A long drive and good music break a writing slump

Cowboy Junkies 7

Cowboy Junkies 7 (Photo credit: Generalnoir)

“If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music.” ~ Albert Einstein

It is a shame that I often forget how much I love music. This week I drove ten hours each way between my home in Michigan and New York City on business. I explored the thousands of songs on my IPOD that I ignore. On this trip, I ignored my playlists. I sought inspiration. It worked and gave me impetus to write this week.

I will proudly call part of my road trip, “Pink Floyd, Cowboy Junkies and One Eskimo, featuring Anthony Mercado.”

What scared me is that I remembered every lyric to dozens of songs that I had not listened to in ten, twenty and even 30 plus years.  How is possible that my wife sends me to the grocery store– two minutes from home– and during that journey, inevitably, I call her and ask, “so…ah…, what did you say you wanted me to get?” The magic of music clearly supersedes all short-term memory of cat food, cilantro, or even the miraculous “Uncle Ben’s Ready Rice.”

The journey I took made me realize how I don’t listen to music enough to stimulate my writing fever.Music is a tool for creativity.

Prolific writers like Stephen King (who says he listens to music while writing), Kurt Vonnegut and Victor Hugo, to name a few, commented the inspiring value of music in their lives. Vonnegut said:

“If I should ever die, God forbid, let this be my epitaph:

Hugo said:

“Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent.”

Those are provocative and powerful comments about music from great writers. Music is supposed to be inpiring whatever style it is. We all seek inspiration to write and be creative in whatever form we choose. Why not music?

The musical genius, Leonard Bernstein, elucidated in his 1985 Grammy acceptance speech his appreciation of the magic of music. He said, “The goal of my career has been to show that music, fundamentally, is music, regardless of the color or race or cultural origin of the people who make it, and I find myself at once pleased at my own success and anxious to finish this speech quickly and make way for another true artist–Tina Turner.”

Contrary to Bernstein’s unbiased evaluation of music, I was at a Don Henley concert in San Francisco soon after the VMA awards broadcast in 2010. Between songs, he asked a rhetorical question. “Did anyone here happen to see the video music awards the other day?” He paused, laughed and continued, “What has happened? I’ll bet nobody is going to be humming many of those tunes thirty years from now” referring to the state of today’s incoherent, and sometimes vulgar music.

I had to agree with Henley’s comment but I thought about Bernstein too. Would he share the same sentiments today, twenty-five years later? He never said that he liked all music but he surely appreciated the creative process. What we can infer from his comment is that all forms of music are inspiring to different people.

I don’t picture my children in the future holding hands with their spouses — kids in tow –walking on Venice Beach in ten years humming any Eminem or Kanye West. But I don’t skip their music on my IPOD while I am writing either.

For more ideas on writing to music, read Emily Freeman‘s blog post below.

Happy writing. Please comment on what kind of music you like to write to.


3 thoughts on “A long drive and good music break a writing slump

  1. I mostly write to top 40 stuff, but when I tire of that, I’ll listen to just about anything. Classical. Country. Christian station. Whatever. I still think it’s crazy authors can write to music with words. In school, I could never work with music that had lyrics. Now, it’s like I can’t write without music. And if I’m in a writing stump, I’ll pick a few songs that have the mood I need to write, and more often than not, it will jump start my writing. Fun post. 🙂

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