My Writing Soundtrack

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Source: Pixabay

October 2014: Altar Bar, Pittsburgh. I am at a Com Truise show with a good friend. About six weeks prior to the show I broke my left foot and ankle, and I was still wearing a cast and taking painkillers because it didn’t heal properly (but that’s a story for another post). My friend and I sat at the back of the bar and let the multicolored lights and synthwave vibes consume us.

Com Truise played one of my favorite songs, “Subsonic.” As my eyes followed the light show to the beat, my altered mind conjured a fantastical vision: a scared boy, running through the woods in the middle of the harsh Pennsylvania winter. He stops at a large snow-covered mound with glowing eyes. My body was overwhelmed with excitement and terror. This became the inspiration for my novel Mechanica Atrocitas, which is currently in the first phase of editing. I wrote the rough draft while listening to Com Truise’s album Galactic Melt.

For many writers, it is much easier to get into the writing zone by listening to music that inspires them. Writing and music share a beautiful relationship; Mechanica Atrocitas sometimes feels like my tribute to Galactic Melt. Some writers even include their musical influences within their work; one of the most prolific examples being Haruki Murakami, who name drops musicians and songs in nearly all of his work.

It is important to find the best writing music for you. While many writers enjoy classical music, I tend to find it just as distracting as lyrical pop. You may find that the time of year or your genre of choice will determine the best music. For example, every year during NaNoWriMo I find my greatest inspiration while listening to Christmas music – so much so that the opening scene of my (unfinished) 2016 NaNo project features my protagonists singing along to Wham!’s “Last Christmas” (RIP George Michael).

The most common advice I’ve read about finding the right writing music is to avoid songs with lyrics. This is wise, though I have written short stories after being inspired by a pop song. When this happen, I tend to listen to the song on repeat until I finish my first draft. Thank goodness for headphones, or my boyfriend would hate me! Classical music is popular, but as I already mentioned, it doesn’t work for me. Synthwave/chillwave, electronica, lo-fi hip hop, vaporwave and future funk are worth trying. Each of these styles are mainly instrumental and embody different energies, which are further varied by song and artist.

Lyrical pop in a language that is foreign to you could also work well. K-pop (Korean pop music) is a popular genre choice full of variety, ranging from love ballads to hip hop. I have also listened to Chinese rap, Japanese rock, and Brazilian ska. Check out TuneIn, which has live streams of radio stations from around the world. This could be especially beneficial if you are trying to capture the spirit of a different place: you may live in the UK, but you could listen to what your Colombian protagonist could be singing along to on the radio in real time!

Artists, YouTube channels, and playlists that I use the most include:

  1. Artzie Music: an awesome channel full of high-energy future funk and retro, instrumental dance music.
  2. STEEZYASFUCK: my all-time favorite channel, full of instrumental, lo-fi hip hop beat tapes.
  3. Tokimonsta: Midnight Menu and Creature Dreams are both great, chill instrumental albums. Both are available on Amazon.
  4. Nujabes: Pretty much everything by Nujabes calms and inspires me.
  5. J Dilla: J Dilla was the master of instrumental hip hop. Donuts is his most popular album, for good reasons (also available on CD, MP3, cassette, and vinyl on Amazon). I recommend his entire discography.
  6. DJ Okawari – Kaleidoscope: This album has lyrics, but I’ve never found it to be distracting. In fact, I’ve found it incredibly easily to get lost in DJ Okawari’s beats. Here’s his official SoundCloud.
  7. Majestic Casual: a channel with a wide range of chill music. I’m fond of their hour-long Sunday chill mix.
  8. Bsd.u – [late night bumps 1-4]: There are lyrics, but I find them hard to notice.
  9. Lost in the woods/Mori Girl playlist: Sometimes I get in a forest/nature mood, and the best forest vibes I’ve found were in this 8tracks playlist. Packed with 70 great songs, it was my go-to until 8tracks placed a limit on how many hours I could listen to per month.
  10. Nintendo music compilations: Video games are full of musical gems. Lacking lyrics, they are designed to enhance focus and avoid distraction. I prefer Nintendo soundtracks, like late night music from Animal Crossing and this relaxing playlist from various Nintendo games.
  • Current drink: Lagunitas Citrusinensis Pale Ale
  • Current book: The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell
  • Current audio book: The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro
  • Current music:  jinsang – life [full album]

“Time management! My only weakness!”: A True Story

It has been ten days since my last post. While that is not a horrible break (I had no set schedule for posts in the first place), I still find it unacceptable. I have now set a more solid (minimum) goal of posting every 3-4 days.

