Nothing beats writing to a good soundtrack. Great songs have gotten me through the worst days of my life, and have complimented some of my best moments. I might carry a pen and notebook with me almost everywhere, but I am absolutely addicted to my iPod.
I have a ridiculous number of playlists on iTunes, but that doesn’t stop me from searching for new music – anything that either sparks an idea or puts me in the right mood. If I am looking for something a little folky or instrumental, I usually play some Andrew Bird or Yo-Yo Ma’s newest experiment “The Goat Rodeo Sessions.” The upbeat strings and technical passages help me to stay awake.
Jazz and classical are great options as well. Coltrane’s “Naima” or “Giant Steps,” Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Scheherazade” Symphony have been favorites of mine since middle school.
Finding something that has a visual connection helps me start writing. I heard Lykke Li’s “Time Flies” while watching a piece choreographed by Sonya Tayeh for “So You Think You Can Dance.” I fell in love with the music as well as the dance, and listened to that song endlessly while working on my M.F.A. applications. The routine that goes with Michael Buble’s “At This Moment” is pretty damn beautiful and inspiring as well.
Lately, I have to write more technically than creatively. Radiohead’s “15 Step,” “Reckoner,” “House of Cards” and “Weird Fishes/Arpeggi” are taking me through the end of my undergraduate career. While a rediscovered playlist from my senior year of high school is providing just the right dash of nostalgia: Say Anything, The Working Title, Santana, Death Cab for Cutie, and Jack’s Mannequin.
Playing some good music is not a quick-fix to writer’s block or the magic spell to summon inspiration. But it is definitely a way to get really far inside your own head, wrap yourself in your thoughts, and get rid of the world for a little while.