Music to my Words – Selected Songs to Help you Write Better.

About this project: 

 

Music to my Words is intended to be a column about the art of writing and the music that can spark specific emotions, moments, transitions or (yes!) sex scenes in your work.

I wholeheartedly believe music is an essential, unavoidable part of writing and I felt it was a subject that was not covered enough in the writing community so here I am.

Now the concept of this column is to squeeze the most (and the best) words out of your brain as you are typing away. Some of these songs may be hard to listen to in a different (non-creative) context but the point of this selection is to use the music to foster creativity in a different field. You may use those for design, drawing, painting… anything in fact.

If you are a writer, I absolutely invite you to poach these songs to use for your own craft, otherwise, you may just have stumbled upon a pretty damn good playlist and feel free to enjoy it as it is.

Here are the 52 masterpieces I intend to cover in the future. While my own taste is deeply rooted in heavy and noisy music, I am aware that it is not the only emotion out there and so, I’ve made conscious efforts to include many eras, styles and atmospheres, from punk to rock to noise, to hip hop and electronic or soul and yes, even pop and folk and country.

I want to cover massive superhits as well as absolutely obscure local bands.

First song will be up tomorrow,

I hope you enjoy,

 

The songs (In almost alphabetical order):

 

1 – Alicia Keys – In Common

2 –  Amy Winehouse – You know I’m no good.

3 – Aphex Twin – Jynweythek

4 – Atmoshphere – YGM

5 – Aun – Falcon

6 – Billie Holiday – Lover come back to me

7 – Billy Bragg and Wilco – Eisler On the Go

8 – Bjork – Hyperballad

9 – Calvin Harris – Faking It.

10 – Chelsea Wolfe  – 16 psyche.

11 – Chuck Ragan – Do you pray

12 – Converge – Cruel Bloom

13 – David Allan Coe – Take this job and shove it.

14 – Dead Prez – Mind Sex.

15 – Death From Above 1979 – Freeze Me.

16 – Dropkick Murphys – Rose Tattoo

17 – Elliott Smith – Between the Bars

18 – Erik Satie – Gnossiennes

19 – The Faint – I Disappear

20 – Hatebreed – Beholder of Justice.

21 – Jacob Bannon – The Blood of Thine Enemies.

22 – Kygo and Selena Gomez – It ain’t me.

23 – Lana Del Rey – High by the Beach

24 – Lana Del Rey – Blue Jeans.

25 – Marylin Manson – Long hard road out of hell

26 – Metric – Help I’m Alive

27 – MF Doom Feat. Rza – Books of War

28 – Mike Patton – Snow Angel

29 – Mogwai – Mexican Grand Prix

30 – Mogwai – I Know You Are But What Am I

31 – Murder City Devils – Bunkhouse

32 – NAS – You Da Man

33 – NAS – NY state of Mind

34 – Neurosis – Fear and sickness.

35 – NIN – 28 Ghosts IV

36 – NIN – La Mer.

37 – Pete Rock – Pete’s Jazz.

38 – Plaid – Where?

39 – Portishead – The Rip

40 – Quantic – Time is the Enemy

41 – Radiohead – Idiotheque

42 – Red Clay River – Carolina

43 – Sage Francis – Going back to Rehab

44 – Sage Francis – Over Under

45 – Supermachiner – Treading in the wake of it all.

46 – Tom Waits – Alice

47 – Trentemoller – Moan

48 – Tricky – Aftermath

49 – United Steel Workers of Montreal – Emile Bertrand

50 – Method Man – Release Yo’ Delf.

51 – Sneaker Pimps – Roll On.

52 – Yann Tiersen – Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain – Les Jours tristes.

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So You Want to be a Working Class Writer? – Concrete Steps to Finish Your Project.

Been rummaging through old folders … This is something I’ve touched on before but it’s always good to remind yourself and update…

short novel picture

So you want to be a working class writer?

If you are reading this, I’m assuming you are working class and that you got this idea in the back of your head that you’d like to be a writer.

Let me tell you the only fucking way you can make it and trust me, you’ll need this because you’re not in the NY literary scene, or the Toronto literary scene or the London, UK literary scene.

You’re not interning at some big 5 publishing house hoping to get your first book deal at 28 with that beige fucking cover and the smoky letters on it. And if you are that person, this fucking post is not really meant for you. but if you are working class, you fucking know most of your time is spent on your job, getting food, getting gas, sleeping just enough at night and then getting up in the morning to start all over again.

