Music to write by?

Do you listen to music while you write? A Mozart sonata? John Coltrane’s sax or some classic Miles Davis? A bit of the Cuban touch? Coldplay‘s lastest CD? Or soundtracks from your favourite movies?

It could be that, to work successfully, you need a blur of background sound to keep away the silence. Or is it deliberately chosen music that fits the mood of the piece you’re writing? Or do you prefer silence?

I’ve asked some writers their preferences….

New Zealand author, Brian Falkner has a very definite way of working – he finds a specific piece of music that reflects the kind of emotion in the scene he’s writing. If it’s an important or emotional scene, he sometimes spends as much time trying to find an appropriate piece of music as he does writing the scene. (See Brian’s website on the sidebar)

I find that the right music can not only affect you emotionally while you are writing, but it can also bring imagery to mind that you can use in the scene.’  Usually he uses the music choice once because then it’s become tied to that particular book and scene in his mind.

Here’re some of Brian’s choices, (if you know the music you can imagine the scene he’s writing):
1812 Overture / Barber’s Adagio for Strings  / Quidam (Almost the entire album) – Cirque du Soleil  /  Firebird Suite – Stravinsky  /  Night on Bald Mountain – Mussorgsky  /  Ave Maria – Schubert  /  Oh, Fortuna – Orff /  The Swan – Saint-Saëns

Australian author, Claire Saxby finds music keeps her going if she’s writing something new, and it tunes out ambient noise. She says beat music will keep the words flying. Favourite titles include Augie March’s two albums, The Frames (Irish band), Waifs, Cat Empire, Paul Kelly. Familiar albums allow for subliminally absorbing – so much so, often she doesn’t notice them finish.

Michael Bauer, a fellow Ashgrovian, and the author of the splendid story, The Running Man (and others), confesses to needing silence when he works because he’s easily distracted. ‘I thought I’d give it a go so I put on a cd but I couldn’t write a thing because I kept listening to the music! Maybe I just didn’t pick the right songs?’

Michael does have a point – there is music it’s impossible to write by – I’ve tried it. The latest I’ve tried is a Christmas gift from my sister in Washington – called Rhythms Del Mundo CUBA. A collection of musicians, from Coldplay, Sting, Artic Monkeys, to Quincy Jones and Ibraham Ferrer (from The Buena Vista Social Club) and others, playing their music with a Cuban influence – all with the intent of raising funds and awareness about climate change. Great music! But why is it impossible to write by? How can one key words when one is too busy salsa-ing?

My favourites to write by depend on what I’m working on…  if it’s an action scene or dramatic dialogue, then it’s the soundtrack from The Lord of the Rings – especially when the orcish army is storming Helm’s Deep. For background music, I’m back in my Celtic ancestry with any of five Loreena McKennitt CDs. Or Paul Kelly’s Songs from The South.

P.S. My favourite Music quotes:
‘Music is your own experience, your thoughts, your wisdom.  If you don’t live it, it won’t come out of your horn.’  ~Charlie Parker
‘Life can’t be all bad when for ten dollars you can buy all the Beethoven sonatas and listen to them for ten years.’  ~William F. Buckley, Jr.

So, do you have music favourites to work by? Love to hear your choices.

Here’s a video of Rhythms del Mundo CUBA – enjoy!



840 kittens

Okay, I know I said this blog was just for writing matters BUT I have to get on my soapbox just one more time in 2008.

It’s Christmas Eve and Santa’s calling in on lots of good little boys and girls, but do you think Santa would be so stupid as to leave a cute puppy or kitten under the tree? No way, Jose! That jolly old gentleman has got more brains. Mind you, there are some responsible owners who will do the right thing for their fluffy, furry, hairy little bundle over its life.

In December there’ve been over 840 kittens dumped at Brisbane’s RSPCA centre at Fairfield and they’re still counting. If they can’t find homes, they will be gassed – kaput, arrivederci, farewell and goodbye. In one year the number of cats put down number over 12,500. Add to that number the total dogs and puppies who’ll die as well. Those vets out there at Fairfield must feel like shit sometimes – they’ve trained to save animals not kill them.

The RSPCA is run by donations. Want to help? Donate. Pressure politicians to ensure people spey and neuter their cats and dogs if they’re not prepared to find good homes for the progeny. Encourage people to get their pets from the RSPCA not petshops (sorry, petshop owners, but you are part of the problem). I told you I was getting on my soapbox.  Here’s the site to donate, and you get a cute card with it…. http://rspca.org.au/ecards/giftcardshow.asp?id=8

Have a furry good Christmas!

Nothing to do with cats and dogs - just another animal - dermestid beetles eating flesh off python.

Nothing to do with cats and dogs – just another animal – dermestid beetles eating flesh off python.

A pleasant surprise…

Don’t you love it when you you pick the right movie to see? Especially when you think you’re not in the mood for an intelligent drama. Okay, so it was my turn to choose and the other possibility was Twilight, but the thought of Ross going to sleep in a vampire/romance movie and snoring in the kissy-kissy bits put me off.

So, instead I chose Frost/Nixon, the just-released Ron Howard movie about the legendary battle between Richard Nixon, the disgraced president with a legacy to save, and David Frost, a jet-setting British television personality with a name to make – as the blurb says – in the story of the historic encounter that changed both their lives.

The screenwriter/s should earn Oscars and Tonys for their brilliant script as should the actors – it truly is a great movie.

Even if you didn’t live through those turbulent years as the world watched Richard Nixon escape punishment for his involvement in the Watergate affair, nor will it matter if you’ve never heard of David Frost, you’ll enjoy the drama unfolding. Go see it!

I’ve always thrived on challenges…

Kat and Cat
Kat and me

I’ve always thrived on challenges. If a job’s too easily mastered – why wouldn’t you get sick of it?

Maybe this is why I’ve never stayed in a job for longer than four years in my life? Except for writing; and in particular, writing for young people.

It’s been 10 years now – the longest I’ve ever stayed focused on one thing – the pushing, pulling, pinching and punching of words like lumps of clay, molding them into coherency, thought and feelings until something magical happens – not every time, just enough to taste the drug of success.

I’ve been asked the question: ‘Why do you want to write stories?’

The short answer – I can’t stop.

Mind you, there are times when it’s like pushing jelly uphill. On other days, the words fly on silver wings.

That’s the beauty, the thrill and the curse of being a committed writer. On the good days I swear there’s no better job in the world. Yeah, even on the bad days too.

I started another story after I submitted my first completed manuscript. Rejection letters arrived and rewrites followed, but because I had an ongoing project on the go, writer’s block never freaked me out. There was always another story to work on when the jelly rolls back downhill.

If you’re interested, the WORKS IN PROGRESS page dips into extracts from some of my unpublished stories (which will be published one day!)