The writing soundtrack

by Julie Frayn on March 5, 2012 in  Writing

No, I haven’t suddenly become blessed with musical ability. I still sing like a duck getting a mammogram, and the only instrument I’ve mastered is, well, private. This pool of word vomit is about the music you hear when you write.

Years ago, when I first attempted to write a novel, I had no music in my head, no writing soundtrack. And I stalled completely. Epic failure. I’ve blamed it on my fear of success, but maybe it was just the silence between my ears.

When I picked up that manuscript again this past summer, seven years later, all I could hear was the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Their sound and their lyrics fit so perfectly with what the story was morphing into that I started playing their CDs (very loudly) while I wrote. I played them in my car, while I did housework, in my head while I lay in my bed trying desperately to sleep while music and scenes and dialog raced through my brain. I immersed myself in Chili Pepper magik (that’s not exactly a hardship, now is it?).

Under the Bridge, Breaking the Girl, Give it Away, Universally Speaking, Otherside, My Friends, and to some extent even Scar Tissue (well, the title and the blood-loss part). Perfect fits for individual scenes and for the overall feel of the story. It seemed that once I got that sound attached to my words, my characters, their lives – the story just poured out of my fingertips. I went from 70 pages of crap to 215 pages of a novel I am proud of, all in fewer than five months.

Thank you RHCP! I always knew you rocked my real world, but now you rock my imaginary one too.

I’m moving on to another story, something almost completely different (except for the love story part. And an orphan. And a farm girl. But honest, completely different). It’s the fictionalized tale of my parents’ lives together. What do I hear in my head now? Nat King Cole, Glenn Miller, Bing Crosby. And of course, Elvis Presley.

What is your writing soundtrack? Is it always the same or does it change? Or do you prefer the sound of Carthusian monks?

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

J Timothy Quirk March 6, 2012 at 4:14 pm

Whenever I write (my comic strip) and the kids are still up my soundtrack is usually Wiggles/Yo Gabba Gabba or something like it! I used to like writing with instrumental music in background(like David Byrne’s The Forest”) I might get back to writing WITH music.


Julie March 6, 2012 at 5:32 pm

Thanks Tim! (Can I call you Tim? :) ). When my kids were young it was Mighty Machines and Barney! I haven’t had the pleasure of Wiggles. I love silence, but for some reason my fingers seem to be attached to the music. Silent writing equals empty pages. Good thing I like to rock!

J Timothy Quirk March 6, 2012 at 8:53 pm

Hi Julie, yes, you could call me Tim but friends call me Joe so you can go with that!

Julie March 6, 2012 at 11:04 pm

Joe it is! :)

Mitch March 6, 2012 at 5:28 pm

“If you’re tired of the same old story, oh baby, turn some pages”.

Roll with the Changes, REO Speedwagon, 1978

Heard this on the radio this morning and thought of you and this blog post!


Julie March 6, 2012 at 5:33 pm

Ohmidog that takes me back! Loved REO Speedwagon. Thanks, hon! I have to go find them on youtube…

Jase Rosenburg (@JaseR75) March 6, 2012 at 6:34 pm

I LOVED REO Speedwagon too!

When I write I love to listen to music. It changes all the time, depending on what I’m writing. I think the mood of the music usually fits the mood of what I’m writing. It can be anything from classical, country, or even Lady GaGa. LOL

I love to go to my room, turn out the lights, put some music in my ears and write with reckless abandon!

By the way, I couldn’t help but laugh hysterically at the line ” I still sing like a duck getting a mammogram” Too funny! Great blog!!


Julie March 6, 2012 at 8:25 pm

Thanks, Jase – glad you woke up from your nap :). I’m trying to figure out how you type in the dark! But whatever works, reckless abandon is a great way to write.

Jase Rosenburg (@JaseR75) March 8, 2012 at 7:47 pm

Nothing better than typing in the dark! You know where the keys are, and you’re free to concentrate on the screen…no distractions! I love it!!


Julie March 8, 2012 at 9:01 pm

I will have to try that. But I’ll have to be careful where I set my wine down.. 😀

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