With my busy schedule, I can’t afford to wait for my muse to move me before putting words on paper (or text on screen). I’ve got to snatch up every hour I can find and make the best of it. So how do I transition quickly from mundane, sometimes mind-draining tasks directly into writing? Well, two things that help are my earbuds and the right music.
When I first started writing, I feared that music would distract me too much from thinking about what needed to happen next in the story. I was especially concerned that anything with lyrics would seriously interfere with making the best word choices.
Then I read Write. Publish. Repeat., an outstanding how-to volume by Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant. I can’t remember which of the two mentioned it, but one of them talked about turning out massive word counts while listening to some seriously raucous, lyric-laden tunes. Since then, I’ve come across several other big-name authors who relate that they, too, do their best writing while headphones pump one variety or another of music into their ears and brains. I thought, If it works for big-leaguers like them…
Wow! Was I surprised! Not only did the music help drown out the real world around me, but it also helped me enter into the universe of my story—far better than I’d ever imagined it would. Even songs with lyrics are fine, having little negative effect on my concentration and creativity. It’s gotten to where I usually prefer to write with music playing, and about the only time I don’t listen to music while writing is when, for some specific reason, I don’t want to completely shut out my wife, daughter, or dog.
Of course, choosing the right music is a huge factor. Not every tune needs to be Western in flavor when I’m working on Westerns, but certain melodies have the remarkable power to fire up the creative juices time and time again–almost every time I hear them.
My favorite playlist for working on Westerns includes tunes by Calexico such as Minas de Cobre and Tres Avisos. I also like Theme of the Glowing Amigo by Diego’s Umbrella, Buried West by The Inner banks, and a number of Western movie themes. Scores from The Magnificent Seven, El Condor, and the old TV series The Virginian come to mind.
What works for one author may not work for another. And the same thing doesn’t necessarily work every single time. But when this writer wants to make some serious progress on crafting a story, the right music is often as helpful as anything for making the jump from the ordinary, everyday world around us into the world of my created characters.