Deb Sarah on Literary Inspiration Through … Music!

We’re talking about mentors and inspiration this week, and while I have had plenty of fabulous and supportive people in my life, my foray into fiction has been very much a solo act, in that other than my husband and a few early readers, I’ve forged on this path without the advice or mentorship of really, anyone. After 10 years of magazine writing and a lifelong love of books, I decided to challenge myself in a new direction, and the result was something I’m very proud of: THE VIOLETS OF MARCH.

Everyone knows that writing can be a very lonely and isolating experience. Still, I find it thrilling, just the same. I love the fun of being alone with my characters, my ideas (and a good cup of coffee and nice bar of dark chocolate to munch on). But I am never writing without music.

When I sit down to start a new fiction project, I’ve found it so important to begin with a playlist of songs (I usually have fun downloading a bunch of new music on iTunes) that set the mood for my story. With VIOLETS, which takes place in 1943 and present day, I put together a mix of songs that helped me channel my characters feelings, desires and emotions. Without those songs playing in my ear, I’m not sure I would have gotten them just right.

And, whenever I’m facing a bout of writer’s block (it totally happens), I turn to music first to jump-start my muse. And you know what? It works almost every time.

Would you like to see the songs that inspired THE VIOLETS OF MARCH? Here’s my partial playlist. And, I picked a very special song on this list to use in the book trailer, too. If you haven’t had a chance to see it, click here.

Do you listen to music when you read/write?

xo, Sarah

10 Replies to “Deb Sarah on Literary Inspiration Through … Music!”

  1. I used to rely heavily on music while writing, but now I find it distracting.

    That said, if I’m just listening and not writing, I often get wonderful ideas that pop into my head. I love the idea of a playlist for a novel, though!

  2. I started listening to music while writing in grad school. It definitely helps me focus and forget about the rest of the world. And thanks for the link to your trailer. Who knew?

  3. I absolutely cannot write without music playing. It wasn’t always like that, and I remember many moons ago I actually had trouble reading or writing with music playing. I read a study once that talked about how extroverts have an easier time working to music than introverts do, and introverts have to really condition themselves to be able to listen and work at the same time. I’m definitely an introvert, so I suppose that’s my story!


  4. Love this glimpse into your inspiration, Sarah! I didn’t use a lot of music while writing my current project, but I’m putting together the playlist for my next one — I think something about writing in a different time period really feeds on the music of that time.

    Writing to music is also great as an exercise. If you’re exploring a new character or plot I find it can really get things flowing.

  5. Once upon a time I had to be surrounded by music to get my creative waves flowing. Now, as my life has become so much more complex, I find music to be a distraction. Songs tend to sweep me up into another time and place and I find myself daydreaming or becoming lost in my own memories. I do my best to envelope myself in a pocket of silence when I write.

    Silence is not always possible, however. My husband had been working from home more often and his voice carries through closed doors and windows. And he must always have his own music playing. I need to replace my ear buds with some noise canceling earphones and pipe in my own music. Classical seems to be the only genre that can melt into my subconscious and not be a distraction.

    I can’t wait to check out your playist though. That is a fabulous idea!

  6. I just took a peek at your playlist and love it. Some of them I have and some I will need to download. Seeing your inspiration adds another dimension to the book experience. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Not when I read — too distracting — but YES when I write! And I like the music to be on shuffle — pretty random, like Pandora, so I don’t know what’s coming and I can’t concentrate on it too much. I love show tunes, but can’t listen to them when I’m writing, because I start thinking of THAT story, and not mine. Same with rap — I’m not a huge rap fan, but there’s some I love… and I can’t listen while I’m writing because the “speaking” distracts me from my storyline.

    Great post!

    btw, almost finished with Violets, and you have reason to be proud of it!!!

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