On average, I spend about 12 hours writing or editing each day. Sometimes more, sometimes less. Less on the weekends most definitely, but that is usually the time in which I don’t write during the day and resume my attachment to the keypad in the evening, writing until the clock reads 3:24 AM, the next day. The biggest question people ask me – beyond that of, “Um, when do you sleep??” (answer: not much and usually in napping spurts) – is always, “What do you listen to when you write?”
Everything is my answer. It usually depends on what I’m doing or writing about, though. If I’m in the middle of transcribing an upbeat interview with a celebrity, I like to put on some dance/house songs. If it’s a cold and rainy morning out and I’m sifting through a Twitter feed loaded down with links to articles on everything from new media to politics, I’ll get all of my Arcade Fire discography queued up. When I’m editing or writing though, it could be anything from Broadway to New Age, but I prefer to work to the sound of either classical music or soundtrack scores from movies. The movie scores in particular I save for when I write, especially if I’m working on a short story or a blog post for my personal blog or something that I know will never see the light of day beyond of my laptop. There’s something about writing to a film score that can get your heart racing, put a smile on your face, and make you feel very far from where you are currently at. For me, it works to the point where my fingers keep writing and I let the idea continue to roll out of me, but my brain goes bye-bye from where I am and a different picture forms in front of my eyes, separate entirely from what I am doing altogether. Then the idea finishes and I come back to the present which is actually pretty painful sometimes.
If you are a writer and if this sounds accurate to your life, please raise your hand so I know there are more people like me in the world. I repeat, raise that hand.
I have five soundtracks in particular that I’m very fond of when it comes to gettin’ those creative juices flowing or even just simmering down. Give my iPod a shuffle and something from one of these guys is bound to pop up.
Road to Perdition
I swear by Thomas Newman’s composed work and believe that he has a Midas touch when it comes to music. This soundtrack has a wonderfully old-fashioned feel and it sounds just like the sea. You could be walking in the sand next to the rolling waves from the ocean, carrying your shoes, and smelling the salt in the air while the entire time ‘Wake’ is playing in the background. I ache inside a lot when I listen to this soundtrack and it’s best for those thoughtful, deep thinkin’ kinds of days.
From the sea to the dream within the dreamscape, this is a seriously awesome score to work to because it’s intense without being in your face about it. I recommend putting on this Hans Zimmer masterpiece whenever you feel kind of lazy or like you’re procrastinating too much. It will turn every mundane, boring task into the best damn assignment you ever did. You could be brushing your teeth to this soundtrack and all of a sudden, during ‘Dream Within A Dream’, you will be brushing those teeth like a boss. Floss every crevice! Get the whitening strips out! LISTERINE, MAN. WHERE’S THE LISTERINE?
The Cider House Rules
Plenty of tickling the ivories and harp strings abound here. There’s something very lively and melancholy about the music that Rachel Portman composes and none of it gets better illustrated than in this score, some of which you might recognize from commercials (see: ‘Main Titles’). The entire soundtrack makes me just want to live in a tiny cottage on the top of a mountain so I can see a good friend coming up the mountain to visit me and I can run down to them and gain momentum and probably fall and get covered in grass stains but still wind up laughing at the joyous occasion. Or just stand outside of my front door, drinking a cup of tea while wearing a shawl and looking at all that land around me.
Anytime anyone ever has a theory or thought about the future and puts it into music form, I like to listen to it to hear what the future sounds like to different ears. And the future, if Thomas Newman (listed here again, I am literally obsessed with the guy’s work) has any say in it is lonesome but somehow still manages to have just the slightest hint of whimsy. It’s the kind of ethereal whimsy that could light up an entire night sky in “Define Dancing” and yet still stay down to earth.
When every other movie score is failing me, I put this one on. There’s a danger in doing so because it’s not a lighthearted piece of work from Mr. Newman’s collection. It is based off of a book about a girl growing up in foster care so if the soundtrack veers more on the side of depressing, then that’s to be expected. But there is light in here as well as that famous sound of the sea in ‘Durer Rabbit’, which touches down in less than 90 seconds and serves as one of my favorite simple score pieces ever.
Overall, I turn the volume down and let the sound lightly brush over my thoughts until they come out of me in less tumbling motions, but more in fluent rushes. Unlike the other soundtracks, I only see myself in the moment where I am when I listen to this one which makes it all the more special. It’s lovely when music pulls us up and out of our lives, but even nicer when you can find a score that keeps you still in the good life you lead.