Friday, May 7, 2010

Music to (Not) Write to

I listen to the type of music that most people cringe at and mock me for. To give you an example, at least six of the Top 25 Most Played Songs on my iPod are by Britney Spears. I've liked her music ever since she first became popular more than ten years ago. Even when she went through her weird phase and people devoted entire television shows and magazines to bashing her, I remained one of her loyal fans and enjoyed her music anyway.

I like music that's fun, upbeat, and good to dance to. (I try not to dance when I'm walking around outside, though, because that might look weird. And I might accidentally knock someone into the street if I were to start flailing my arms around.) So what if some of the pop musicians I like aren't nominated for Grammys or get stellar reviews from Rolling Stone? As long as I like the music I'm listening to, that's what matters to me.

Years ago, when the boy bands were popular, I was totally obsessed with them, and I took a lot of ribbing for that too (which, actually, kind of hurt my feelings). One of my biggest regrets is that I never got to see N'Sync perform live in concert, though I did go to a Backstreet Boys concert once with a friend. Many of the fans were younger than us. My friend and I sat near this 12-year old girl and her mom; the mom kept covering her daughter's eyes every time one of the guys took off his shirt. As a result, the girl didn't see about a third of the concert. I enjoyed the music and the dancing, but I didn't get why people had to scream THE ENTIRE TIME. How could they hear the guys sing if they were screaming at them through the whole song? It's not like Nick Carter was going to look at any individual fan and say, "Ah, yes, you who screamed loudest for me, you must come away with me."

I finally started to outgrow the boy bands and the other male teen idols when I heard a story about a fan who paid over a thousand dollars for a piece of toast that a member of N'Sync had bitten into. And I thought, Wow. Now THAT'S obsessive. I mean, I get that she's devoted, and at least she got free tickets as well, but if I had a thousand dollars, I'd rather spend it on a trip to somewhere cool. Or maybe I'd just buy candy.

But even though I've stopped listening to the boy bands and expanded my musical tastes to stuff other than pop music, I still like listening to the likes of Britney and Taylor Swift. I've found, though, that it gets to be too distracting to listen to them when I'm writing. I'll be working on one of my stories and listening to "Piece of Me", and then I'll start thinking about how people started liking Britney again once she divorced Kevin Federline. Or I'll listen to Taylor's "You Belong with Me" and feel the urge to watch the music video on Youtube, and then I'll start watching her other videos. And then I feel hypocritical for getting mad at a few of my former students for being able to name all the American Idol finalists but not all the main characters in the some of the stories we studied.

Do any of you listen to music while you write? (Or do you think it's better to leave the music off while you write?) If you do, I'm open to any good recommendations. And by good, I mean the kind that involves synchronized dancing in music videos. Just kidding. Well, not really.

Seriously, how could anyone think these guys weren't cute? I mean, talented?


  1. It's very brave of you to admit to all of this, commendable.

    I can't listen to music while I write unless perhaps if it is instrumental only. Lyrics are too distracting.

    Today's guest bloggers are Lisa and Laura Roecker!

  2. I like some boy bands, too! I admit it!

    I don't listen to music when I write, though. Even clasical music! I need complete silence to concentrate.

    Happy Friday!

  3. Britney's music is really fun!

    And for me, music is instrumental (ha) to writing. Different artists and bands will inspire different stories. I typically have one or two bands or genres that will kind of drive a manuscript. The one I'm working on now has its own "playlist" culled mostly from a mix CD!

  4. I admire you for admitting all this! I occasionally listen to fun pop music when the mood strikes me--although I have very ecclectic musical taste everything from ABBA to Avril Lavigne to Fleetwood Mac to Evanscence to Jewel! When I write though, I usually listen to mellow singer/songwriter types--usually inspires me :)

  5. Thanks for dropping by my blog. Feel free to come back and make yourself at home. :)

    As for writing music, I listen to instrumental stuff. When I'm frustrated and need a break from writing, I have a playlist of dance songs that I get up and dance to.

  6. hi! first i want to say that i really like your blog!

    i usually have playlists set up of certain artists when i start my novels. i pick music i think will help get me in the mindset of my characters, but usually once i'm in the groove the music becomes more of a distraction - like it's keeping me from hearing what my characters have to say.

  7. Hi Matthew,
    I don't know if I'd describe myself as brave for saying that I like pop music; I just like what I like. And I think pop is fun. :)
    You're right that the lyrics can be distracting, since they're telling a story while I'm trying to write my own stories.

    Hi Talli,
    It's easier for me to concentrate in complete silence too. Now if only I could get those beeping drivers to be quieter...

    Hi maybeimamazed,
    Creating a playlist for a manuscript is a good idea. I'll have to try that. Only I'll have to make sure that my protagonist doesn't end up being like Britney, because I think that'd be too complicated of a story to write.

    Hi Catherine,
    Avril Lavigne! I like her too. She needs to come out with a new album. I still haven't gotten tired of listening to her old ones.

    Hi Shannon,
    Dance songs are a great way to take a break. Somehow they always put me in a better mood.

    Hi Mi,
    Thanks for the compliment! Your point about how music can keep you from hearing what your characters have to say is a good one, especially because they might be saying something important!

  8. I listen to music when I write but not the kind of stuff you would sing along with so that helps because I love singing!

    I also love/d the boy bands although I was never a Backstreet Boys fan. 'N Sync could sing well always and dance so they were my fave.

    But none will ever beat NKOTB! :)