Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

Archive for November 18th, 2017

A writer’s playlists

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Music continues to be the best way to keep me seated in the chair and writing. Even so, it still takes me years to write a book…I still use music to write scenes. I am embarrassed to admit that I actually have playlists titled “Joyful,” “Worried,” “Hopeful,” “Destruction,” “Disaster,” “Sorrow,” “Renewal,” and so forth. I choose one track and play it for however long it takes me to finish the scene. It could be hundreds of times. The music ensures that emotion is a constant, even when I am doing the mental work of crafting the story, revising sentences as I go along. It enables me to return to the emotional dream after my focus has been interrupted by barking dogs, doorbells, or my husband bringing me lunch…Even when no one else is home, I put on headphones. It has the psychological effect of cutting me off from the world. It dampens sensory distractions and emphasizes the aural sense, the one needed for listening to the voice of the story. I take off the headphones when dinner is ready. I put them back on after dinner or the next morning. The emotional mood is still there. The hypnotic effect takes hold; when I hear the violins, I’m back in a cramped, cold room in China. Auditory memory has become the story’s emotional memory.

Amy Tan, Where the Past Begins

Written by nevalalee

November 18, 2017 at 7:30 am

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