Music. What do you do with it when you’re writing? Where does it fit? There are a ton of potential ways to go with your listening when you’re on the job, and they’re all a matter of personal preference.
I know several writers who don’t listen to anything when they work, preferring something as close to silence as they can get. Others like sitting in a coffee shop or public place, absorbing crowd noise and using the energy of other peoples’ movement to fuel their work. More might just put their iPods or phones or music libraries on random and listen to whatever comes up, trusting their own tastes, and others still will create meticulously selected and organized playlists.
Me, personally? I like to play things by ear a little more. I like to do whatever feels right for the project. Last year, for example, when I was writing a period story that took place over one full listening of a vinyl copy of The Clash’s London Calling, I put that album on the turntable and played it non-stop until the first draft was done.
Mostly, though, I like playlists. I try not to be super picky about them—even if that’s not always an option—and I try to not lock myself too deeply into one thing over another. More often than not, I’ll make an effort to put together something that’s two or three hours long (three hours is kind of the outside on how long I’ll work on a novel in one sitting), isn’t too obtrusive, and maintains a similar tone or type of instrumentation that I think is a good fit for the tone of the novel or story.
For A Body Up the Well, I haven’t quite finalized a playlist yet. Mostly it’s instrumental, with an emphasis on the electronic or small orchestras, and fairly solitary and claustrophobic in tone. The score to Duncan Jones’s Moon by Clint Mansell made the list, for one, and Michael McCann’s work on Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Things that have good themes and through-lines, musically, but are amorphous and open to interpretation thematically. Things that I can take as portraying wonder or dread depending upon my mood. With those elements, the whole playlist can suit my needs regardless of what kind of scene I’m working on.