had this love story with a girl who fell so hard for a boy, despite the fact that she is a Mer, and he is not. Some 55 thousand words later that song still brings me some of the immediacy of feeling that way.
So how about you? Do you need classical music to work, techno beats to exercise, Go-Gos to clean the house (or maybe that’s just me…)? Anyway, I’m curious…let me know!
*Yes, there are photos. No, you can’t see them.