Music or No Music?

Does music help or hinder creative projects?

Sometimes I am sitting at the computer typing away and there’s a song going around and around in my head. Sometimes it’s more of an earworm (I’m looking at you, bad pop music from the 70s and 80s) and sometimes it’s a song that I like, but wouldn’t necessarily choose to listen to at that moment. Yet my brain decided to put it there anyway.

I’ve decided the way to get my brain back is to think of songs that I’d like to hear that are related to what I’m writing about in some way. Music engages my emotions, and when a song or even part of a song resonates with the scene, it’s not a bother. I can play the song or not, but the point is that it gives me an extra level of understanding what I’m writing about.

Here’s something for a character that just got dumped:

Chris Hoerter took this to another level by creating a playlist for his novel in progress.

Another way I’ve seen writers use music is to explicitly refer to songs in the text. Nathan Kotecki uses music to establish a milieu in his novel, The Suburban Strange. Each chapter title is the name of an album and the dialogue includes references to artists and songs that are important to the characters. This works because the novel is about a group of high school students who set themselves apart by the music they listen to, as well as the way they dress, and effectively create their own world where strange events occur.