I recently had someone ask me via Facebook how I dealt with those days when I just didn’t feel like writing. They wanted to know if this even happened to me, and if so, what do I do to get over it?
I don’t listen to music while I write, but I do listen to music to get in the mood for writing. I only do this when I feel like I need a boost. And I listen to heavy-hitting stuff to get in the mood. The way I motivate myself to get past the procrastination and get to writing is to get angry at my reluctance, my fear, that niggling doubt that tells me I’m not good enough. I try to shout down this inner voice and build up the confidence of the scared little artist that lives deep inside me and who is almost always terrified of coming out.
My favorite tune for getting angry at my reluctance is an Eminem song that directly deals with this. I remember listening to this song on my way down the mountain from Boone. As I navigated the twisty roads south of Blowing Rock, and my ears were popping from the drop in altitude, I jammed this song and thought about all the meetings I was getting ready to have with publishers. I was flying to New York to meet my agent, and I was hip-deep in the SHIFT books, and I could see my life at this crossroads. My fear told me to give up. To stop while I was ahead. But my inner little artist was shouting at me that this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and what was I going to do with it?
Listen to this with the volume up when you’re asking yourself if you feel like putting in the work today:
This next song is by Macklemore and Ryan and is a good one to listen to and remember where we are in our artistic journeys:
But maybe the most effective song for me is my strangest choice. I love Rage Against the Machine. Their song “Killing in the Name Of” is not about being creative. It’s about power, police violence, racism, and much more important things than conquering our artistic resistance. But at the 4:00 mark, when Zack starts shouting, “Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me,” over and over again, I can sing this at the top of my lungs and feel myself shouting down my doubts and pessimism. I’ve done this so many times to this song, and it gets me through my doubts and my desire to procrastinate. Strange, but effective.
The same things won’t work for different people. This is just what I do to overcome my fears and doubts. What about you?
31 replies to “Get Angry. Stay Inspired.”
“The greats weren’t great because at birth they could paint; the greats were great because they paint a lot.”
I can’t begin to tell you how thrilled I was to see this song on your list.
That entire album fires me up. There’s another tune on there about self-producing rather than going with a record studio, and the last line is: “I’d rather fail as an artist than succeed at getting fucked,” and I just love that line.
That Eminem song has gotten me cranked up more times than I can count. This song also does it, especially the third verse. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q4NMmSA4fW4
Music is really a great way to get your head into the right place to write. I’ve taken to using the “Mood playlists” on Spotify to help put myself in a certain mindset to write scenes. If I am writing a sad scene, I grab onto one of the playlists that reflect that mood and turn the volume down until I can hear it, but can’t make out the vocals. The music itself still carries the emotion, and after ten or fifteen minutes, I put my hands on the keyboard and let it flow.
Soaring epics and soundtracks work over here. An Epic Fantasy(tm) in progress, so yeah, why not? :-D Although I DO find it interesting that you don’t have tunes on in the background while writing. I don’t do vocal tracks as they can be distracting, but there is something freakin’ cool about having Howard Shore, or John Williams or Hans Zimmer behind me, while things are unspooling into scrivener.
p.s. glad to see you have notifications on the site for follow up and posts. That was annoying as hell with the old site. :-)
John Williams and Hanz Zimmer are my go to’s when writing. I just turn on spotify and let the music flow. Lately, I’ve also been listening to the Mad Max: Fury Road soundtrack as well.
I would say that top three for me to write to is the Interstallar, the Episode III, and Fury Road Soundtracks
Got a chuckle out of seeing you mention Eminem “Lose yourself” and RATM “Killing in the name of”… Both songs are high on my playlist, too, when I’m getting fired up to write. If those do the trick for you, you’ll probably also love “Click, Click, Boom!” by Saliva. — the line about “just a kid with a pad and a pen and a great imagination” never fails to inspire. And then there’s “Boom” by P.O.D. — with it’s glorious snarl of defiance: “Is that all you got…? I’ll take your best shot.”
Of course, when it comes to music to listen to while actually writing, there’s nothing better to listen to than Two Steps From Hell — Nick Phoenix and Thomas Bergersen. TSFH are the guys who do those incredibly epic tracks that you always hear in movie trailers. You can’t beat TSFH for sheer pulse-pounding awesomeness — their non-publicly-available industry albums are the best.
My playlist is exploding with awesome. Thanks, everyone. Had no idea we were all doing this. :)
Not to mention that Boom has the best video ever. ;)
Haha, mad props for rage against! :)
As an East Tennessee native, I’ve driven those twisty mountain roads around Boone and Blowing Rock many times, so I had the perfect visual at your description. There really is nothing better than cranking the music while navigating those turns.
