Many of those who might not know me personally are unaware of my past… At least I would hope so! Before I discovered that literature and writing was an unshakable passion of mine, my ambitions lay in the realms of music; I wanted to be a musician. Truth be told, I still love music; it’s as much a part of me as any words or stories are. Ever since I was young I had an affinity with the subject, it excited me in ways not much else could. Even today music is a huge part of my life and it’s also a huge part of my writing. 

Music as a Form of Expression 

I’m sure many of you along with the majority of the human race enjoy music in one form or another, some people love going out to see bands, some love to play, others just love to listen in the comfort of their own home. For me music seemed to talk to me in a way that words couldn’t. Sometimes the emotions explored in an instrumental piece of music can never be put into words, the art is purely subjective and unique to each and every listener. In truth I find that philosophy remarkable, I always have and always will. In fact music has enriched my life far more than I really give credit for but what I’m really blown away by is how much music has enriched my writing. 

Music is the Shorthand of Emotion

Leo Tolstoy

What Music Says to Me

When I was in primary school I acquired my first guitar, badgering my parents for weeks and weeks then eventually months and months until they caved in. I still remember it today, I’m pretty sure it was Christmas, although it could have been a birthday, and there it was my very own guitar. I wasn’t really allowed to play it until my parents sorted out some lessons, I’m sure they wanted to spare themselves the ear grating sound of a young child trying to teach himself how to play, or maybe they didn’t want me to break it. My love of music only grew and grew and grew with countless college bands and pub gigs around my hometown, all until I even began to study it at an academic level. Music had spoken to me with such a profound voice that it had become part of me. I’d picked up bass, piano, drums even singing in addition to my guitar and before I knew it I was studying music at university! 

It wasn’t my calling though. I loved music for a different reason many musicians loved the subject. I was never that interested in joining bands or creating my own musical style. I just loved the magic that music brought to my life, the magic it still brings to me today. Music for me was a self-indulgent practice, a way for me to explore my mind and my psyche without the use of words or meditation. Music said things for me, and it said things to me. Music became a form of expression, a friendly guide offering it’s hand to me and my soul searching. 

Words and Sounds    

I’d developed a love for something and realised it wasn’t my pathway to take. In all honesty once I’d quit music academically I was hurt, feeling almost as if the magic had abandoned me in some way. My love of literature was all that remained with me and Kerouac’s tales of adventure lightened my mood, I knew that exciting things lay in store for me on the road to new places. As I got more invested in my writing and my reading I started to see a side to music that I’d never really seen before. 

Music was a way to enhance, to improve. I’d started listening to music while reading, completely immersing myself in story and character. Music became the shovel I used to dig myself deeper and deeper into my stories and my literature. My writing seemed to flow through my fingers like music on the keys, like Kerouac my writing had become musical. Instead of taking the improvisational qualities that inspired the beats, music had caused my writing to feel more emotional to me, more expressive. Each word is almost like an interval on a keyboard. Now music and writing are linked together for me, inextricably.  

Music brings a warm glow to my vision, thawing mind and muscle from their endless wintering.

Haruki Murakami

Many writers feel that music can be a distraction to our craft but I disagree. Music makes me write with a fever and urgency I would be unable to do organically, it stokes the fires so to speak. Music is at the heart of my writing, providing me with the capabilities to write with an unashamed honesty that surprises even myself. Emotional investment in our writing is front and centre of our craft and music helps me achieve that. When I hear sad lonely piano’s playing wistfully away I think of Esther Greenwood roaming round New York in the Bell Jar or Gatsby looking out at East Egg thinking about the past with a reminiscent smile. Music conjures up an imagery for me, an imagery I love to share and document in my writing. 

I’d be very curious to know how other writers feel about music, is it a help or a hindrance? Let me know what you think down in the comments.