Mood Music (An IWSG Post)

It’s the first Wednesday of the month (at least I think it is, but honestly, I haven’t really known what day/week/month it is for a while now, so I could be wrong) which means it’s time for another action-packed (possibly rant-packed. Like, I’d like to rant, but I’ll probably lose that impulse by the time I get to the actual post part of this post) edition of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.

As always, I am assuming if you’re reading this, it’s because you’re already familiar with this group, but if you happen to be new and looking for more information and/or a complete list of participants, click on the above link.

This month’s amazing co-hosts are Feather Stone, Beverly Stowe McClure, Mary Aalgaard, Kim Lajevardi, and Chemist Ken.

This month’s (optional) question asks, “Do you have any rituals that you use when you need help getting into the zone? Care to share?”

This might sound weird coming from an OCD-ridden control freak, but I don’t think I do have any real rituals.

Music probably comes the closest, though. Every WIP I create ends up with its own playlist comprised of songs that remind me of a specific character and/or scene. Sometimes, I even include songs that I call ‘opening credits’ or ‘end credits’ selections. Because I’m weird like that.

The moment I start developing a playlist for a WIP is the moment when I know I’m getting serious about that particular project. The playlists evolve as the story does. Songs are cut, others are added, and I keep doing this until the WIP is finished. (If it’s finished, I should say. I do have a long history of, you know, not finishing WIPs.) If one were so inclined, one could chart all those changes to the playlist and see exactly how many times I was wrong about the direction in which I thought a story would go.

I’ve been doing this for a good long while now. Since collegeโ€”when I actually decided that maybe spending all my time writing stories meant I should maybe try being a writer. The first two projects to get a playlist were Effigy and a as-of-yet-unfinished WIP currently known as How Many Angels (possibly funny side note: it took me many tries to write ‘angels’ instead of ‘angles’. It’s possible I need a nap. Said the insomniac.).

I believe the first song to make it onto the How Many Angels list was I Think It’s Gonna Rain Today by Bette Midler. It just really fit how I saw the opening scene. It still does, which is why even though I added it to the list many, many moons (all right, fine. Decades, okay? It was decades.) ago, it’s still there.

The same cannot be said for Effigy‘s original playlist. I’m going to claim that I don’t remember what songs were on that original list, but the truth is they are super embarrassing and I don’t want to admit to them. If you’d like to see Effigy‘s current playlist (or any playlist for any of my other projects), check out the ‘Books‘ link above. It’s far less embarrassing. I think. Maybe.

Anyway, potential embarrassment aside, I use music when I need to get into the right headspace. When I go on long walks or drives, I will listen to the playlist for the WIP with which I’m struggling. There’s a character in Second Nature with whom I was having a hard time until I listened to the Alice In Chains song Down In A Hole. For whatever reason, that song clicked with me and that character so I listened to it approximately five hundred times in a row (probably an underestimate) and was able to get myself over that particular hurdle.

I also have a non-WIP specific playlist actually called “Mood Music” that is made up of instrumental musicโ€”some classical, some from movie and television soundtracks. Sometimes (most times) I like some form of noise when I work, and instrumental music can help me focus without distracting me with pesky things like lyrics.

I don’t know if any of that really counts as having a ritual. But either way that’s as close as I can get to one.

Look at that. You got a ramble instead of a rant.

Any rituals you care to share? Does music play a part in your creative process? Any song/artist suggestions for me? I’m always on the lookout for new tunes.

Hope everyone’s safe and well. Take care, y’all.

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32 Commentsto Mood Music (An IWSG Post)

  1. Maybe your subconscious is telling you that “angels” should be “angles” for a reason? ๐Ÿ™‚

    So many people enjoy music when they write. I tend to find it distracting, but never say never. I might come up with a playlist of sorts one of these days.

    • M.J. Fifield says:

      I usually don’t listen to the playlists when I’m trying to get serious work done. The lyrics can be too distracting for me, so I stick with the instrumental stuff when I need to actually write words and use the playlist stuff when I need to brainstorm in a specific mood/mindset.

      And I hope I don’t end up writing a book about math. Given how bad I am at math, that would be a real disaster.

  2. Can’t go wrong with Alice in Chains.
    I always use music to put me in the right mood.

    • M.J. Fifield says:

      Alice In Chains is great. My significant other loves them, too. He was probably a little less enthused after the 300th replay of Down In A Hole, but he kept those feelings to himself. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. I don’t have any rituals. Unless you count turning on the TV to find something mindless to play as background noise. =P

    • M.J. Fifield says:

      I do the mindless television as background noise thing, too. I just generally need some kind of noise going on to help me focus. Sounds weird, but it works for me. Usually, anyway. It’s not a guarantee.

  4. C. Lee McKenzie says:

    A lot of writers use music to get into the zone. I just can’t. I find myself tapping my foot or thinking about dancing. I can’t do that and write too.

