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The rhythm of writing
Dispatch from Writing with the Seasons - March 2023
Welcome to ‘Writing with the Seasons’. In 2023, I’m sharing shorter dispatches alongside our monthly essays and brand new audio courses.
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I used to write only in silence. Occasionally, I’d listen to Chopin and Bach, trip hop and ambient music. But recently, perhaps because of the momentum of spring, I’ve been exploring different kinds of songs as I write. It helps me concentrate, as well as access specific, deeply emotional moods, and it shifts my thinking in surprising ways.
Some days, I want to hear Nina Simone feel all the feelings and belt out a huge, bold song. Other times, I need gentle folk music by women who tell stories in songs, like Joni Mitchell. Other times, it’s a whole soundtrack from a musical, or something joyful by Lizzo, so I can feel rhythm in every part of my body.
I’ve had so much energy in my step since reading Jacqueline Crook’s Fire Rush. A mesmerising book, it’s filled with music and rhythm. A young woman called Yamaye dances all weekend to dub reggae, the music of her soul. Here’s the opening lines: One o’clock in the morning. Hotfoot, all three of us. Stepping where we had no business. Tombstone Estate gyals – