One of these days I’m going to study music theory and understand why certain songs or pieces move me the way they do, why they evoke certain emotions, why they inspire. Music stirs creativity in me and it comes in all forms–excitement, jubilation, empowerment, tragedy, nihilism, even a vague sense of spirituality, which for me says a lot.
So I always write to music. Much of the time I use a laptop and sit in my living room, with the lights off, and turn the music up loud. I have a good home theater system, and when I sit in the middle of the sofa the music is lively and enveloping. It helps transport me to the place I’m imagining, whether it be a physical or emotional place. One of the coolest things about reading is how a book can take you to places and situations like no other creative medium can. Books leverage your own imagination, rather than feed the experience to you like a film or TV show. But films have an advantage in that they engage more of your real senses. Listening to music while writing is sort of like using a soundtrack, except only I get to hear it.
Here’s the cool thing, though: when the book is finished, the artistic product that emerges contains the emotional experience of the music I listened to along the way. The word choices on the page, character emotions, maybe even plot points themselves all are influenced by the music. In addition, the sum total of every book I’ve read, every film I’ve seen, all my life experiences, they all go into the creation of the book. In some ways you don’t write a book so much as birth it. I think someone has probably said that already.
I’m not an artist in the way of the best authors, but what I produce is art to some degree. Any creative endeavor qualifies, in my opinion. Some pieces are more complex than others, evoke emotion or represent life more realistically than others, but almost all have a place in the art universe. And I think the most rewarding aspect of having contributed to that universe is that you do not stand alone. Everything influences everything else, because art is not created in an informational vacuum.
Music is a recurring motif throughout my next novel, The Boys of Summer. Some sections are introduced with lyrics. Popular songs create a kind of link between the various time periods that occur in the book. There are occasions when characters, consciously or not, quote song lyrics. There have no doubt been countless authors who composed their own work in a similar way, but considering my last two novels (The God Particle is the other) have been written, in part, to embrace this idea of universal influence, I think it makes sense to acknowledge the process of shared creation. Because I’m not sure there is such a thing as a completely original work of art.