    • M.J. Fifield says:

      The only time I think about dancing is when I’ve maybe had one cocktail too many. Which NEVER happens…

  5. Kate says:

    Certain books have playlists or records or songs associated with them for me, but mostly I don’t listen to music when I write. Partly because I write at 5:30 in the morning and don’t want to wake everyone else up, and partly because I tend to get distracted by lyrics if I’m listening to music. When I do listen while writing I tend to listen to classical music or music with lyrics in a foreign language I don’t understand. I love Sigur Ros for this – their lyrics aren’t in any real language, but I also listen to music in Arabic and Hebrew and other languages I don’t speak.

    • M.J. Fifield says:

      I’ll get distracted by lyrics, too. Sigur Ros is a favorite of mine. They often help me get in that right mindset.

  6. Jemi Fraser says:

    Music helps me write too, but I’ve never made a playlist – just put my main playlist on shuffle and away I go. I have eclectic music tastes so it could be Queen or Darth Vader’s theme or Billy Joel or Diana Krall or Phantom or Adele or Oklahoma or Elton John or Carrie Underwood or… and the more embarrassing ones which are super fun too ๐Ÿ™‚

    • M.J. Fifield says:

      Normally, I’m very much unapologetic when it comes to my music. I like what I like, and if you don’t like it, you can walk…is definitely not something I’ve said to my significant other when we’re driving somewhere. But yeah…I was thinking about a couple of the early choices for Effigy’s soundtrack, and I just couldn’t do it. They were so ridiculous. I obviously had no idea what story I was writing back then. ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. J E Oneil says:

    You’re big on the music. I remember you doing posts about your WIPs with songs that related to them. If your books ever get turned into films, you already have soundtracks!

    • M.J. Fifield says:

      Right. I did that for the A to Z challenge one year. I wonder how many of those songs are still actually on the playlists. Maybe I should look that up. It might be interesting to see.

      And the idea of anything I wrote being made into a film fills me with just an insane amount of dread.

  8. Chrys Fey says:

    Music gets me into the zone, too. It’s my muse. Every single time I am writing, I’m listening to music that reminds me of my story.

    How Many Angels is a great title. I love it!

    • M.J. Fifield says:

      I love that title, too. Not sure I’ll ever finish the book that goes with it, but a girl can dream. ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. I make playlists, too. Which I haven’t done for what I’m working on now, so that might be why it’s taking me so long.

  10. Liz A. says:

    Whatever works, right? What is that saying? It’s something about music being used when there are emotions… I can’t recall. It’s something about music being what feelings sound like. There’s a great quote…

    Anyway, it makes sense that music would put you in the right mood, right frame of reference, right state of mind for your writing. It would tap that part of your brain that gets you into the zone of that particular story.

  11. Sarah Foster says:

    I love making book playlists and they definitely evolve as the story does. I’ve changed UL’s playlist so many times, especially as certain scenes were cut. Like the book itself, it will probably never be finished.

    • M.J. Fifield says:

      There’s a song on the Terrible Romance Novel’s playlist whose scene was cut, but I like the song so much I haven’t been able to bring myself to cut it.

      I don’t think my playlists are ever truly done. Even Effigy, a book that’s been out for a while. If I heard a song today that I thought was a better fit for a scene/character, I’d totally make a change.

  12. Cathrina says:

    I love music, but I need complete quiet to write. If I hear music, I concentrate on the beat and the words, and then I’ll tap me feet and want to dance!

    • M.J. Fifield says:

      See, my characters are never happy enough to warrant any song with a beat. If they were, I’m sure I would have the same problem. ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. I get too distracted by music so I mostly write in silence. I like the idea of having a soundtrack for a story all the same, though . . .something to play maybe not *while* I’m writing, but while I’m trying to get in the right headspace. Interesting!

    • M.J. Fifield says:

      Yeah, anything with lyrics I have to listen to when I’m NOT writing because I just get too hung up on the lyrics. So I use the playlists more to help with brainstorming sessions and writer’s block.

  14. I used to be a quiet only writer, but now, every once in a while, I really need music to distract me. I don’t know if it’s CoVID, or if it’s because my husband is working from home, but music is becoming a necessity.
    Usually, I just need water and a hot drink (coffee/tea) and I’m set.

    • M.J. Fifield says:

      There are certainly days during all this where I’ve needed to be distracted, too. Music’s a great choice for that.

  15. Your not the first person who mentioned music to answer this question. I don’t make playlists and lately I’ve needed quiet.

    • M.J. Fifield says:

      I find I do need quiet from time to time, but usually, I need some kind of background noise to help me stay focused. Weird, I know (my significant other doesn’t understand it at all) but it works for me.

  16. I’ll usually “borrow” a track or a soundtrack that matches the tone of what I’m writing, and play it softly on repeat during writing sessions. Never thought to get a playlist going for it, though. ๐Ÿ™‚

  17. I’m always listening to music for my projects, too! (The playlist for Undeath of Me is…embarrassingly random, haha.) Writing would be so much more difficult without some music for inspiration!

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