Here’s Ian McHugh:
“Music! I listen to music a lot, and I find it has a really powerful effect on my mental state, like taking drugs through my ears. I use it as a pick-me-up, or to settle my mind, or help myself concentrate, or drive myself along when I’m running or cycling. Running to the top of Mount Ainslie, near my house, with fast loud music in the earbuds exacerbating my tinnitus puts me on top of the world.
“As a consequence, music is also a really great tool for getting myself in the right headspace to write. To borrow your metaphor, I guess I use music to keep topping up the well whiling I’m drawing from it. If I have a very clear idea of the mood I want to capture in a story or a scene, I’ll often put on music that fits the mood I’m reaching for, so I’m refilling myself with that mood at the same time as I’m pouring it out of me into the story. Over the years, I’ve built up a whole catalogue of ‘go to’ songs and pieces of music to suit particular story moments.
“For example, my favourite track when writing the big hero moment at the climax of a story is “Rez/Cowgirl” by Underworld. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5FYs9tYv8uw&feature=related I *never* get tired of that track.
“Sometimes the right music isn’t the most immediately obvious choice, and I have to go hunting to find what I’m looking for. Writing the final battle at the end of my story “Bitter Dreams”, where the townsfolk brutally slaughter a whole herd of demonically possessed cannibals, the music that eventually nailed the moment for me was “Any Other Name” by Thomas Newman. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WIjWaulrLjs Yes, that’s the music from American Beauty.
“Once the story or scene is happening for me, I’ll listen through a playlist of similar-feeling songs to the one I started on. But if I’m really having to work hard for a scene, I’ll just keep that same perfect song on repeat until I’m either sick of it or the scene is starting to come through how I want it.
“On reflection, I think my brain is more of a leaky bucket than an actual well, and so I have to constantly refill it with the thought/mood/feeling I want to hold in my head. And if I’m struggling to get started writing – if I’m finding it hard to concentrate, feeling flat or just can’t find the next line of the story to get moving again – then music will often give me a jump-start, or a quick fill-up.
“Today, I did the City 2 Sea, the Melbourne version of the City 2 Surf. It was a bit of a shambles, because the past two nights I’d gone out with the friends I’m staying with, rolled out of bed this morning on 4 hours sleep with a hangover and expected to be able to go hard for 14 km. Yeah, no. I has a lesson in how very much I’m not 25 anymore. Maybe better to say the City 2 Sea did me today. Anyway, this afternoon, after a few hours in an exhausted heap on the couch letting the cricket on TV melt my brain, I decided that dammit I was going to do some writing. Just a matter of picking the right music to fill up my leaky brainbucket, and off I went. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fsDpznl8eIs Booyah! ”
Speaking of music, today I’m going to play The Planets, by Holst. I need to brainstorm something in particular, and I’m hoping this music will help.