“Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent.”My good friend Victor Hugo once said that and I’m inclined to believe him. There was once a time when the only way I could write, was if there was complete silence. If you jump over to my personal blog, you’ll understand why that is nearly an impossible task. It has taken me quite some time to come around to the idea of listening to music while I write. Two books later, you could say it’s still working for me. It has changed the way I look at music, writing, and productivity.
I’d like to share some advice with you that was once bestowed on me. But first, I want to talk about dogs for just a second. I know, cute puppies doing crazy puppy things. I’ve been an avid animal lover for most of my life. I grew up on a farm where one year I could sing the 12 days of Christmas, with our animals. This all being said, there are a few animal related tricks, I always found interesting.
Over the years I’ve come across successful animal training tools, but there is only one, in particular, I want to talk about. The theory of the whistle or bell training your dog. So the basic way this works is to take your dog into a space where there are limited distractions. When he or she is licking their butt or sniffing the floor looking for crumbs, you blow the whistle.
One distinct short blow of that whistle will grab their attention, and they will come over to see what’s up. You give your dog a treat, you pet them, love on them, and tell them what a good boy or girl they are being. Then you do it again. And again. Eventually, you don’t need to offer them a treat, they will come when you blow that whistle. You have taught them to associate that whistle with coming to you.
I know your thinking, but I’m not a dog how does this apply to me? Basically, you are like a dog and the same rules do apply to your distinctly human brain. You are going to retrain your brain to hear music and want to write.
Step 1: Make a playlist of music that is either suiting to your brain, or your book. Personally, I pick music for my book, i.e. each novel has had their own distinct play list. This is a common method, and plenty of authors will even share their playlists on their web page so you can listen along while you read. Other authors pick something that is simply suiting to their own musical preference but maybe it has nothing to do with the story. I would recommend that this playlist length, correspond to the length of time you anticipate writing for. Mine is two hours long set to repeat.
Step 2: Every time you write, you play this same playlist. Sounds a little weird. Especially if you don’t listen to music at all. Maybe start with something by the Piano Brothers or another non-lyrical band or musician. I did. Every time you write you listen to this playlist. Eventually, give it a week (less for some, longer for others) and you’ll find your brain ready to write. Don’t play online, don’t fall down the youtube rabbit hole. Only use this playlist for when you are actively writing. You’ll find that the music even falls away to the background, you won’t notice it anymore. It doesn’t become annoying or dull at all. Instead, it pushes you forward. Often I’ll only notice two hours have passed by because the end of my playlist get’s quite soft, while the beginning is more uptempo. The harsh difference grabs my attention and for a moment I know I’ve gained two hours of word count in my book.
Soon you find the only thing you need to do, to get in “the mood” to write, is to don headphones and press the green go button on your playlist. When I’m short on time, or anxious to write when I get home or to the coffee shop, I’ll listen to my playlist in the car. My mind instantly goes to my novel, and I start to plan it out in my head. I’m ready to write the moment I sit down and pull open my computer. I’m there already – instead of checking email, Facebook, and Twitter. I would recommend only advanced playlist listeners try that last tidbit though. I’d hate for you to crash because you were trying to type notes into your cellphone instead of paying attention to the car. You’ve been forwarned.
What music does your playlist include? I’d love to hear all about it in the comments section below!