When I sat down to write this piece about using music as inspiration, I knew I needed the right music to set the mood. However, I wasn’t sure exactly what I needed to feel in order to write a blog post about inspiration. Something inspiring, obviously. Overwhelmed by too many choices on iTunes, I instead turned to the limited vinyl collection of my Dreadhead Husband and me. It’s mostly filled with Zeppelin and Beatles albums (and the solo albums that followed), as well as a healthy dose of Supertramp, but I found what I felt I needed: The Jimi Hendrix Experience. I flipped to side two, set the needle in the groove, and sat back as the opening chords of “The Wind Cries Mary” crawled out of the speakers.
My mind cleared and it felt like all the clowns had gone to bed.
The use of music as writing inspiration was first introduced to me in college during a workshop. My teacher, the extremely talented Dan Crawley, would play a song or two at the start of class and told us to write something—anything. When I stopped worrying about producing perfectly polished prose, I found myself creating some surprising passages of writing. Intrigued by this exercise, I started experimenting outside of class. I found that music had a way of unblocking my mind when I had written a story into a corner. Certain fictional situations felt enhanced by the music to which I listened: Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” for a high school party, “Black and Gold” by Sam Sparro for a nightclub, and, perhaps my favorite instance of musical inspiration, “Brooklyn” by Buckcherry. Wanting one day to write, but feeling utterly uninspired, I put on that song and let my mind go. Almost immediately I had the mental picture of a young guy walking down a New York City street, and from his strut, I just knew he’d gotten laid. From that simple idea, inspired by a song, a novel bloomed forth (shameless plug: this novel, Stick Figures, is planned for release through Eat Your Serial).
What does this have to do with anything? Who cares if I find music inspiring? What does it matter if an upbeat song by Buckcherry spawned what could possibly be the next great American novel?
My only point is that it worked for me. If you’re reading this post through Eat Your Serial, I presume you have some sort of vested interest in writing. The next time you feel stuck (and there will be a next time, there always is), try listening to a song. Pick one that expresses the mood that you want to convey, or just pick that really irritating song that’s stuck in your head on that particular day (Justin Bieber could finally have a purpose). You have nothing to lose, especially if you’re stuck, and the results could surprise you.