Nothing inspires me to write more than music: the flow of a beat, the emotional charge in a rush of wordless energy, the power of sound.
Sometimes, I hear a song and I think of a scene; I watch my characters dance around their lives to the tune in my head. Sometimes, I actively search out songs for a particular novel. And sometimes, I have songs that embody everything I’m trying to say, simply by the way they make me feel — whether a passionate resolve, a far-reaching sorrow, or an unspoken questioning of life.
Sometimes, when I feel like I can’t write at all, if I’m overwhelmed by my story, I pick up my guitar and I play. I listen and concentrate and ponder, and then I see something I previously missed — a character’s unseen regret, a civilization’s tenacity to survive built on the foundations of its failures. Thinking in terms of music, I then write it out. Note after note until there is a wholeness — a rightness — to what I’m hearing. Word after word until there is some form of totality to what I’m feeling.
In some ways, I find that silence represents a blank page — the words unspoken. It’s hard to write into the silence; it’s hard when you don’t know if you’ll ever be heard. So, instead of staring at a blank page for hours, waiting on the right voice to come to me, I search for the song that best represents the mood of my story or my thoughts, and then I put it on repeat. Often for hours. I’ve done this for as long as I can remember.
My worlds have foundations in melodious composition; my characters are the notes in a song that extends far beyond the page. I’ve often said that I hear words as if they were put to music — that I’m not a visual writer, that I don’t see my characters in terms of appearances or a world in terms of concrete images. No, my writing is grounded in abstractions. My thoughts are keystones for feelings composed of sound. I hear my characters in their worlds: the rush of their breaths against the winter sky, the whistling of wind through leaves, the rustle of the past, the voices of their memories.
My writing is an instrument that provides the pulse, the background — a guide into the images and stories of another dimension, another mind, another beating heart. I hear the rise and fall of syllables, the caress of sounds between two opposing but similarly bound words, the rhyme — the cadence — of a soft melody as it plays out across the page in a span of poetry.
Some people need images to gather their ideas, to ground them in reality. Some people see their worlds in vivid colors and landscapes; some people have all-encompassing imaginations that expand beyond all the senses entirely. But my writing is my music and I am my writing. And I’m writing what I feel, what I hear. I’m writing the music in my mind, the humming insistence: the song of words singing in a language I’ll never actually be able to say.
Do you guys write to music? How do you see your worlds or characters in your head? Are they concrete or abstract?
Note: The current queen of my musical muse (and one of my long-reigning musicians of choice) and inspiration behind this particular post is Sandy Denny. Sandy Denny and her haunting, powerful voice. There’s just something intensely sad and hopeful in her work — a reflection, often, of how I feel about words.