Caffeine. Alcohol. A toke, a toot. Everyone's got their favorite stimulant, but when it comes to working on a draft, the overwhelming drug of choice for most writers I know is music.
Four screenwriters interviewed in Karl Iglesias’s fine and useful book, The 101 Habits of Highly Successful Screenwriters talk of their dependence on music as muse: Ron Bass likes to write to jazz; Steven DeSouza uses soundtracks from movies similar to the genre he’s writing in; Scott Rosenberg goes for rock’n’roll; Nicholas Kazan prefers Gregorian chant ("I need something constant and neutral. I find it’s a wonderful aid that sort of massages the right hemisphere of my brain").
References to writer-as-listener abound in the realm of screenwriting interviews. My own habit coincides with that of Mr. Bass, who notes: "I like to play the same CDs over and over because I like the music to disappear."
True that. When I find a piece of music that evokes the sensibility of what I’m writing, I put it on Repeat and play it for hours. (This method’s only drawback is that when you wear out a piece this way, you really do wear it out; certain songs I used to love are dead to me now, sadly.) Lately, I've been stuck on a song called Diamond Heart by the group Active Child (fans of Roxy Music's Avalon may enjoy, but if Neo-80s synth and romantic langeurs give you the hives, steer clear, plus this is the only song from the album I've gotten so attached to, so the real hook may be something subjectively idiosyncratic, i.e. the sound of a C# alternating against a C with a D# above it just says HELLO to my heart).
Diamond Heart is an exception that proves the rule, in that it has vocals, something usually to be avoided, but the lead vocal is so aurally tweaked that it took me a dozen listenings to realize that the words "diamond heart" are used in the lyrics. Generally non-vocal music serves the task best, and my perennial search for instrumental music that’ll work often unearths great stuff that defies categorization (what exactly do you call Four Tet's Smile Around the Face, which sounds like the union of a benignly berserk robot drummer and the Lollipop Kids on helium in a toy factory?).
My default fall-back is a pair of hardy perennials that never fail to get the fingers moving: the music of Steve Reich and Johann Sebastian Bach. The perpetual motion and ethereality of Reich (particulary the more minimal early works) eases my right brain into gear, while Glen Gould playing Bach's keyboard music stokes the left side into more active alertness. There's just enough muted and/or ambiguous emotionality in both composers' work to keep it engaging, and it abounds in that "constant and neutral" quality that Kazan spoke of.
I did a similar post on this writing methodology some five years ago, and got a lot of good suggestions for Music To Write By, but I've since exhausted those sources (played into its grave are The Tired Sounds of Stars of the Lid's two hours of beautifully spooky, languid otherworldliness, and my first novel thanks you). Once again, I’m on the lookout for writing-stimulation.
What music have you found that gets your blood moving and keeps your creative juices flowing, when you're working on a draft? Living Rom-Com wants to hear.