Happy Fourth of July, everyone.
I don't normally listen to music while I write--not to have the distraction. I love music of all types from classical and opera to old ballads and country and western. But I tend to get so caught up in the melody, the lyrics of a song, that all of a sudden I'm humming along, swaying to the tune, and I've forgotten that I'm supposed to be writing.
Yet I also find music to be an inspiration.
For a while I wrote books with musical titles: Unforgettable, Just One of Those Things, Oh, Susannah, and Danny Boy. They were all my titles, too, from concept to print! I guess they worked from a marketing department standpoint because no one changed them.
For whatever reason, those titles actually seemed to make my writing easier.
With the memory of the particular song clear in my mind, if not actually floating through the air from a pair of sound-system speakers, the tone of the story became almost automatic. The emotions flowed. Even characterization seemed easier to develop. I don't know why this happened. But it did.
With Danny Boy I made an exception to my no-listening-while-writing rule.
Every morning, before I began to work, I played that song on the piano (maybe I was procrastinating). I'm not a very good pianist, mind you, but I did have an excellent arrangement of that old standard, which--as it does for my heroine in the book--always makes me weep. It was kind of like having a story conference with myself to start the day. I played, I wept, I wrote. Perfect.
And sometimes, without its title, music helps to inspire a story. The germ of Danny Boy, in addition to that song, also came from a Garth Brooks album. In my book the hero is a professional bull rider, and in the song, "Wild Horses," a rodeo cowboy calls his girlfriend from the road in Cheyenne, Wyoming. He knows he must quit the circuit, which he loves, as he keeps promising to do, "before I hurt her more than she loves me."
I love that line.
Its message was exactly what I needed then--Danny's goal, even at thirty-six to keep riding bulls until, finally, he wins the world championship. Yet if he keeps going, following his dream, will he lose the woman he loves but left behind? The wife who needs him to help raise their son?
There's another cut on this album that helped, too, with my book. It's called "Wolves," about the difficulty of being a rancher. It's a sad song that compares a friend's foreclosure by the bank to a pack of wolves bringing down cattle in a winter storm. It's about loss and hope and surviving, and in Danny Boy his Montana ranch is also in jeopardy, though of a different sort.
Oh, goodness. I'm doing it right now: sitting here, listening to that song on the computer, and feeling the inspiration, the distraction, all over again.
Music is, for me then, a little bit of both.
But then, we Geminis do tend to have somewhat split personalities!
And if that helps with my writing--with the next book--that's just fine with me. Maybe I'll do another story with a Western setting.