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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

"No Writing Track" A Guest Post by a Writer/Musician Derek Flynn

Derek is an intriguing writer in that he doesn't use any writing track while he writes. Neither do I. I NEED to be in the mood of the characters or the story, and some songs are wrong for that. Well...except for his wonderful music on his blog, which is quiet helpful if you're writing a dystopian. My point is, we both play music; he plays contemporary and I play classics. Yet we don't have writing tracks. This post will explain a little about why that is. Enjoy!
Writers get asked the same questions by non-writers all the time: “Where do you get your ideas from?” or “How do you just make stuff up out of your head?” Or, “Why are you talking to yourself?” (Oh, that last one might just be me). However, we don’t get asked these questions by other writers. Naturally, really, because we already know the answers. But there’s more to it than that. Writers don’t ask each other these questions because they’re not the questions other writers are interested in. As a writer, I don’t care where you get your ideas from; what I do want to know is how you go about writing. Do you do it at a desk? (Or standing up, like Hemingway) (Or lying down, like Truman Capote) Do you write in the morning, evening, or all night?
Writer’s writing habits – that’s what writers want to know about.
So, when Su asked me to do a guest blog – knowing that I’m a writer AND a musician – one of the first things she said to me was, “Most writers have writing tracks to help them write. It would be fascinating to know what a musician/writer does.” See? Writing habits. 
But, of course, it is interesting because the fact is I don’t have tracks that I write to. And it’s not just that I don’t have music that I write to, it’s that I can’t write while listening to music. But I’m a musician. Yeah, go figure. Now, when I say music, I actually mean music with lyrics. I find it impossible to write while I’m hearing someone else’s words in my head. I could listen to instrumentals while writing. (Indeed, on days when my neighbour decides to pump his stereo up, I have been known to strap on a set of headphones and listen to Brian Eno’s Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks, or some such album). But for some reason, I don’t. Of course, I listen to music all the time when I’m not writing. And I play music all the time when I’m not writing. But when I’m writing, my space is a music-free zone.
Another thing that often interests people is the fact that I have to keep the two activities separate. That is, I can’t finish writing a chapter and pick up the guitar and start writing a song, or vice versa. It requires – for me, at least – a whole different mindset. It’s not surprising really, I don’t think. After all, most musicians focus solely on their music and their lyrics and most authors focus solely on their prose. They don’t need to turn their attention to another discipline. When you do have to, you need to divorce yourself completely from the other discipline.
All in all, there are as many similarities as there are differences between writing music and writing prose, and that’s one of the things that I hope to examine on my new blog, ‘Rant, with Occasional Music’(You can also hear some of my original music over there). Hope you can all join me!
Derek Flynn is an Irish writer and musician. He has an Honours Degree in English Literature and Philosophy. He’s been published in a number of publications, including The Irish Times, and was First Runner-Up in the 2011 J. G. Farrell Award for Best Novel-In-Progress. His writing/music blog – ‘Rant, with Occasional Music’ – can be found here: http://derekflynn.wordpress.com and on Twitter, he can be found here: http://twitter.com/#!/derekf03

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10 comments:

  1. Hey - nice blog. Will follow.

    So, Derek, when you said you don't write while listening to music I was floored, but your explanation makes perfect sense.

    I would think listening to music does to you what most writers feel when we read a book...it's like research. We learn from the way others write and put their stories to paper. Am I right? Do you learn from the way others sing?

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  2. Great post Derek, I agree with you.

    I can never listen to music when writing...unless before I write to get into the correct mindset.

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  3. I almost always listen to music when I write. Or when I do anything, really, and particularly when I'm at the computer.

    The only time I make an exception is when writing something that requires a specific mood or voice -- listening to music can get in the way of that.

    But it's interesting to see how a writer/musician combo deals with juggling the two forms of expression.

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  4. I love listening to music when I write, but whether I liked it or not I'd probably HAVE to. I have six kids and I need enough noise to drown THEM out, LOL.

    I enjoyed this post, Derek! What a fun way to get to know you. ;c)

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  5. I can do either but I find the words flow so much more easily when I have my playlist running. I credit some of my music collection with providing exactly the inspiration I need to come up with a good scene.

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  6. Krystal, I think about lyrics in songs the way I think about novels. You wouldn't read a novel while you're writing for fear you might end up recycling some of it unconsciously, and it's the same way for me with lyrics. As a songwriter, I'm just too aware of the lyrics.

    Michelle, yeah, absolutely. Can listen before I write no problem. In fact, it can be good to get you psyched up.

    Rob, I think a lot of writers find it interesting how songwriters work because they’re not a million miles removed from prose writers. In fact, as I alluded to in the post, I think a lot of poets are closer to being lyricists than they realise.

    Sarah, good to see you here too. Yeah, I reckon some loud music would be helpful to drown out the six kids :-) Go over to my blog and turn up 'Original Sin’ REALLY LOUD!

    And all of you should check out the other posts on Su’s blog. She’s got some great writing posts on here. Thanks everyone for commenting.

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  7. Okay got here in the end -even though it is late. I understand how you need to leave space between both creative forms. Each needs their own private place that isn't cluttered or invaded by anthing other than the task in hand. I write at my best when I know I am alone for example, or if there are others around that they will leave be in another room in peace! Mind you I could probably blog, which is very different with a crowd!

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  8. I’m with Derek and Su on this one. Although I love music very much, I cannot write with it playing, unless it is just an ambient mix at a coffee shop. Also, like Derek, I am a musician—I play guitar and bass. I am a visual thinker, and tend to “see” music. When I write, I also “see” the writing. Perhaps that is the key here. If I am listening to my favorite music I cannot help but see it playing out almost like a short film clip or video. If I am trying to write, I cannot partition the music I am seeing and the writing I am seeing.

    When I am exercising, doing yard work, cleaning house, or carpentry work, music is a must. I almost cannot even do these things without something loud and heavy. In fact, I can study and listen to music. When I was in law school, I listened to nothing but Tool, A Perfect Circle, Deftones, and Sarah Brightman, at full volume, on my headphones. Usually a concoction of Red Bull and Vodka was within my grasp as well. I think the music actually helped. My theory is that because studying required the use of a different part of my brain, the music occupied my creative side and held it at bay while I studied. Similarly, I have a hard time writing in total silence—ADD kicks in. I do my best writing when at a coffee shop, café, or park. There is just enough of a distraction to occupy the idle sectors of my mind but not enough to fully engage them.
    Great post on this subject Derek and Su. Thanks for letting me add my proverbial two cents.

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  9. Well, Ray. That was more like a $1.25 but thanks for your thoughtful comment. Sarah Brightman? That's so......but love "Nella Fantasia" sang by someone else. With love....

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  10. Thanks for stopping by Louise. I hadn't thought about the blogging thing actually. I could probably do a light blog post while listening to music, but nothing with too much heavy lifting!

    Ray, that's interesting the way you talk about 'seeing' the music and the writing. I'm not sure about music (although if I think about it, it's probably the case as well) but I'm definitely with you on seeing the writing. I can always see the scene in front of me as I'm writing it. Maybe that's the case with a lot of writers?

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