I’ve been to many book launches and ‘in conversation with’ events and one question (and its variants) always crops up during the Q & A.
Do you listen to music when you write? Is a radio blasting out tunes in the background as you conquer each chapter? Do you write in a cafe or even a shed in your garden?
Sometimes, sometimes, sometimes and no are my answers to these particular questions but regardless of where I am, when I do listen to music, I have my go-to artists.
It’s all dependant on where I am with a story.
For the first draft or vomit draft, as some writers call it, I usually work in silence. If I’m stuck or have no idea what will come next in this new creative world I’m conjuring up, I stick on some Motown. I think Martha and her fabulous Vandellas telling me that there’s ‘no-where to run to’ confirms my exemplary procrastination skills are defeated and I need to get my head down. Each word added at this time is a bonus – usually given in the form of a biscuit to go with yet another cuppa.
Once the first draft is painstakingly finished, I can then move on to the first edit. I don’t normally need silence for this because the bones of the tale are down, it’s now my job to fill in the blanks and make sure there is a chance of a workable story somewhere in the pages of notes. This is when the radio is turned on. The white noise coming from the wee box that sits in the corner of the room is a comfort for when I’m picking through the sentences I had written..
Further edits are met with silence but in some cases songs from Tracey Chapman and The Doors may make an appearance on my turntable (I believe people in my age range who have vinyl prefer the word retro). Jim Morrison was a poet before his songs made him famous, in particular his tracks from the album Soft Parade are a nod to his genius in this field and regularly get aired in my room. Tracy’s soft voice and guitar chords are just the right medicine for anyone needing a reassuring voice in the creative dark. Regardless of whether your drive a Fast Car or not, ‘Talking About a Revolution’ makes me cry so I tend to avoid that one. Newton Faulkner can also be heard singing about his dreams catching him, an apt song for this occasion if ever there was one.
A read-through comes next. This is when I read my words out loud as I seem to spot mistakes better that way. The wonderful lull of Stevie Wonder always helps me out at this point, in particular anything from his album Songs in the Key of Life, especially ‘If It’s Magic’.
Pressing send requires a lot of courage. What better way to send your story on its way to readers to tell you whether all the late nights/early mornings have been worth it, than a great big dollop of ACDC. Back in Black… font.