I have a secret tool for working creatively. Music. It’s called music. I know, it’s a CRAZY newfangled thing, this music. (The sarcasm is so thick you could cut it with a knife there.) Did you know you can use music to fuel your creativity?
I am a firm believer that music is one of the best things out there to get you out of a funk – in almost any aspect of your life, really. It’s a really great fuel to help trigger emotions and story ideas, which help you set the scene for whatever project you are working on.
There are plenty of ways in which it could help you with your current project, or help you out of your creative funk.
Here are some tips for using music to fuel your creativity
Create a Playlist
One of the most obvious ways in which you can use music is by making a playlist. If you’re writing a story that’s inspirational, think about making a playlist of songs that you find inspiring and lighthearted. If it’s a drama, use music that sets that tone instead.
For artists, think about having several playlists, some for each type of mood you like to portray. It helps you get into the right mood to really put yourself into the work, and I have found that it makes a world of difference.
Listening to the right genre or sound when you are working on a project with a specific mood will help narrow down what you’re looking for. I know it may sound crazy, but I’ve made playlists for plenty of projects, from novels to gallery shows to fashion designs.
What you can do it start with a short playlist of ten songs (basically a soundtrack) that you think will work for you. Try it out, and see if it helps you. You never know, maybe you’ll create your best work yet. I’ve even designed a handy little set of worksheets that will help you keep track of your brainstorming and playlist! You can find it here.
Use songs as prompts
This is something that I first did in 8th grade. My English teacher at the time sat us down in our classroom with the lights off. With no buzzing from the lights overhead, and enough light coming in through the windows, he turned on a song. He picked some of his favorite music for that class, and I clearly remember Jack and Diane playing through the speakers of the little boombox.
With the music playing, he merely told us to write whatever came to mind – but only for the duration of the song. We could write notes or paragraphs, the choice was ours. He played a total of 6 songs, if memory serves. The only two I remember are Jack and Diane by John Mellancamp and 1979 by The Smashing Pumpkins.
I learned a really valuable lesson that day, and it has stuck with me ever since. Music can trigger things in you that you didn’t know where there.
When I sit down to write now, and I can’t seem to find what to write, I turn on music and close my eyes. I turn off any other distractions, but the music has to remain, even if quiet. If i let the music take over, I always find words. Not always what I expect, but something always comes.
I do the same for my art, and I have recently begun naming my paintings and drawings for the song that most influenced them. It helps IMMENSELY when trying to create a collection of works that all have the same type of atmosphere.
Use the lyrics to your advantage
A lot of songs tells stories. Some sad, some happy, some don’t even make sense. So why not use the story that’s already there? If you’re an artist, illustrate something from the song. Choose a line or two that can become a drawing or painting and create it. Or illustrate the entire song as a short comic.
If you’re a writer, consider writing what happened before the story in the song. If it’s a break up song, write about how they met. You’re listening to a love song? Write about the bad parts instead. Or better yet, write the other perspective – you know, the one the song is about, rather than from the perspective it’s already written.
Using lyrics to trigger some creative thoughts can go a long way, and can result in some really cool work you never would have considered creating otherwise. I know it’s definitely helped me in the past.
Questions to Ask Yourself While Listening to Music
If you’re not sure if listening to music alone will help, I do have another suggestion. Ask yourself some questions.
How does the song make you feel? Is it happy? Sad?
Does it remind you of a certain memory, or maybe just a time period?
Can you use the song as inspiration for a character in your next story, or will it work as an anthem for a project?
Would it work as part of a soundtrack for whatever project you’re working on?
Don’t worry about being too specific when using music for your creativity. It’s all about the feeling, not about planning. It’s all about getting outside of your comfort zone and trying something new to see what helps and what doesn’t. Who knows, maybe you’ll find a new favourite method by giving that new thing a try.
Pssst! I designed a set of worksheets that goes along with this post to help you keep your notes organized while working with music! You can find it – and a bunch of other FREEBIES – by clicking here!