I read an interview with Chuck Palahniuk many years ago when I was still young and in college, and trying to divine as much as I could about writing from those I deemed “masters” of the craft. Even though I’ve fallen out of love with his work in recent years, I have to admit Chuck has one hell of a work ethic (he had, and I think he still has, a book deal dictating one title a year). Leave it to Chucky P. to plant a seed for a tactic I still go to time and time again.
This was around the time Lullaby came out. In the interview he mentioned his playing the same song over and over again while he wrote. The idea, he said, was that once you’ve heard that song, you tune it out. You hear it, but you don’t, and it sort of becomes a kind of mantra to which you work. I’ve done it several times and, so far, it seems to work for me.
The method has been a godsend at times. This novel, which (I thought) would be something as simple as its counterpart, reared its head early on to reveal the monster beneath, and I found I had a hard time sticking with it. Listening to a song on seemingly infinite repeat has helped a great deal. I like to think of the music as a tool for channeling and focusing. If writing is a meditative state (and it usually is for me), listening to one song over and over is the switch that gets me there.
So, Monday night, I came home, locked myself away, turned off all the lights, put on “The End” by the Doors, and started to write. I emerged five hours later with chapter 8 finished. I’d listened to the song a little over 27 times, and I don’t remember hearing most of it.
It worked. I recommend you try it. Go ahead. Experiment with your music. Find something you already know by heart, and then put it on infinite repeat. Sit down, turn off the lights, and listen. Write.
Give it a try. I’d like to hear what musical choices work for you.