What I Listen To

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Greetings once again! I’m in between drafts at the moment on my current project, and getting ready to ramp up production once again. In the meantime, I want to focus on what’s become a critical part of my routine: the music.

Now, my house doesn’t have a dedicated office space. Most often, I’m writing on the couch in the den. Thus I need something to help drown out the noise around me, or I’m bound to lose any semblance of focus on what I’m doing.

Now, I’ve had playlists queued up for just about any occasion since back when I needed a whole separate device to play my music (Hello, iPod Nano!). In general, my writing playlists are comprised of lots of instrumental music — lyrics are bound to split my attention (For the record, my parents were convinced I didn’t have ADHD when I was young because I could play video games for hours. There may be some undiagnosed symptoms. And yet I digress). As I finished my last draft, this included video game soundtracks, or sometimes something as simple as the Game of Thrones theme on loop. Sometimes I try out new music, but a lot of the time I stick to old favorites, especially when I have work to be done and just want background noise. I have loads of favorites for different contexts, many of which overlap with a certain emotion I’m trying to conjure before a writing session, or just simply trying to get myself in the mood. I will explain below.

Category 1: Gazing at One’s Navel
Examples: Unforgiven II, Low Man’s Lyric, Nothing Else Matters (Metallica), Judas (Fozzy)

This is a category built up over years of being the weird kid in the corner who preferred to play by himself; the one who got along with nearly all social castes in school but didn’t fit well with any of them. This collection applies to the many years I spent feeling guilty for being different. At age 36, I’m well past that phase now, but it still lights a fire to hear these songs come up. They are especially useful when attempting to get in the heads of certain characters with similar backgrounds.

Category 2: I’mma Need a Minute
Examples: I’m Going Home (Hootie and the Blowfish), My December (Linkin Park), Monster (Imagine Dragons)

Songs like these are typically tied to very strong memories: some are happy and wistful, while others…less so. The Hootie example above comes from the band’s Cracked Rear View album, which released the same year my childhood cats, Bugs and Taz were born (1994). In 2010, the first of the two brothers, Bugs, had to be put down after an abrupt battle with cancer.

This cat would wait by the door for me to return home from college.

By this time, I’d been working and living in another city for some time, but I was there to see him over the rainbow bridge. The next day, I made it through work in good shape, came home to an empty house (my wife was still at work), and this song came on my computer. Few things have brought me to instant tears like that moment.

Thus, I keep songs like this locked in a neat little virtual cupboard unless I *KNOW* I’m in one of those moods. Sometimes it helps to just let the dam break.

3 – OUTTA MY WAY, *@#$%@#@!!!
Examples: Happy? (Mudvayne), It’s A Fight (Three Six Mafia)

This is a category saved for when I’m put on hold for the fourth time with customer service…or when I need to mow the grass when it’s THIS hot outside and I don’t wanna. Anyway, this is the kind of music that turns me from Dr. Banner to the Incredible Hulk, and is usually reserved for when frustrations are mounting and I need some isolation for a little bit — or when a particularly intense scene is coming up in my writing and I need to set the mood.

4 – Eff Yeah GET HYPED
Examples: For You (Staind), Smells Like Teen Spirit (Nirvana)

Songs like these originate as soundtracks to pre-games of old — the stuff I would listen to to get myself cranked for competitions, and still do for working out. These are songs for which I *WILL* jack up the volume on the radio and rock out while driving. Some more modern examples have been added to the list as I discover them, but the feeling is always there. These are also great for when I sit down, computer in my lap, and I do not feel like writing. After taking a walk down this road, however, I find myself ready to run through brick walls (after getting my word counts in, of course).

There’s one more special category…

5 – Universal application

Example: Blue on Black (Kenny Wayne Shepherd)

There are a few songs, like this one, that I can listen to in any mood and enjoy thoroughly. It doesn’t matter what kind of day I’ve had, or what I’m doing, I just need to stop and listen. At times it can take on characteristics of any of the above categories. Fellow fans of KWS are hard to come by in my sphere, so it’s pretty special when such people come along.

So that’s a small tour of what I like to listen to, both within and without my writing. What are you listening to?

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