Musical Motivation

This is a common question at launches and panels and such. Do you listen to music when you write? What music inspires you? Well, I’ll talk about music as inspiration in a later post, right now I want to write about music as motivation. I see motivation and inspiration as different things – inspiration is the idea, the spark, the image, the story. Inspiration gives us something to write about. Motivation is what keeps our butts in our chairs and our fingers on the key or pens in our hands.

I wrote previously that part of my motivation comes from seeing all the books on my shelf and knowing that I can do that. It comes from that desire, that drive, to fill a shelf with books that all have my name on the spine. That puts my butt in the chair – but what keeps me there? And what keeps me in the document window tapping out words instead of browsing social media or falling down the click-bait rabbit hole?

Short answer? Food and music. Food is easy. I eat in the pauses between thoughts so my hands are busy and I don’t click away from my document. I try to eat healthy – soup, veggies, fruit, crackers – but sometimes it’s chocolate, chips, or popcorn, especially if I’m on a deadline. Plus I keep a drink on hand – water, milk, or hot chocolate (I don’t drink coffee or tea). But we didn’t come here to talk about food. We came here to talk about music.

I’m an easily distracted writer so I need to keep my mind from wandering and my hands from changing jobs. The food helps my hands in those breaks between bursts of words. The music helps block distracting thoughts in my head and distracting stuff going on around me, like my husband puttering in the kitchen or my kids playing in the living room.

But it can’t be just any music. Well, I mean, it can be anything because my tastes are very broad, but it can’t be just anything at a given moment. The music has to fit my mood, and the mood of the piece I’m writing. When I’m on a deadline, for example, I pull out anything that’s too slow. I need fast-paced music with a driving tempo to keep my fingers and thoughts moving.

When I’m working on something difficult, something that’s moving a little slow, maybe because it’s in the early stages, maybe because I’m having trouble with the plot, and I really need to focus on it, that’s when I listen to instrumental music. I love classical music but I also listen to stuff like the overtures from Broadway musicals, the menu music from the Game of Thrones discs (you can find it online), Session by Linkin Park, and an instrumental techno version of the Japanese folk song “Sakura” (okay, and occasionally Crazy Frog).

When I’m on a deadline I need stuff with that driving beat. I like July Talk, some of Hozier’s quicker stuff, Meatloaf, and some of Evanescence’s quicker pieces. It’s got to have drums and bass and a good tempo, something that pulls my heart rate along with it.

Most of the time it’s just random stuff, like Pentatonix, July Talk, Hozier, Meatloaf, Pink Floyd, Evanescence, Ok Go, soundtracks, classic rock pieces from before I was born (or at least before I started school) or random pieces where I like 1 song by the artist. I keep a random playlist on Youtube and I have a massive 8 hour list on my computer.

Music is so hardwired into me that if I don’t have something playing on the speakers something is playing in my head (Dream On by Aerosmith is playing in my head as I type this). Of course the music playing in my head is usually incomplete or on weird loops so I prefer it on the speakers.

My bookshelf reminds me of my dream, of why I want to write. The snacks keep me from wandering away from my writing. The music keeps me mentally on track to write. That’s my motivation. I’d love to hear what motivates you.

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