Writing to Music

The 101 Habits Of Highly Successful Screenwriters: Insider’s Secrets from Hollywood’s Top Writers is high on my list of must-read screenwriting books.

Habits #33 and #34 deal with “Writing to Music” and “Writing in Silence.”

It’s interesting to see the varied habits.  For example, Eric Roth (Forrest Gump, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Ali…) does not listen to music while writing, while Ron Bass (Rain Man, My Best Friend’s Wedding) listens to Jazz and repeats the same tracks so the music disappears into the background.

I also randomly repeat the same tracks as it creates a kind of mental cocoon and, like Nicholas Kazan (Fallen, At Close Range) describes, serves as a form of inspiration:

“I find it’s a wonderful aid that sort of massages the right hemisphere of my brain.”

Here’s my current iTunes “Write” playlist:

  1. Stillness Of The Mind – A Single Man
  2. Daydreams – A Single Man
  3. And Just Like That – A Single Man
  4. George’s Waltz (2) – A Single Man
  5. Sunset – A Single Man
  6. American Beauty – American Beauty
  7. The Cider House Rules – The Cider House Rules
  8. Weehawken Ferry – Cinderella Man
  9. All Prayed Out – Cinderella Man
  10. Blood On My Hands – The Dark Knight
  11. Cigar Box – The Green Mile
  12. Evenstar – Lord of the Rings: Two Towers
  13. Route 12 – Revolutionary Road
  14. Simple Clean Lines – Revolutionary Road
  15. Unrealistic – Revolutionary Road
  16. April – Revolutionary Road
  17. Revolutionary Road – Revolutionary Road
  18. Road to Chicago – Road to Perdition
  19. The Farm – Road to Perdition
  20. Rain Hammers Road to Perdition
  21. Road to Perdition Road to Perdition
  22. The Orange Man – Unbreakable

Even though the list constantly evolves with new choices working their way in and out, Thomas Newman’s work always remains.  I never get tired of the haunting simplicity of his music — a perfect complement to my style of writing.

I find listening to any music with lyrics distracting, so I save those songs of inspiration from favorite artists like Hüsker Dü, Bad Religion, Bob Mould, The Gipsy Kings, R.L. Burnside, Buddy Guy, and so on for the car and the gym.  The current song being repeated over and over in the car is For The Summer by Ray LaMontagne and The Pariah Dogs.

Do you listen to music while writing?

Hüsker Dü

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