Routine as an aid to writing

thurschilbadgejpg(This is a Thursday’s Children post, but I’m posting it Friday morning. Hey, it’s still Thursday somewhere in the world!)

The stereotype of a writer at work is often that of a person with a laptop in a coffee shop, observing the clientele and sipping their latte as they tap away at the keyboard. I am not that writer. I am getting better at tuning out background noise—I have a preschooler, after all—but I’m only really able to write under those circumstances when I’m really in the zone. On a normal day it’s a struggle, and I usually only write once my son is in bed and the TV is off.

Until recently, I also had a housemate. His computer was in the same space as mine and he was mad keen on World of Warcraft—so while I prefer to write without music I used to fire up whatever was on the hard drive and put headphones on, to block out the sound of orcs being slain or whatever he was doing at the time. I didn’t usually need to have the music up loud, but just had it on as white noise.

The thing is that for a while there was only one album on my hard drive. I don’t like to use the CD player in the computer because it’s old and sounded like a jet engine preparing for takeoff (even through the headphones). I could have copied some other music onto the hard drive to have it available, but I never got around to it and, after a while, playing that particular album was habit-forming.

CaptureAnd that is why I can’t hear the violin at the start of the orchestral version of I’m in a Cage by Tim Minchin (from Tim Minchin and the Heritage Orchestra) without my brain shifting gears into writing mode. I wrote my first two books—Isla’s Inheritance and its sequel—to this music. I’m hesitant to describe the album as the actual soundtrack to those books, because the music isn’t actually related to the story (I didn’t write a comedy, for a start)—but the album was the soundtrack to my writing.

My current work-in-progress is mostly being written to the blissful sounds of a quiet house. I did experiment with some other CDs (played in the CD player—I’m so old-fashioned), but none of them grabbed me. It seems I can only write to silence or Tim Minchin.

Hey, whatever works, right?

Do you have particular music you play to get yourself in the mood to write, or other routines that you always follow? Do you struggle without them?

Click here to see this week’s other Thursday’s Children blog posts.

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10 Comments on “Routine as an aid to writing”

  1. sugaropal says:

    For my last book, I definitely listened to particular music to get myself into the POV of a 17 year old boy. Sometimes I’ll listen to a particular song to help with feeling a particular mood, but I don’t have any music that triggers writing mode like your Tim Minchin 🙂

  2. Pat Esden says:

    I can totally relate to this–well, not the orc part luckily. I write in silence, but there are a few CDs that I’ve blasted in the car so many times that I can’t hear them without being taken back to certain stories.

  3. Dannie Morin says:

    I am becoming “that writer” in the coffee shop. Sometimes it works, others not so much. But I don’t have a good writing space now that kidlet has commandeered my writing room.Seriously, why can’t we just make the baby sleep in the unairconditioned attic?

    • Haha, yeah, why not? 🙂 I think if you have no other space you make it work. I’m currently shopping for a new house for me and my son, and one of my requirements is a quiet spot to set up as a study, for that exact reason.

  4. Florence and the Machine is totally my go-to. Great post!

  5. Kate Michael says:

    Celtic music on Pandora is my automatic “go to” music, but it changes once I’m into my story. Lately it’s been Korn or similar bands. I do need silence for editing though, otherwise my brain won’t work.


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