A Novel Writing Mix Tape

I don’t typically write with music on in the background, and if I do, it is nearly always music without words. And I don’t typically match music up with what I’m currently writing, unlike my husband (also a writer) who tends to develop playlists to get himself in the right head space when coming back to the work after a time away.

But I have found that, in writing the first draft of my current WIP, I have been listening to the same few songs over and over again in the car when I’m not writing. It made me wonder if perhaps I had found myself a soundtrack for this novel. But two or three songs do not a soundtrack make. So I decided to go searching for other songs I felt fit the mood or themes of what I’ve been working on.

Lo and behold, it turns out that I easily identified more than twenty songs from my three favorite artists (Brandi Carlile, Indigo Girls, and Norah Jones) that put me in the right head space or otherwise inspire me for this particular novel (and if you checked out my husband’s current novel-writing playlist, you will see they are very different).

Some of these songs I’ve been listening to for over fifteen years. It’s possible that some of the themes I’m bringing out in my current work were partially inspired by these talented musicians when I was in my teens. Certainly the issues and themes I am dealing with in this book have been plaguing me since grade school, and perhaps one reason I gravitate toward music with poetic lyrics that often keep meaning ambiguous or even obscure. There are many things in this life I am sure of — but there are also things I just don’t have pinned down.

I already owned all of these songs on CD (because I’m NOT a millennial, no matter what my husband keeps saying to irritate me — no offense, millennials out there, I just don’t identify with you — that’s a whole other post, I guess…). And what do Gen Xers do when they want to listen to a certain combination of songs? They make a mix tape, of course. Why is this better than just making a playlist on your iPod? Because the order of the songs matters and you don’t want to shuffle it around.

Making mix tapes require a fair amount of thought. Once you’ve identified the songs you want on your mix tape, you have to arrange them so that the tempos are varied and the intensity ebbs and flows in the right way. It’s a bit like plotting out a novel. You don’t want to have all your excitement at the beginning and just let the last half fizzle out into nothing (see every K. T. Tunstall album). You want to hit the right mood notes at the right times.

So here’s my playlist for The Girl Who Could Breathe Underwater, beginning with the song I just can’t stop listening to…and ending with the other one I can’t stop listening to.


1. Heroes and Songs – Brandi Carlile (from The Firewatcher’s Daughter, 2015)

 


2. Mystery – Indigo Girls (from Swamp Ophelia, 1994)

 


3. Hand Me Downs – Indigo Girls (from Nomads, Indians, Saints, 1990)

 


4. Happy – Brandi Carlile (from Brandi Carlile, 2005)

 


5. The Things I Regret – Brandi Carlile (from The Firewatcher’s Daughter, 2015)

 


6. Deconstruction – Indigo Girls (from Become You, 2002)

 


7. Not My Friend – Norah Jones (from Not Too Late, 2007)

 


8. I’ll Change – Indigo Girls (from Poseidon and the Bitter Bug, 2009)

 


9. You and Me of the 10,000 Wars – Indigo Girls (from Nomads, Indians, Saints, 1990)

 


10. Save Part of Yourself – Brandi Carlile (from Bear Creek, 2012)

 


11. Turpentine – Brandi Carlile (from The Story, 2007)

 


12. Everything in Its Own Time – Indigo Girls (from Shaming of the Sun, 1997)

 


13. Toes – Norah Jones (from Feels Like Home, 2004)

 


14. I Will – Brandi Carlile (from Give Up the Ghost, 2009)

 


15. The Eye – Brandi Carlile (from The Firewatcher’s Daughter, 2015)

 


16. All the Way – Indigo Girls (from Despite Our Differences, 2006)

 


17. The Sun Doesn’t Like You – Norah Jones (from Not Too Late, 2007)

 


18. Touching the Ground – Brandi Carlile (from Give Up the Ghost, 2009)

 


19. Lay My Head Down – Indigo Girls (from Despite Our Differences, 2006)

 


20. Downpour – Brandi Carlile (from The Story, 2007)

 


21. Don’t Miss You At All – Norah Jones (from Feels Like Home, 2004)

 


22. Wilder (We’re Chained) – Brandi Carlile (from The Firewatcher’s Daughter, 2015)

One thought on “A Novel Writing Mix Tape

  1. I can’t write in silence, but like you words with lyrics pull me out of the flow state. Playlists can be both inspiring and distracting. My tendancy is to put on classical or jazz that’s just upbeat enough to lend me energy without being raucous.

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