Resources I Use -- Why Music is My Muse

Music has dominated my life since my earliest childhood memories. In fact, my very first memory has a country music soundtrack.

Music has dominated my life since my earliest childhood memories. In fact, my very first memory has a country music soundtrack. I remember driving for a long time, laying in the hatchback of the car. Don’t worry, it was the 70s. They did that kind of thing back then. Anyway, I was watching the pine trees whiz by and Willie Nelson was playing on the radio.

Later, when I described this memory to my mom she said we were moving from Georgia to Florida, when I was 2-½.

My fondest memories also include/center around music. My favorite of all is standing on the couch screaming (I thought I was singing) along with my mom’s Conway Twitty cassette tapes. I’d make her play the same song over and over. Your Love Had Taken Me That High, if you’re wondering. Please check out the video, and behold those sideburns.

I had to be barely 5 or 6 during this time, but I remember it clearly as one of my happiest moments in life. Even at that young age, I was struck by the lyrics and the powerful emotions it stirred. I remember thinking he must have loved that girl so much to write this song about her.

I think that’s where my love of writing started, because as a child I began with poems and assumed someone down the line would put music to them for me. So it’s no wonder music plays an important part in my creative process to this day. But don’t ask me to drag out those old poetry notebooks; the world isn’t ready for that mess.

In the Beginning

I’ve created entire epic masterpieces from hearing one song. My upcoming standalone novel, Of Blood, owes its existence to Work Song by Hozier. The first time I heard this song, intense imagery flooded my mind. I hit repeat and turned it up! I don’t know how long I sat there listening to the same song over and over but by the time I was done, Of Blood, was born.

Yes I know I can’t legally call it a masterpiece since it’s not out yet. But it is to me. I love it and it feels just like the song to me. So even if nobody reads/likes it, I accomplished my goal in writing it.

Another upcoming, epic standalone, Four Corners, kind of came about the same way. I had a dream about this particular story, but it wasn’t solid yet. Then I heard Shovels and Dirt by The Strumbellas and it all fell into place. I now have a fully formed concept and outline, waiting for its turn.

Music Through the Slog

Photo by Pao Edu on Unsplash

Writing is fun! Most of the time. Sometimes you just want to play World of Warcraft but haven’t met your word count goal yet. That’s when you chug some coffee and crank up some Epic Battle Music. I can crank out chapter after chapter when I get in this zone. And I’ve found that most of the time, these are the most well-rounded and complete chapters. I don’t have to come back to them as much later to fix things.

Now, I have a hard time listening to songs with lyrics when I’m writing, especially songs I love. With two exceptions. Somewhere Only We Know by Keane and Iscariot by Walk the Moon. I think it’s the repetition. It puts me in a trance and I type like a madwoman. But most of the time it’s the Epic Battle Music.

Music to End it All

Photo by Mohammad Metri on Unsplash

Alright, if you don’t already think I’m crazy, you will now. Editing is almost my favorite part of writing. As I write, I give myself little notes either in the margin or highlighted in the text itself. Sometimes it’s love notes like, “Stop saying overused word dammit!” Most of the time it’s a song title or lyric.

Since I’ve spent most of my time with the Epoch series over the past couple years, I’ll share two important songs for this universe.

The first is Dreamworld by Robin Thicke. This song came out in 2009, long before the idea for Epoch came to me. But when it did, and I wanted to craft the best Dystopian universe I could come up with, I turned to this song. Not for what he imagined his Dreamworld to be, but for the world he was in when he had to dream.

Then, when it was time to edit and tighten things up, I came back to the well. Each pivotal scene was edited to this song, on repeat of course.

Burn by Ray LaMontagne will always hold a special place in my heart. I’ve loved this song for so long, I don’t even remember when I first heard it. It’s just been a part of my life. When I had to make sure the intense love/hate/loss/jealousy… you name it, was coming through the page, I did it with Burn.

Epoch isn’t the only series that touches on Burn. There are so many intricate moments in this short song, each one could fuel an entire novel if I wanted to. Maybe some day.

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