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November 14, 2010

Music and the Muse: are there any lyrics writers out there?

Modern musical symbolsImage via Wikipedia
 When it comes right down to it, words are just words, and I know many of you out there write many things other than novels: poetry, flash fiction, short stories, non-fiction. Even reports, documentation and marketing copy in the boring day jobs!

So are there any lyrics writers out there?

I have to confess I haven't written a song for a while. But in the dim distant reaches of my past, I was a cellist, and the musical side of me is still tucked away in the creative consciousness somewhere. Dormant, but still there.

Every so often I'll be listening to a song, humming along, and a few notes will suggest themselves to me...or a couple of words will pop into my mind and a new song idea is born. I did at one point get myself a special book for my jottings - it has the stave lines marked on half the pages, though I have to confess that after all this time my music notation is extremely marginal, and nobody would be able to interpret my tunes but me.

When my daughter was born, I even composed a couple of lullabys for her. Pretty gushy stuff, but new motherhood can do that to you.

Song lyrics rely heavily on rhythm and sometimes rhyme too to engage the listener, and the best song lyrics are wonderful pieces of poetry in their own right. But I have the impression that often, the worlds of music and literature don't directly intersect. Certainly, I haven't heard of many famous song writers who are also novelists.

Is the reverse true too? Are you ever inspired to follow your words and ideas wherever they take you, whether it be to write a poem, a song, a short story or entire novel?

In a related question - many writers find music inspires the writing process, and in the last few years it's even become quite, shall we say, fashionable to publish a 'play list' to accompany a novel; theoretically, music which inspires the right mood, and which the author listened to while writing.

Is music important to your creative process? If so, what kind? Or do you write to the sound of children screaming and household chaos? Or in complete silence?

Personally, I'm not too fussy. I've managed with all three scenarios, necessity being the mother of invention. But sometimes I'd kill for the third...


Joanna St. James said...

I do like my silence which I only get when the kidlet is in bed. I listen to music for inspiration but I can listen and write at the same time.

Meika said...

I used to write song lyrics. I wanted to be a songwriter before I realized I can't write music to go along with my lyrics. It's still my first love, though. A well-written song is like the best meal I've ever eaten.

I do write while listening to music. I've never done a playlist for a project until this time around and I find it helps me get into the mood of the story I'm working on.

erica and christy said...

I create playlists to go along with my novels as inspiration to the story. If you find any song writers through this post...send them my way. I have a post (planned for this upcoming Thursday) asking for song writers to help me with some lyrics...apparently one of my characters writes and performs music! Not good, since I, uh, don't ! Great post! I'm reading If I Stay right now...the MC isa cellist, too! christy

Rachael Harrie said...

I used to play the violin, but gave up to save the world's collective ears :)

I do mean to put a playlist together for my wip, just haven't got around to it yet. Maybe I can use your post to kick my butt into gear!


L'Aussie said...

I used to write song lyrics when I was a teenager, but gave it up for whatever reason. Was even in a band for 5 minutes. I don't write lyrics now even though I know I could, but I prefer prose at the moment. Good luck with playlists for WIPs. Helps to know your characters better for sure..:)

The Sisterhood said...

I'm actually a pretty active vocalist. I studied it in college and have done it off and on ever since high school. I was lucky and sang in Notre Dame once, as well as a couple of other beautiful cathedrals in France. My favorite time of all was when I was in grad school and joined a gospel choir. That was a blast!

As to how it affects my writing, I'd say I don't listen to it much when I write. I did when I wrote my first novel, but I learned quickly that I enjoyed the silence more. I do keep a phrase notebook that I use when I read or hear great phrases I can use in my writing. I take some great lyrics from songs and work them into something I can use at the right moment in my writing. Lyrics, to me anyway, are incredibly emotional and say so much in just a short time, so you have to be able to do it well for it to work!

♥ Mary Mary

Adina West said...

@Joanna & Mary Mary: Yep, I do love my silence. Sometimes I'll listen to music while writing, but usually only when I'm trying to write while DH is watching TV!
@Meika: I've seen your playlists on your blog - clearly music is an enduring love. Maybe one day your melody muse will awaken...
@Kristy: Good luck with your musical character - and cellists are cool! :-)
@Rach: We're going to have to get together and form a really bad band one of these days. And btw, playlists are strictly optional - if your writing is progressing fine without music you clearly don't need it!
@Mary Mary and L'Aussie: You know, if you're ever looking to form a bloggers band and need a string duo who are really rusty, give Rach and me a call...


Rachel Morgan said...

Music inspires me, but I can't listen to it WHILE I'm writing. Too distracting!

I play the piano and the flute and, while I've only ever attempted writing one song (so my lyric writing was very shortlived!) I've tried composing the odd purely instrumental piece here and there... I'd say novel writing is far easier!

KLM said...

I write and sing songs for my kids that go something like, "You got to wash your hands after you go to the bathroom,
Or you won't have any friends because
everyone will think you're gross and disgusting...."
I have a whole range of topics and tunes.
I can tell they really enjoy them. Then they run away from me and say, 'You're weird!'

Aurora Falsestart said...

Music is essential to the writing process for me.

Amanda said...

I've never attempted lyrics, Adina - but music has played a part in many of my short stories and in my novel. For example, a short story I sold to My Weekly was based around a Queen tribute band concert. And a character in my novel writes song lyrics and was once in a band.

Personally, although I love music, I have to write in silence, sadly. Great post!

Ann Best said...

You just commented on my blog that we women (compared to men) seem to like to blog. I think this is true, maybe because we're more social creatures (!) (?)

Adina West said...

@Rachel&Amanda: Yep, silence is my preference too. The only time I need music to work is when I need to drown out the noise of DH watching TV!
@Rachel: And music notation (particularly for instrumental stuff) is definitely not easy. I take my hat off to you!
@KLM: LOL. My husband makes up similarly strange lyrics to the tune of "Rubber Ducky" to get our daughter into the bath...
@Ann: So true, Ann, so true. ;-)

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