I’ve always fancied the idea of living to a soundtrack. Maybe a moody, sweeping track could play over a montage of my day: here I am eating cornflakes – cut to me brushing my teeth – cut to me walking to school – cut to me coming home and sitting at my desk. And sitting. And drinking tea. And sitting. And typing a little. And sitting a bit more, with tea. Etc. Hmm, OK, this part gets less visually interesting, I admit. But maybe the music could add some atmosphere? After all, in my head, there’s all kinds of stuff going on!

I almost always play music when I write. I make incredibly long, mixed-up playlists before I start anything new. At first, the tracks are a way of stopping myself from wandering off and checking Twitter or Girls Heart Books sixty times a minute. If I tell myself, “After this song, I’ll go,” it takes me a lot longer to flit away. Especially if I love the next track.

So I use the playlists to trick myself into staying put, and after a while (usually!), I’m so involved in the story that I don’t want to do anything but write anyway. Then I stop being aware of the music. I tune it out and it becomes a distant soundtrack. Gradually, I whittle my playlists down to certain tracks that work with what I’m writing. I play these on a continuous loop, non-stop for hours. (It’s a good thing I wear headphones!)

Here are a few of my past ‘continuous loop’ tracks, bunched together on Mixpod. It’s a bit of an odd mix, but I can’t listen to any of them now without thinking of certain scenes and characters…

Are you a playlist-maker? Would you like a soundtrack to your life? Is there a track that sums up your mood right now – or yesterday, or last week? I’d love to know…

22 thoughts on “Soundtracks

  1. I love this post! I always make playlists when I’m writing too. In fact, that was how I used to make myself write Jessie when I was feeling less than enthusiastic – I’d put Empire State of Mind On and I’d suddenly be inspired! In fact, Jessie was inspired by a song (Jason Mraz’s If It Kills Me).

  2. This is fabulous! I don’t listen to anything when I’m writing, but now I’m wondering if maybe I should… If I had a soundtrack to my life though, it’d probably be provided by Madonna (the good stuff). 😀

  3. I can’t listen to anything with words, because then I just listen TO the words and there’s only a certain amount of word space in my head. So instrumental music only for me.

  4. Wow – I’ve never thought of doing this!! Maybe that’s where I’m going wrong?! (I’ve always loved Bob Dylan, but then my books might become slightly groany and out of tune).

  5. I never get round to mixing a playlist but I do play one track on a loop to get me in the zone. I’m hunting for my next track as we speak. What makes me laugh is that I know when it’s just the right one, even though my choice might seem random to anyone else who might be listening.
    And I’d love a soundtrack to my life! I love watching people when I’m driving and laugh at how often the day outside matches my tune. X

  6. I have a playlist of songs I listen to for each book – some chosen by my characters and others chosen by me as they reflect the themes of the book. Actually, you’ve just reminded me that I meant to blog about the My So-Called Phantom Lovelife playlist!

    Great post, Luisa 🙂

  7. Loads of writers seem to listen to music while writing, but I can’t! I always start singing along, it’s really distracting! I loved this post, my lie soundtrack would probably be something by Beyonce.

  8. YES! Someone else who listens to music when they write! So i’m not crazy..(err)

    I listen too diffrent songs but i mostly listen to one song over and over so i don’t need to keep switching them and stop writing.

    E.T is the song i’m crazy about at the moment, most of this story i’m writing now is with that song and River Lullaby from Prince of Egypt soundtrack (when her (main girls) mother comes into it.)

  9. I seem to have accumulated a group of songs that have become my soundtrack to uni. There are certain songs that I know are going to remind me of certain events and people forever. It’s pretty awesome, really.

  10. I am still sulky that writing a book doesn’t turn out to involve a 2-minute montage of me sucking the end of a pencil, typing furiously for 30 seconds, then shuffling a huge pile of typed pages together with a satisfied grin, to the tune of ‘Walking on Sunshine’ by Katrina & the Waves.

    Luisa, I’m the same as you: music helps me get going, then I zone out and forget it’s even playing. Lately I’ve been working on a book with lots of fifties music in the story, so I’ve been playing buckets of rock’n’roll to get me in the mood.

    Love your soundtrack! Florence has been played a lot while writing this year too. 🙂

  11. You’re lucky – I have to have silence for writing. If I listen to music I end up singing along and not writing. Or accidentally writing the lyrics of the song.

  12. I’m in the ‘instrumental only’ camp too. Lyrics just weasel their way into my writing otherwise. That way plagiarism lies!

    A soundtrack to my life would be cool though, and I agree with Sophie that certain songs are just forever associated with particular events/people/places.

  13. I couldn’t possibly listen to music while writing because I get too caught up in the music and can’t concentrate. But I wish I could – I don’t listen to enough music these days!

  14. Actually, to be precise I listen to music all the time because my husband is a composer and so his work IS playing music. It means I can’t really put music while he’s working (we both work from home) because it would be like someone coming and telling me a story in my ear while I was trying to write one – distracting. I suppose I could use headphones if I was motivated enough!

  15. I’m not much of a music-listener. I hardly ever have music on unless I’m doing something really mundane, like washing the dishes or doing the school run. So I don’t ever really think of my life as needing a soundtrack but I love how music can just transport me back to different periods of my life or specific moments. I think has been influential in my life in a really sublte way that I’m only just realising. I can’t concentrate when I’m listening to music though, I never reach that point where I can turn the music out, so I always write in complete silence.

    Love this post.

  16. You know the awesome website you edit Chicklish how do you become a review-y person who writes the reviews of books on their? It is something I really want to do.

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