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Téa Obreht Recommends...

Writers Recommend

Posted 3.16.11

“As a teenager, I spent hours dreaming up plots for books. This was something I felt was cooler than going to the mall, but not so cool that I was willing to waste daylight at a desk with a pencil and notepad. To make it cooler still, I would burn dozens of CDs (iPods not being in existence yet), soundtracks that would serve as musical stand-ins for what I felt I would be writing: mishmashes of rock and roll, classical music, and show tunes that, as assemblages, had no significance for anyone but me. When played, they would immediately transport me into the world I was devising, and I would walk, sometimes for miles, around and around the neighborhood, while my Discman churned in an effort I believed to be inextricably bound to my writing. I assumed, because I never actually wrote any of what I dreamed up, that this exercise was a failure. Then, many years later, I found myself in grad school and subject to a similar compulsion—except now I had a car, and ostensibly a brain, because the plots were actually making their way onto the page. I still can’t listen to music while I’m writing—music is never just white noise to me. But I would say that any writing time now begins with driving around under the influence of carefully arranged playlists that call to mind characters, plot points, or even the whole narrative arc of whatever it is I’m working on. I’m generally in favor of anything that makes the world you’re trying to create more real and accessible to you, so my advice is: Make a soundtrack for your book!”
Téa Obreht, author of The Tiger’s Wife (Random House, 2011)

Reader Comments

  • RosemaryLombard says...

    I find that hearing and reading poetry sparks my juices. First, it may sprout a poem, a reminder of how my poetry writing began during a series of readings of William Stafford's poetry: a whirlwind of mumbling phases, in dream and in waking. The hearing, the reading, and the writing of poetry subconsciously move a higher level and ease of sound, rhythm,and imagery into my nonfiction, and the spinning phrases set my fingers in motion.
    Current WIP, Diode's Experiment: A Box Turtle Investigates the Human World

  • A.R.Sago says...

    Until now, I'd never heard of someone else who can't listen to music while writing. When I was growing up, music was an escape for me and I too, would dream up stories as well as dances, etc, to the music I heard. So, like you, I find myself drifting off if I listen to music. lol
    Thanks for posting this!

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