What I do when that terrible mood hits and you tell yourself you don’t want to write, is write anyway – write blindly, write and write and write. If need be I put on the headphones and listen to soundtracks mostly. I love the new Mad Max Fury Road soundtrack. It could be any music though. I like Sergio Leone soundtracks too and occasionally tracks by David Lynch, especially Lost Highway. My cousin, Rick Snyder, writes some pretty cool instrumental stuff too. I’m a husband and father of three and still work a 40 hr a week job but I manage to write 3 to 5 pages a day. Just take control of your writing by looking inward and seeing what really jazzes you and go with it. There are no rules. Just Do It!
I love having Muse on in the background. Something about it seems to make the sci fi fall out of me. Hadn’t really considered trying music to fire me up and stop procrastinating (something I’m very good at!) So I might give this a try as the book is currently lying rotting in a self editing quagmire of doom and doubt.
Take a Bow is a killer song inspiration!
Songs with lyrics do nothing for me. It’s the beat that works for me.
Tangerine Dream, Underwater Sunlight: Song of the Whale, part I, From Dawn . . .
I love this post! Very inspiring.
My strange little offering:
(I picture it as my subconscious/muse doing that one last ditch effort pleading with me to come spend time with it.)
(I have major trouble with finishing things because I’m just a big fraud and it’s all terrible anyway.)
I plan to start listening to the Eminem “Lose Yourself” song though.
I remember when that Rage album first came out, how much trouble I got in when my dad hear this song blaring on my bedroom CD player.
Now, 20 years later, that’s the song my band typically ends on when we play 3-4 hour cover shows. It brings out the animal in everyone. Best hype song of all time, IMO.
Great list Hugh! Lose Yourself has always been a favorite for me too!
I like to listen to this one for inspiration. It helps that this version is performed by an incredible indie artist that I love. So listening to this is a double-whammy for me… Observe an incredibly talented indie artist succeeding at doing what they do, and also, the words lift me up. “Shine Bright like a diamond.”
My favorite tune for this sort of thing is Something From Nothing by the Foo Fighters. It makes me think about how far I’ve come in my life, and gets me pumped. Best of You by the Foo Fighters is also a good one.
I don’t try to overwhelm the Fear; that takes far too much energy for me.
Instead, I listen to it, write down its arguments, acknowledge it has a point, and keep asking questions until it is satisfied.
So far, it’s always been something that needed listening to: once I get it down on the page somewhere, the Fear is satisfied – and leaves me alone.
I think it has good intentions – just a horrible way of going about getting my attention.
[Also left as a comment on your FB post linking to this article.]
What’s the coincidence that I hear two artists name the exact same Rage Against the Machine song as their “muse” on the same day?
On YouTube I just watched the iZombie ComicCon panel, and David Anders mentioned that song as where he goes to as an actor when asked to go into “full-on zombie mode.”
(I’m a Bulls on Parade man myself .)
Yellow Flicker Beat by Lorde
Love this! I can’t believe how much I can relate! I do the same exact thing, and when I nearly gave up on editing/revising my first novel, “Lose Yourself” was on repeat on my iPod and helped to get me back in the game and not let that book beat me! I use that song every time! I’ll have to try the “Rage against the Machine” song too!
Thanks for sharing!
To your amazing success!
The Eminem song is great. But being a little older and less hip, I find I get a quick boost of (to get writing) from Neil Diamond’s Brother Loves Traveling Salvation show. Just the right about of hucksterism and inspiration.
Ahh, thank you for writing about this. I would say that music is the one thing that fuels me more than anything when it comes to writing fiction, except that I listen to it from the character’s point of view instead of mine to get inspired. What would they listen to in their every day life? Sometimes I’ll obsessively listen to a band or a song so much that I’m sure my friends on Spotify think that I’ve gone off the deep end. Lots of Mike & The Mechanics lately, lol.
Get angry? You mean writing isn’t all rainbows and unicorns?
Another good Eminem song to get pumped up to? Till I Collapse.
Oh hehe the embed didnt work xD
Here is the url instead!
I had posted earlier but it looks like it got eaten. Til I collapse and Survival are two great Eminem songs I listen to a lot in addition to Lose Yourself. I’m really happy to know I’m not alone in the love for Eminem.
Thanks for sharing, Hugh. Timely post. Writer world so emotional at times… Songs by The Cult works wonders for my mood & for kicking that fear in the rear.
It seems we have a very similar playlist for boosting our writing. I’ve been listening to Rage Against the Machine’s Killing in the Name of for the last month on repeat. It’s very cathartic. ;)