How Music Can Inspire or Otherwise Affect Your Writing

This is a guest post by R.M. Klein, author of “The Endless Summer“.

R.M. Klein, a costume designer with a penchant for the theatrical, has completed her new book “The Endless Summer”: a delectable family drama set in the 1960’s west coast culture often fantasized about by devoted fans of the Beach Boys.

Klein’s fascination with the music of the Beach Boys began in her childhood. After a life full of twists and turns, she found her connection to that music never faded. Rather, it became a stronger and more important part of who she was.

R M Klein

Author

Music is hardwired into our souls. It can take us back in our minds to good times or bad, depending on the associated memory in conjunction to the stimuli. With that said, music can underscore a life’s journey. Music can set a specific mood. Music can save a life. Music can heal a soul when it has been torn down by life’s ravages. Music, for most people, is subjectively individual and the choices as varied as the choosers, but for me the answer was, is, and always will be the music of the Beach Boys. Their harmonic wailing changed my life. Now I have to shun their music, or I hear and see the characters I’ve written come to life in my mind’s eye.

Some people can accomplish homework while listening to the radio while others cannot. They need absolute silence, and the slightest noise can disrupt their concentration. It depends entirely upon the individual. I saw an episode of That Metal Show on VH1 interviewing Michael Schenker of UFO fame and a founding member of the Scorpions. The rock star confessed that he had never sat down and listened to other people’s music. He said, “One can’t help it when you go about your daily lives, and whatnot. You hear it at the grocery store.” (Loosely paraphrased) But he’d never—in eighteen years—sat down and just listened to an album by Johnny Cash, or Sound Garden, or Maroon 5, or Ozzy Osborne—no one. Michael explained that he “had to protect his mind space from outside influences.” He was concerned about becoming unduly influenced by other artists’ work. That struck a chord. I unknowingly had done that exact same thing when I was a theatrical costumer. While working on a particular show, I would exclusively listen to that soundtrack, if it was a musical, otherwise it “took me out of the mindset” for the project. It also helped remind me of things I had to complete as I heard the repetition of the individual songs. I’d think, “I have to make pants for that actor in this scene,” kind of thing; and it has transferred over to my writing. Now I embrace the music, especially if I’m stuck in a rut.

Classical music can be appealing to write to, for it tends to recede into the background and has no lyric to draw pictures in the mind’s eye producing a neutral atmosphere; while modern artists like Slayer or Anthrax might exude a different and higher energy that could affect the writer’s environment. Of course, volume of said music could also be an influencing factor; the louder the music, the more distractions it drowns out. If one is working in negatively noisy surroundings like construction chaos, soothing music played slightly louder may be an answer to that problem. But if one desires to implement a certain mood or elicit a desired emotion, try finding music that draws out the particular sentiment and then play it while writing. This is particular effective if one is writing a story written in a certain time period. The trick would be to be able to lay hands on music from the 1920’s or earlier if that were the case because of the lack of recordings from back then and beyond. Music can fill many blanks in one’s imagination and produce work that is as inspired as the music itself. Allow music to compel, or embrace silence.