If I am writing a murder mystery from the perspective of an investigative reporter, say, I wouldn't read a book about the same. (I've never actually written that. It happens to be what I'm reading now. Check out "Faces of the Gone" by Brad Parks. Nice guy; good, award-winning book.) However, I would read other mysteries. Keeping myself suspended in tension (or romance, literary fiction, etc.) 24/7 even when I am away from my laptop helps keep my writing on spot. That's the mood part - both mine and my novel's. The craft part is that the novels I read make for great study. If I like a device used by the author, I might try it. Opposite is true, of course, for things I don't, like long prologues. Unsurprisingly, the more unfamiliar what I'm writing is to me, the more I want to immerse myself in it.
But at some point, the study goes from tutor and catalyst to distraction. A time comes when I am so deep in my own head and my story is rolling, that I become deaf to the rest of the world. I don't even read that much at night. There is no room in my head anymore for anyone else's voice. I give everything I've got to my story. Everything else is suffers, but I am manic. I have no choice. I close the laptop in the wee hours and pass out for a few more until I wake up, take care of the absolute minimum of my other responsibilities and then become deaf again.
Music is different. Music is my muse, not my study. Music never messes with me. It freely and always gives me what I need. It helps me unlock safes and translate foreign languages. You would not believe how many of my gnarly plot/dialogue/character knots have loosened and slipped into solved in my car with the stereo blaring. Here are some of the artists to whom I owe pockets of my sanity:
- Mumford & Sons, possibly my favorite band ever
- Ed Sheeran
- Taylor Swift
- Florence + the Machine
- Fun. (don't sleep on the first album, very diff from 2nd, but great; sound can be misleading, have to listen to lyrics - an attribute I love)
- Brett Dennen- an incredible poet
- Amos Lee - soul, baby, soul
- Hunter Hayes
- Joshua James - another poet
- Augustana - too much talent
- Matt Nathanson
- and always, always The Killers
I would never describe myself as hip on music. But I love knowing people who are. I suppose I owe some of my sanity (and word count!) to them as well. :)
Happy Holidays, my friends! For those brave NaNoWriMo souls, great job! Be proud. Keep it up.
@mmfinck on Twitter