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What music helps you write?


For anyone who has been a teacher, sometimes classrooms can be a noisy place. Finding something that will take you to a creative space is the most helpful for your sanity. It's unfortunate that we cannot make accommodations in this sense, but I also understand that if we don't make such rules uniform, it's harder to enforce them.


Going back to the topic at hand though, "What music helps you write?" I've found that a wide variety of tunes has sparked my pen moving or my keys punching on my computer over the years. It all depended upon the mood I was in, the type of writing I was going for, and even the time I was at in my life.


When I wrote my book of poetry, 20 Something, I listened to a lot of rap for instance. Eminem, Kanye West, and Jay-Z all flooded my earbuds. I listened to the rhymes over and over again. Regardless about what you think about rap, I zoned in on the poetry of it. Eminem said once that people said that there wasn't a word that can rhyme with orange. He said that's not true. In a 60 Minutes Interview with Anderson Cooper, he said, "You could say I put my orange, four-inch door hinge in storage and ate porridge with George. You just have to figure out the science to breaking down words." I show the clip to students in a poetry lesson on slant rhyme.


Other artists I listened to at the time that had a strong correlation in that book were The Doors, Pink Floyd, Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, Radiohead, and The Beatles. Certain albums I listened to again and again - such as Let it Be, Exile on Main Street, OK Computer, Dark Side of the Moon, and Highway 61 Revisited. I began to see albums as stories and each song as a chapter in those stories. If I wanted music that set a certain dark mood, I might listen to "Riders on the Storm" and would zero in on the keyboards that sounded like rain, or if I was going for trippy, I'd listen to Dark Side. I often looked to Dylan for lyric inspiration. His ramblings helped me get pen to paper. Such phrases like "The sun's not yellow/it's chicken" made me both think and laugh simultaneously and help me style poems off those words.


In my book Crash and Burn, which hasn't been published yet, each chapter is designated to a song. The first chapter follows the song "Burning Down the House" by the Talking Heads, another title is "Running on Empty," by Jackson Browne and so on. Each song mirrors what the chapter will be about. I created a Spotify playlist with each song in order to recap the book and give me inspiration for future stories. I got the idea for naming each chapter from a song from a Stephen King book - I forget which one now. But I loved the idea, and I love listening to that playlist.


Speaking of Spotify, I created a writing playlist I refer to now and again. The music is quite different from what I used to listen to. It doesn't contain rap anymore, but the music is much more soothing on there. I usually don't even listen to music when I write anymore, but instead I prefer peace and quiet these days. But if I did listen, I'd rather have tunes like "Hero" by Family of the Year, "Sedona" by Houndmouth or "Miss Misery" by Elliott Smith. I still love many different genres of music, but prefer serenity when writing today.


Most of the time, I will listen to that playlist when I'm not writing, but I will turn it on to spark ideas for when I return to my laptop. The best ideas sometimes come when I am away from the screen or my notebook. Music can help get you there. But it has to be the right music. What kind of music helps you write?

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