I didn't used to need music to write to. I suppose I still don't, but I've finally figured out what sorts of music inspires me to write with a little more abandon.
My iPod has I don't know how many thousands of songs on it - and the iPad does now, too - and of course that's all stored on the laptop. (A MacBook Pro, yes I'm an Apple victim. Shut up.) I also have a Bose sound dock that I can listen to XM and the iPod through so if I need some room-filling, epic music to get my tired fingers flying over the keyboard, I can do that. There are CD player boomboxes throughout the house, too.
No, I don't wear headphones or earbuds or anything like that unless someone else is home. Since I tend to write in the mornings (except during NaNo when any time of day is fair game) I don't usually need them. And since this year I've gotten very comfortable writing in my home office (as opposed to last year at the dining room table) I don't think I'll have to wear headphones much at all this year.
What am I listening to? I hear you asking. Even if you didn't, let's pretend. Here's a sample of a couple of playlists.
Last year was mostly Hans Zimmer's Dark Knight and Inception soundtracks. I think it reflects in the writing of the novel because it helped me keep the excitement level up. About halfway through the month I built another playlist that had some rock stuff mixed in with the film scores and that kept the levels up. Some Godsmack, Alice in Chains, Anthrax, Metallica, and just about anything else that had some relentless energy to it.
But I also have a soft spot for just about any Thomas Newman soundtrack and David Holmes' rather brilliant Ocean's 12. With Newman, Road to Perdition lets me sink into some melancholy while the wide-ranging instrumentation of A Series of Unfortunate Events lets me open up to the bizarre. These things didn't creep too much into the writing because they weren't necessary to tell the story but in the end they did help inform some feelings the characters had. The Adjustment Bureau soundtrack has a nice mix of rock and film score all on its own and that's been one that is in rotation since spring.
It's not about the stories of the scores. It's about the energy of the music. The things I listen to have to have a wide variety of energies that, while familiar, allow me to explore what those energies are doing to my brain as I listen. I don't tune them out, but my listening isn't always active. Sometimes I will put a list on and two hours later wonder why I didn't hear Pearl Jam's Ten play because that's what I wanted to listen to when I sat my butt in the chair and put my fingers on the keys.
Turns out I was so lost in the story I listened but I didn't hear. So I guess I don't need to have music playing when I'm in The Zone writing, but it sure helps.