No Music, No Writing

Can it be a coincidence that I have written hardly anything new since I started spending more time on the computer (blogging, checking blog and book stats, reading discussions about writing, etc.) and less time alone with music?  I listen to talk radio in the mornings and have taken to doing so in the evenings as well, instead of turning to music as I did in my years of intense writing.

Thinking back with nostalgia to those years, I recall  that I would hustle down to my subterranean writing room around 7:30 p.m. with a pot of tea and my favourite cat, and not emerge until around 10 p.m. (lugging empty teapot and the cat, who usually wasn’t ready to pack it in). Those 2.5 hours would be spent hunched over my current manuscript (either a pile of paper densely covered with longhand scribble or a Word document on my not-connected-to-the-internet computer — essentially a glorified typewriter). I had on hand a couple of dozen CDs and would pop one in and swap it for others as the evening progressed:  Bach’s Goldberg Variations, Schubert’s Winterreise, Britten, Shostakovich or maybe Loreena McKennitt. Or Thomas Tallis. Or Marjan Mozetich. Old friends all, now rarely heard.

So what happened?

What happened was that in 2010 I decided to self-publish The Friendship of Mortals through Smashwords. I bought a new computer and got an internet connection. I published the book and started this blog. By that time I had finished writing my Herbert West trilogy and another novel (inspired by and featuring Schubert’s Winterreise, strangely enough). Instead of rushing to my writing room to create, I rushed to the computer to check stats, monitor progress and tinker with existing  works. Suddenly it seemed important to keep up with world events, revolutions, massacres and political scandals, not to mention other writers’ opinions on SP vs. TP, “-ly” words, and other weighty matters. CDs languished unplayed and ideas remained unwritten.

I’ve published the other books in my trilogy since then, as well as written 158 blog posts, and read a lot of other writers’ works, both published and in progress. I’ve written comments and “reviews,” and awarded stars to books I read recently or long ago. I did some of these things because they were fun and others with the idea that I was creating an “internet presence” or “profile” that would help to bring my books to public attention. I can’t apply the label “marketing” to any of this, and I’m not certain that it was the best use of my time. My efforts at new writing remain spotty and I still hear music by accident, rather than listen to it consciously.

Music stirs up the creative waters, whereas talk clutters up the brain, making a buzz that drowns out original thoughts and blocks perception of the delicate connections between unlikely ideas that are the crucible of inspiration. Is it better to spend time on dubious self-promotion efforts rather than trace those connections and turn ideas into words? Even if those words remain unread due to lack of “marketing?”


  1. For me, the writing has to come first. I must admit, i’m a fan of marketing and like to try out new things, but, in the end, I always return to the writing because that’s what I’m doing this for in the first place. And plus, you end up a bit resentful…


    1. Well, I admit I have no affinity for marketing (at least not when it’s called that), but I agree that the writing must come first, otherwise what’s the point? Thanks for offering your perspective.


  2. I love listening to music — like you say, it’s amazing for inspiration. I used to go on walks in the forest all the time with just me and my ipod, and man would the ideas flow! Now I take my walks with my brother, and we talk about writing and book ideas, so it’s still productive, but every now and then I sneak away for one of my music walks 🙂

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    1. Music walks sound like a great idea! There were times when I would keep hearing certain pieces of music in my head — like “ear worms,” except when it’s music you like maybe they’re “ear fairies” or something?


  3. #amChuckling here… I too need music to write to – and to edit to.
    My writing playlist is a collection of heavy to middling rock, ranging from AC/DC, through Rolling Stones, Queen, Metallica, the Pogues, etc – and I can Not stop writing as it plays – two hours long.
    Editing? Another playlist of lyric-free music. (I download the “backing tracks” of Lots of songs.) Favourites are Music by Clannad, Jon & Vangelis, and a collection of the ABC Symphony Orchestra, etc. Softly playing, they keep me focussed for hours.

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