I know why it took me so long to make a post; my reason is similar to why so many other blogs have long breaks and eventually die. And hey, this blog will likely die as well, once its purpose in my life is fulfilled, or I’m dead, or the Internet shuts down in our imminent post-apocalyptic Mad Max future. Long breaks between posts, and productive writing days, can often be attributed to time management issues.

I am guilty of procrastination. I am a girl who tends to put too much on my plate, and who, after getting overwhelmed three-quarters of the way through that plate, disappears and grabs a beer – or worse, a shiny, new full plate. My struggles with anxiety and depression have a tendency to amplify this procrastination; if I fail at one thing or feel inexplicable low levels of energy, I tend to close myself in and be lazy, which I usually justify in the name of self-care. Don’t get me wrong: self-care is important! But I was not taking care of myself on Friday when I felt so stressed that I skipped going to my freelance gig and read over 800 pages of Kazuo Umezu’s bibliography (if you love horror manga, I recommend Senrei and Left Hand of God, Right Hand of the Devil). My gig was optional, but the only penalty was large: I missed out on a chance to earn money, which I desperately need. The guilt that I feel over this doesn’t make my wrongly-justified break worthwhile.

However, I would like to think that I am more productive than lazy. My most common complaint is that there are not enough hours in the day. I think we all feel this way sometimes. I thought that this feeling would vanish after I quit working a regular 9-5, but I was wrong. In fact, working a “flexible” (read: unpredictable) schedule is even more stressful. At least when one works a set schedule, they know in advance if they are able to attend something like a weekday evening event. If I’m lucky, I know my schedule 3 days in advance.

It is a month after college graduation, and I am beginning to have some semblance of a schedule. I was hired as an after-school teacher for one company and may be hired with another tutoring company as well. I have a secondary (tertiary?) gig doing freelance. I have lots of time to write, so I’ve been working on pieces for contests and applying for ghostwriting gigs. On top of all this, I volunteer for four organizations! Sounds great, right? My schedule would argue otherwise. The earliest that I can work at any of my out-of-the-home paid or volunteer gigs is 3 pm, which is my lowest energy time of the day.

I’ve always fancied myself as a multi-tasker. It is a term that people have used to compliment me on many occasions. But I currently feel like I am juggling way too much and accomplishing nothing.

After an experimental first month of 2017, I’ve concluded that my lifestyle needs some changes. I think I’m going to follow Rookie’s advice and focus on one thing at a time. I also need to adjust my sleep schedule so that I wake up later. But most importantly, I need to learn my limits. As is often the case, that which is most important is also the most difficult.

  • Current drink: Lagunitas Citrusinensis Pale Ale
  • Current book: Wind/Pinball by Haruki Murakami
  • Current audio book: The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro
  • Current music:  NIKK BLVKK – Last Light [Full BeatTape]

Where I’m At: January 2017

Between December 17, 2016 and January 17, 2017 I graduated from college, applied for Freya only knows how many jobs, and was hired as a part-time writing, reading, and SAT tutor. I watched the first eight episodes of VOTOMS, read seven books, and finished building one gunpla (the Gusion Rebake HG kit). I signed up for two tutoring sites, one freelancing site, and started posting/reblogging a lot on my studyblr, m-i-n-e-r-v-a.

The other night I realized that, while only working part-time is not ideal, I finally have the opportunity to do something I’ve complained for years of having no time or energy for: “serious” writing. My main writing in the past three years have been poetry that I’ve read at slams and open mics, while I’ve saved fiction for November and NaNoWriMo. Some of this could be considered “serious” writing by others, but I never considered it to be so because I never edited any of these pieces. While plenty of first drafts contain diamonds in the rough, my writings were still…well, very rough. I simply poured out my feelings before moving on.

With the help of a couple beers and a killer soundtrack on YouTube, I spent a recent evening reviewing and editing a 140 page manuscript I finished for NaNo in 2013. I came to the conclusion that the manuscript is: a) a hot mess, and b) redeemable. In the next month I plan on fixing it into a more exciting (and readable!) story.

In the meantime, I am considering a return to writing reviews. Uchuu Sentai Kyuuranger will begin airing next month, so I may return to writing toku reviews! I am also looking at writing specifically for contests.

Welcome!

This is my first post on Magical Girl Cafe! I plan to update regularly; expect an update in the next day or two. In the meantime, check out my About page for information concerning me and this blog!

  • Current drink: chocolate salted caramel cold drip coffee
  • Current book: Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish by David Rakoff
  • Current audio book: Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
  • Current music: Kaleidoscope [album] by DJ Okawari