What is the soundtrack of your life?
For me, music is an indispensable and incomparable source of inspiration — my never failing muse.
“Music is storming, driving, relentless, devotional, slinky, subtle, heartbreakingly-beautiful sounds that, lyrically, switch from the cynical to the sanguine, the defeated to the defiant, dealing in love, war, beauty, children, romance, rejection, Pethedine, poetry, panties, God, Auden, Johnny Cash, cold potatoes, too-much-money, not enough money, writer’s block, flowers, animals and more flowers. But maybe I’m projecting here.”
― Nick Cave
Music triggers memories — just a few opening notes of John Barry on Husband’s kitchen soundbox take me right back to our first trip together to Ireland, when that same CD was playing on the car stereo of our rented car as we drove along the N21 from Limerick to Dublin.
So, whenever you find yourself stuck (again), try this:
Look for the first single / album / MP3 you ever bought. Play it, close your eyes and let the memories wash over you. Keep your notepad or smartphone within reach. Travel back in time with the music and try to remember what you liked to eat at that time, what drink(s) you enjoyed, the way you liked to dress. Try to recall the scents, tastes, sounds, images and feelings from that era. Are you there? Grab your pen or keyboard and get to work!
Treasure your ear worm
We all know them: those songs (or fragments of songs) that linger in your head for an entire day, sometimes even longer. Melodies you simply cannot get out of your head. Next time, don’t curse them, but treasure them. Notepad at the ready, ask yourself: why this song? Why now? What does it represent? Write about it and let your ear worm lead you.
Notepad at the ready, choose a random playlist off of your favourite music app. Listen and take notes. What music invokes the most thoughts and feelings? Why? Note down anything that comes up.
Deliberately choose music that recalls some strong memories — a soundtrack, for instance. Or music you played during a trip you made. Remember and record those memories. Change one detail and turn your memories into a what-if-story.
Music actually saved my life — more than once, however dramatic that may sound. In any case, music saved my sanity on more than one occasion. During my darkest days (there were quite a few, another story altogether) I had ‘I Have a Feeling’ by the Black Eyed Peas on constant standby on my smartphone to get me singing and dancing again when I least felt like it.
There is nothing that can pull at your heartstrings the way music can.
When my tom cat Mick, my best friend for 17 years, passed away, Coldplay’s ‘Green Eyes’ reminded me of all those great moments together. When I drove back from the hospital where I left my mother on the ICU, my car stereo played ‘Don’t You Write Her Off Like That’ by McGuinn, Clarke & Hillman — it was a song my mother had always particularly liked, and now the lyrics sounded more appropriate than ever (“She’s a real fine lady, can’t you see”). I cried all the way home. The song I assigned to my husband, ‘Sunny’ — in any rendition, from Ella Fitzgerald to Boney M (who?!) makes me laugh and makes him cry (because he does not believe he is that ‘Sunny’ any more these days, but of course I know better).
When I am working, I like to listen to radio. The variation of music and the spoken word appeal to me. There is something almost old-fashioned about listening to the radio, even when you, like me, rather listen via the internet than through the air waves.
When I am writing, I prefer to listen to my own selection of music or a podcast, that somehow relates to the subject I am writing about. Working in a flow, I find the commercial and news breaks both distracting and annoying. Often, I actually prefer the silence. But here’s the thing: living in a busy neighbourhood as we do now, enclosed by two schools, there is hardly ever silence. My own selection of music serves to drown out all the ambient noise so I don’t focus on it, get annoyed and break my flow.
Both Husband and I enjoy soundtracks to films or series we like(d) to watch. We like the variation and the way they conjure up both the atmosphere and the visuals they belong to. I am very thankful these days for streaming services, allowing us to stay connected to our favourite music, discover new music and actually design our own playlists, providing hours upon hours of inspiration — if you let them.
“Virtually every writer I know would rather be a musician.”
― Kurt Vonnegut
This post was originally published on Medium in my publication Hearts in the Write Place on November 19, 2019.