As a writer, there are few things more precious or exhilarating than a flash of inspiration that comes to you out of nowhere. If you’re lucky they may even come to you so consistently that you end up on the crest of a creative wave, furiously scribbling down every thought and idea before they disappear beneath the deep, dark sea from whence they came.
However, this doesn’t always happen for me and rather than the hurricane of ideas I want, I have barely enough to blow a tumbleweed through the desert.
One major trick I’ve discovered is to listen to music while I write – and not just whatever’s on the radio, it has to be the right kind of music to help me tap into the reserves of creativity I know are there, chilling in my brain and waiting to be crafted into poetry and sarcastic comments.
Music means a great deal to me, so much so that certain tracks have the power to instantly transport me back in time to whatever stage of my life I was at when I first heard them (and, more often than not, became obsessed with them).
One track that will stay with me forever is Apparat’s, ‘You Don’t Know Me.’ I first heard this while going through one of the most hopeless, darkest and loneliest times of my life. I’ve yet to find myself in the midst of anything where I’ve felt more lost or worthless. After stumbling upon this track on Spotify I fell in love with it, totally and completely, and started playing it on repeat. Something about the slow, gliding soar of strings interlaced with the fizz of electronic percussion broke through the numbness I was sleepwalking in and brought me back to the edge of reality. I will be forever thankful for this beautiful track and listen to it still when I’m struggling to convey the true depth of emotions in my writing.
Shortly after this time I discovered the incredible Ludovico Einaudi. His simple piano arrangements, usually accompanied by a string orchestra, are among the most soothing I’ve ever heard and are nothing short of hypnotic. I still remember the first of his tracks I listened to, ‘I Giorni’ from his ‘Islands’ album, and knowing he’d be a composer I’d have in my life from then on. I love listening to Einaudi while I write and find his music really helps me calm down and focus when a thousand other thoughts are battling in my head. Among my other favourite Einaudi pieces are: ‘Experience’, ‘Waterways’ and ‘Corale’ from his ‘In A Timelapse’ album and ‘Night’, ‘Numbers’ and ‘Four Dimensions’ from ‘Elements’.
Another amazing composer is Olafur Arnalds. I discovered his ‘Þau Hafa Sloppið Undan Þunga Myrk’ (They have escaped the weight of darkness) on Spotify during my last year at uni and started listening to his music while writing my dissertation. I love everything about Arnalds compositions and every time I listen I just melt into the emotion of every one. They are among the most expressive and emotional melodies I’ve ever heard. If you’ve not yet experienced them then I really do urge you to listen to every track on his album, ‘…and they have escaped the weight of darkness’, particularly ‘Þú ert sólin’ (You Are the Sun), ‘Undan hulu’ and the aforementioned ‘Þau Hafa Sloppið Undan Þunga Myrk’ (They have escaped the weight of darkness).
If you fall in love with Olafur Arnalds as deeply as I have then you might like to check out these tracks in particular:
‘Ljósið’, ‘Raein’ and ‘Lost Song’ from the album, ‘Found Songs’
‘Doria’ and ‘Öldurót’ from the album, ‘Island Songs
‘Near Light’, ‘Lag Fyrir Ömmu’ and ‘This Place Is a Shelter’ from the album, ‘Living Room Songs.
These and Arnalds other albums are unbelievably inspiring for me and are among my most frequently played when I’m struggling to write. It’s highly likely I have an Olafur Arnalds piece for every emotional high and low in my life since the end of 2014.
A few years later I found the music of Keaton Henson, who writes sweepingly romantic pieces for piano and strings as well as acoustic guitar tracks. Henson is also a visual artist and designed the artwork for the Enter Shikari album, ‘Take To The Skies’. The sense of freedom and expressiveness in his music reflects what a multi-talented force of creativity Henson is and even his music videos are worth watching for writing inspiration. An incredibly powerful video is the one for ‘Healah Dancing’, which shows a young man, in the throes of heartbroken anger, make his way to a woman who is presumably his ex-partner and pull her away from the man she has moved on to. At first he tenderly holds her and they seem to dance together slowly. However, towards the end of their dance the man’s attitude changes abruptly and his anger returns. The video ends with him roughly dropping the woman’s wrists and leaving.
My favourite tracks from Henson are all from his ‘Romantic Works’ album as I find them incredibly inspiring and almost escapist while writing. Like ‘Healah Dancing’, the tracks ‘Elevator Song’, ‘Josella’ and ‘Emissary’ are so raw and emotional that it is impossible to write to them and not find part of your soul on the paper.
I hope you’ve found my recommendations helpful! There are so many more artists and composers I love listening to while writing and will perhaps do a ‘Part II’ post about them. I never used to write with music but since discovering how much it stimulates my imagination, I rarely write without it. Different techniques obviously work for different people but I strongly recommend exploring Spotify, YouTube or Soundcloud, finding what music ignites something in your soul and creating your own ‘Writing Playlist’. I’ve provided the link to my own playlist on Spotify, which includes every track I’ve mentioned in this post and so many more. I also add to it pretty much daily so give it a follow if you’re interested in discovering amazing new writing music with me.