Music is the regular man’s magic wand, the fairy dust of commoners, the heart surgeon for the broken masses. One minute you can be gray and lost, covered up in a thin film of your own questions and worries and self-focused mess. And then you turn on the music and all the world springs to life, anxieties crumble small to the ground, worry hangs his head in the presence of whimsy. (Those two can never hang out together.) When I’m writing and find myself in a dark, colorless corner of non-ideas, the right music can paint the world with hope.
In the acknowledgements section of my book, the last two people I thanked are two people I’ve never met. They have no idea who I am and honestly I’m not sure I could pick them out of a line up. But their voices? I’d know them anywhere. Ingrid Michaleson and Jon Foreman got me out of many a writing slump. I think I listened to the songs on Everybody at least 457 times while writing that book.
I was a piano major in college. Yes, I loved piano. No, I wasn’t that good. Which is why I dropped out and switched my major to the exact opposite of music – sign language interpreting. Maybe not the opposite, but isn’t that kind of funny? Still. Music more often than not is what unlocks inspiration. It lifts, moves, changes things.
Earlier this week when I was feeling uncreative in a dramatic sort of way, I started a conversation on Facebook about it. (Not something recommended by experts to get the the creativity moving – Facebook is where art goes to die, I’m sure.) But this time it worked out for me, as many of you asked some great questions that got me thinking. My friend Alisa emailed me and asked about music so I thought I’d share a bit of that here.
When I am working on something new to write, the music that inspires me most is music that, when I hear it, is orange-yellow in my mind. Yes, I see color in things that shouldn’t have color. We’ve talked about this before. Music like the Pride and Prejudice Soundtrack. Stunning. Calming. Nearly every song on this album is yellow-orange, with the occasional deep green-blue undertone. Track 16, Mrs. Darcy, is especially yellow. Another is Let Me Down by Kim Taylor – a bright, cheerful song that never fails to get my writing moving. I’ve also been known to do a little bouncing in my seat at Panera on this one.
Another particular color I mean sound I am drawn to when I write is anything with rich, jeweled undertones. Music that has some weight to it like Come Away With Me by Nora Jones. I know, it’s old school but the whole album is calming and dreamy. When the twins were babies and I was having a particularly rough time of it, I would put them in their car seats for their nap, go through the drive thru at Starbucks (the most brilliant invention for moms with babies) and drive around town listening to Nora Jones.
Another rich song is Hometown Glory by Adele. Really anything by Adele. I know that is so obvious. Her voice needs no explanation or summary. I mean, really. Upward Over the Mountain by Iron & Wine may cause you to want to gather up all those whom you love and stow away quick to the nearest field of trees, make a home beneath her branches, live in harmony with the land, and never let your son grow up. “So may the sunrise bring hope where it once was forgotten/Sons are like birds, flying always over the mountain.” Good stuff.
There are so very many more. But right now one of my favorite songs to inspire is Turn to Stone by Ingrid Michaelson. Seriously? Musically this is one of my favorite songs ever. Lyrics are good too, but the composition is simply magical. And then when Melanie and Marko danced to it last year on So You Think You Can Dance? That dance was pure worship. Those two brought to life fear and love and story. Why not just take a minute and fifty seven seconds and let this video move you to create something magical today?
What about you? Do you use music to inspire your creativity? What are some of your favorites?