The reality is this : our stories are probably more valid, useful, relevant or even important than anything the NY literary elite is throwing out there these days but we have to work five times smarter just to get them on paper. (Noticed, how I used the term “smarter” rather than “harder.”)

Luckily there are ways around this and I do believe I have enough experience now to share it.

1 – Find a job you can write from.

This sounds simple yet it’s not. There aren’t that many working class jobs where you actually get to write on the job (or around the job) and there are two ways you can get around this.

The first is you find a job where no one talks to you and it’s actually not that important. I mean shit like nighttime watchman or a machine operator where the operation doesn’t keep you disturbed every five minutes. I’ve worked shifts where we could squeeze in 20 minutes of down time on the hour and made those 20 minutes count. Most of the guys would go out for a smoke, I took notes on small pieces of paper and typed them back at home later.

I know there are jobs out there where there are plenty of work but also plenty of down time. Find one of them and stick to it.

Now I’m sure some will find this un-ethical or some shit well let me answer this : Faulkner did it all the fucking time. He wrote entire novels as the night shift guy in a power plant. So that’s good enough for me.

The other way you can work around your job is to be employed somewhere they give an hour for lunch. A lot of places only give you 30 minutes a day and it’s had to make something out of that, it really is. But an hour…you can work with an hour (and you’ll need to.)

So what I’ve been doing for the last 8 years (maybe more) Is that I’ll eat my lunch on my fifteen then run out of work as fast as possible on my lunch break and get writing right away. That’s how I made it through college and that’s now how I manage to write books.

2 – Split you’re writing time into hours of crunch time.

You’ll rarely ever get more than an hour at a time to work on something and you’ll need to make that hour count. (If you have kids, this is even more important!!!) I trained myself to shell out as many words as possible during that hour and during what I now call “crunch time” I can write 1000 to 1200 words on my lunch break.

And when I mean, hours, I mean, hours. Don’t expect writing days, you can’t afford it and it rarely ever happens anyways. Sometimes on a weekend or during your vacation, sure, but it’s not gonna be enough.

You’ll need the hours. You can squeeze in a lot of fucking “writing hours” during your week.

This brings us to No. 3

3 – It’s a numbers’ game.

I’ve talked about this before with many people: a novel is not that much work in terms of “man-hours” and if you’re working class, you know what the fuck a “productive-man-hour” is. If the management concept works for a construction crew, it can work for your novel too.

A full length super-commercial (Dan Brown type of shit) mystery novel is around 90 000 words. I aim to land around 75 000 words for an indie mystery which still mean I’ll write around 300 pages because I use a lot of dialogue.

If you counted it, that’s a maximum or 75 man-hours of production at 1000 words per hour to get that first draft out.

I count my own editing at 1=1 so I expect to spend another 75 hours just editing and polishing the story. Consider this like sanding a piece of wood to absolute perfection. That’s how I see it and that’s how you should see it too.

So you’re looking at 150 hours of production per novel before it’s ready to go out to publishers and editors. That’s it.

4 – How long is it going to take?

If you’re young and angry, you should shell out 6 writing sessions a week at 1h per session (sometimes you might squeeze in 2 a day on the weekends) but let’s keep it at 6 for the sake of life getting in the way.

That means you should have a first draft in about 12-15 weeks and a something ready to send to editors/publishers within 30 weeks. That’s more than a novel a year.

Now I understand that everyone’s situation differs. I’m a single dad on a shared custody, so my 6 sessions a week are down to 3, maaaaaybe 4 these days. I also take into account the fact that a lot of “writing” time now goes into writing proposals, business plans, outlines and blog-posts such as this one.

Still, that time management scheme allows me to write about a novel a year and leave some room for a side project.

4 – if you worry that you have nothing to say

You’re fucking working class. You get up in the morning and you beat traffic to go to work and weather every shitty comment or problem or issue or you build something out of your hands or fixing or fucking up and messing around and the guys are talking about this and that and the gals are talking about this and that. They’re telling jokes and stories and they’re happy or worried or messed up or looking for a fuck or a fight or a way out.

This is the stuff of life and it used to be the stuff of literature. I can’t help but feel it fell of the radar of the literary world for too long. What the fuck’s some intern at Penguin got to say about life that you’re not already living on a daily basis?

Go out there and write now. I gave you the roadmap, you just have to use it.

Take care,

 

Ian.