How Music Inspires Writing by Nutschell Windsor

I’ve always loved music. With the exception of heavy metal, (all that screaming tends to rip my eardrums apart) I enjoy everything from classical orchestra to hard rock.

Growing up, music was a way to understand emotions I couldn’t quite put into words. It was also a way to express, in a more socially-acceptable manner, feelings which I could no longer keep inside. It was easier to sing my heart out to Lifehouse or Matchbox Twenty, than to try and explain the emotional turmoil I was going through to concerned loved ones.

Even though I’ve long since graduated from my angst-ridden teen years, I’m still able to access those deep emotions when I need to. I play the songs that marked the milestones of my life, and I’m instantly transported to those moments as I listen to them, I remember my first kiss, my first heartbreak, my first fight with my best friend. This certainly comes in handy as I’m currently writing young adult fiction.

Music has an amazing ability to evoke emotion, and I try to harness this power in my own writing.

I log on to my Pandora online radio account before I even sit down to work. When I’m ready to write, I switch to a station that plays nothing but instrumental music or soundtracks from movies or Broadway shows. When the first strains of that piano piece, or that orchestra music comes on, my mind automatically switches to writing mode.

I also look for soundtracks or songs to fit the scenes I’m writing. When I’m working on a particularly dramatic scene, I listen to doleful songs like Jim Chappell’s “Gone.” Escala’s heart pounding “Palladio” inspires me when I’m writing a heart-pounding action sequence, and my Lord of the Rings, Narnia, and Stardust soundtracks play in the background as I flesh out my fantasy worlds.

A lot of authors have been using this technique for years. Fantasy authors Sara Wilson Etienne and Jenn Reese  both have specific soundtracks for when they’re writing, as does YA author Cecil Castellucci.

Cecil even introduced me to largehearted boy, the music blog where authors can share playlists for their books. It’s a great site to discover new songs, and I always have a blast finding out what songs some of my favorite authors write to.

Do you listen to music while you write? Do you have specific playlists for each of your novels? Who are some of the artists/ bands on your writing soundtrack?

About Nutschell

Nutschell (pronounced new-shell and not nut-shell) is a middle grade/young adult fantasy writer who hails from the Philippines and now lives in sunny Los Angeles. When she’s not masquerading as an accounting clerk, or busy with her SCBWI or CBW-LA duties, she pursues her many curiosities. A Jane-of-all-Trades, Nutschell’s interests include traveling, taking pictures, sketching, playing the guitar and drums, playing basketball, badminton, billiards, and singing in the shower. She also practices the Filipino Martial Art of Escrima, and bakes yummy marshmallow cloud cookies. Nutschell haunts Twitter @nutschell and she blogs at The Writing Nut


Love of Music

I have loved music since childhood. I guess it’s because I grew up in a home always filled with someone singing or the stereo playing.  Of course growing up this way gives one an ear for good music.  Yes, just like the stereotypical black southern woman in the church choir – my grandmother, an aunt and my mother all began singing there.  In fact, not many people know this little tidbit of information, but I often think of it; as a little girl I remember my mom singing in a quartet.  They called themselves “The United Echoes,” and they sang live right here in Virginia on the radio in the ’50s.  Two particular gospel songs always come to mind when I recall that group – “I’m To Close,” and “Come Ye Disconsolate.”  Let me just give a little plug here, and say Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway have a spirit-filled rendition of the latter.  As soon as I got my iPod, those were two tunes that mandatorily had to be added to the “Gospel” category.

Moving on, in 2006 my mom had a minor procedure where she had to be hospitalized and undergo surgery.  She healed perfectly from the operation.  However, she did contract that dreaded HA-MRSA bug or Health Care Associated Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (something running rampant in certain hospitals here).  One month later, my poor mother still had not returned home.  Her doctor wanted to make certain all the infection had been beaten.  He therefore, strongly suggested she remain for an additional week of antibiotic drip.  Her private insurance requested she be moved to another facility; a nursing home conveniently sat attached to the other side of the building – she simply had to be rolled on over.

I must say, these places are a story in themselves.  I spent the entire week with her there and got a chance to watch all the goings on up close.  During the day appeared like five o’clock at Grand Central Station.  Residents were allowed to move about, and one will forever stick in my mind.  The elderly, heavy-set African-American woman from farther down the hall in the other direction, and her wheelchair.  Although she suffered from dementia, she had no problem with her hands and arms.  The entire day she whirled herself around, rolled up and down the hallway, and sat right at the entrance of my mother’s room.  She would talk to me about how she loved it when I came to visit her at her home, and how she hated to see me leave; on and on she would go.

Then, one day toward the end of my mother’s stay, our new friend sat all the way in the room this time.  My mother lay in her bed with her eyes closed; quite miserable, homesick and trying I’m sure, to will herself anywhere but there.  Out of nowhere, and completely unprovoked, a deep soulful hum emanated from this elder – this grandmother to which time had been unkind.  One that sprung open the eyes of my upset and fed-up mother.  She snapped her gaze in my direction, and then to the woman.  For that instance we both got the impression of being immediately transported to another time.  A moment in the clichéd south – a slavery scene or a 1930s African-American movie with Mahalia Jackson humming an old Negro spiritual.  I got chills, and my mother could only stare at me and shake her head in amazement.  I read somewhere – every now and again, when you’re talking to God, you have to hum so the devil doesn’t know what you’re saying. The elderly woman simply turned her chair, wheeled herself back through the door and hummed her way down the hallway evidencing no matter how unkind time had been; dementia or no dementia, nothing would steal the song in her heart.  We all should have that much love for music, that absolutely nothing will steal it away.

Also as a reminder, did you take a look at the new historic place and pics at “View From The Roads?” And, lastly, if you’re here, would you be so kind as to click on the “LIKE” button on my Facebook Fan Page.  Thanks.