I’ve mentioned the ‘Monastery playlist’ a few times on this blog before, but since Nanopals has a post up today talking about the writing process and mentioning music, I thought I’d go into a bit more detail about the music of the monastery, how I found it, and what part it plays in my writing.
First off, generally I love writing to music. Finding a great song to write to is a gift, but if I like a song, generally it’s seldom ‘bad’ music to write to, especially during Nano or when I’m otherwise pantsing my way recklessly through a first draft. Editing is a bit different, it needs a bit more concentration, and for a while that was something that wasn’t quite falling into place with my writing process; editing in silence was too quiet, (unless I was reading my own work aloud as part of the editing process,) but most music was too distracting.
When I was going through the Holly Lisle ‘How to Revise Your Novel’ course last March, I got to the Monastery exercise where you leave a lot of the everyday world behind, and your last draft of your novel and your notes, and just sort of meditate your way to the perfect revision outline for the book. It’s a really great process, and one of the things Holly prescribed to leave behind was listening to music… with lyrics. She also seemed to be biased against a variety of instrumental music, and suggested leaving Classical Gas on an endless loop if you wanted any music in the monastery, but I couldn’t face any one tune that much, so I started putting together a list of all the instrumental music that I love. That was the moment my Monastery playlist was born.
The playlist was a great comfort to be on that first trip through the Monastery, both while I was actually working on my outline and as I walked the streets of my neighborhood trying to figure out what I wanted my book to be. I brought it back when I started Block Revision on “Won’t Somebody Think of the Children”, and gradually I’ve started to rely on it more and more whenever I have revision or editing to do. This particular collection of music just seems to be a really good fit with that task.
Some of the highlights of the playlist:
- Mozart Concertos with the English Chamber Orchestra
- The Firefly soundtrack and Serenity score
- The Simpsons movie soundtrack
- Any piano solo by John Sheard
- Natalie McMaster on the fiddle
- Selections from the ‘Pickin’ on’ Bluegrass series
- “The Most Relaxing Classical Music in the Universe.” (I think the Serenians of Zeta Cygnus deserved to make the cut, but anyway… )
- Bach Cello Suites by Yo-Yo Ma
- A few orchestral versions of Madonna and REM songs
And on and on – there’s quite a bit of Leahy, some Rankin family, and a bunch of random instrumental tracks that just happened to turn up on albums that were otherwise conventional pop vocals.
I’ve become such a fan of my Monastery playlist that I even have versions of it on a couple of different devices to make sure that I can get at it when I need to. It started out on the iPhone, and is still there. Was on the desktop tower for a while, to sync with the iPhone, but the tower is with us no more. Sometime in the fall, I started copying the monastery music to an SD card that I could play in my Palm TX PDA, and then in December I loaded it onto my 1 gigabyte Sandisk Sansa player. (Well, as much of it as could fit. The entire playlist is around 1.2 gigs now.) And I’ve got it on the red netbook now too, in iTunes so that I can sync changes to the iPhone still.
Do you have any particular music that you like for a project or a specific stage of your writing?