Music / Opinion / Writing

Five Easy Ways To Ruin My Writing: Part 1

It’s very easy to ruin my writing, I have discovered. Sometimes this can be as simple as making myself write when I really don’t feel the story, resulting in hours of frustrated writing that feels like making myself bleed over the page and it’ll always get thrown out in the end anyway. Sometimes it can be practical things like not doing the research or allowing myself to slip back into bad habits like presenting the protagonist’s appearance with everything short of a “Ta-da!”. Sometimes though it can be weird things, that actually bear some humorous results that I cannot use but like having a good giggle over.


Writing to Music

This is probably more specific to me as I’ve met many people who utterly tune out the outside world when they’re involved in writing. You could play death metal and attempt an orgy two metres away through a paper thin wall and they probably wouldn’t blink. I generally don’t put music on at all, or very carefully choose some non-invasive sounds that match the atmosphere for what I’m writing. I once listened to the same Enya song on loop for an hour as I attempted to perfectly replicate a panic attack (it was a creepy Enya song, in case you’re wondering).

But once I made a grave error and decided to try writing TO music. I set up my iPod, put it on shuffle and went for it. I allowed the music to inspire me, thinking that it would create totally original ideas and force me to adapt to the music and try and translate the swelling joy I felt with my music straight into text. The problem with songs is that they’re usually over in three to four minutes and will adhere, in many cases, to a strict three act style that forms a serious crescendo and imploring lyrics towards the last third. Perhaps I listen to poor quality music, that is always an option. After twenty minutes I grew frustrated that I couldn’t keep up with the songs and their changing tones that were giving my short story the atmosphere of a patchwork quilt. I chose, in my madness, to choose an Aerosmith album and listen to just this to see if more structure would help. Thirty minutes later when my characters were on their knees, in the rain, weeping on each other because one had thought the other dead I realised I’d moved into cliche at some point.

Songs are cliche, or at least a huge amount of them are, and they are how we condense down a lot of relationship drama and feeling into bitesized chunks. You can’t take those fragments and extrapolate a story from them, at least you can’t write a fully formed one down whilst listening to the song at the same time. Whatever I wrote came out as utter trite, filled with all the meaningless phrases that make up a lot of long song lyrics. Songs generally can’t be that witty, afterall they have to rhyme! I am joking with that last point. Songs can be supremely witty and clever but those are usually completely standalone. Music and songs are a way to create a moment just for that sound and that small story that it’s designed to tell. Whilst classic music and orchestral can enhance what your feeling, this too can get in the way if it’s not quite appropriate for the tone you weer aiming for. Writing in silence is most certainly the best way for me, though I’m curious if anyone else has experienced the same situation.

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