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Friday, November 7, 2008

Playlists and "the Zone"

Carrie Vaughn mentions using a playlist when writing her novels. Comic book writer Devin Grayson does the same when writing her comic scripts.

I do the same thing, only using whole albums. Sometimes, movies.

With one project, I listened to Weird Al's Greatest Hits and Running With Scissors over and over during the course of writing.

Another project was written with The Mummy playing the background. On repeat.

More recently, I repeatedly played the music score from Transformers while writing Kat and Mouse's big storyline. Interestingly enough, that was one music choice that fit. I think I may have found its unofficial soundtrack.

Why music (or a movie)? Why not just write in complete silence?

For Carrie:
it distracts the anxiety-ridden, obsessive compulsive part of my brain that's always worrying if I locked the door or left the stove on. I have to shut that part down or I can't write.
For Devin:
music allows me to suspend what is sometimes called the “critical” or “editor” mind — in a sense, I deliberately distract parts of my consciousness in the hopes of encouraging various subconscious streams to run more freely.
Same for me.

Kicks out the Inner Editor. Silences the Worry Section. Puts me in the proverbial "zone."

I've also found that in order for the playlist/soundtrack/movie to be effective, it has to quickly fade into the background. There can't be anything in it that interrupts the zone or the writing stalls and it takes a few minutes to get back in the groove.

In the zone.

For some reason, classical music doesn't work. You'd think it'd be perfect, right?

Not for me.

Tried it with one of my classical compilations. You know--the ones that have the more popular pieces on one disc. Goes from Pachelbel's Canon in D to Mozart's Eine Kleine Nachtmusik to Strauss's Blue Danube. Those guys.

I found that at certain points during the disc, I'd get kicked out of the zone.

Not sure why.

For whatever reason, non-classical ones work best.

There have been instances where I've switched albums in the middle of writing and not realized it until later. But during that switch I stayed in the zone. Example: during the writing of one story, I began playing the highlights disc for Rent and when I looked up at the end of that writing session, the theme from Jurassic Park was just ending.

Fully in the zone. Totally lost to the world.

Stephen King talks about this in On Writing:
I work to loud music--hard-rock stuff like AC/DC, Guns 'n Roses, and Metallica have always been particular favorites--but for me the music is just another way of shutting the door. It surrounds me, keeps the mundane world out. When you write, you want to get rid of the world, do you not? Of course you do. When you're writing, you're creating your own worlds.
"Keeps the mundane world out."


That's it.

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