I don’t actually listen to music when I’m writing any more. I used to do it all the time, but when I made the transition to morning writing, it stopped almost instantly. I think it’s because I have a natural tendency towards good old fashioned rock, and at 6AM I don’t need a killer riff blasting into my pre-caffeinated brain.
Nevertheless, for each longer piece I’m writing (that is, anything from novella upwards), I always make myself a playlist. Every book I’ve ever written has a few songs that I strongly associate with it. I enjoy that. And just because I’m not listening to it while I’m actively writing, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a purpose. I’ll copy the playlist onto my iPhone and burn a CD for the car. Then, during the day-to-day moments of life, it will be there, playing in the background. It’s a good way to keep the story ticking away in the back of my mind. When I’m stuck in traffic, especially, I find this useful. I’ve lost count of the number of scenes I’ve come up with, or plot holes I’ve daydreamed my way out of, whilst stuck behind a bus on the Wolverhampton ring road.
Writing is always about more than just putting a pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). It is not solely words that go into making a story. People who have never tried it don’t realise what an immersive experience it is. There are connections in songs, yes, but also in that old record store from when you were a kid, a coffee shop where you met an old friend who’s laughter was so unusual it made it into your main character, or smell that was in the air the moment your life changed forever. All of these things make you who you are, and that comes through onto the page as you write.
So even if there’s no more air guitar before sunrise, I’ll still always want a playlist. Preferably with some great guitar solos in there somewhere…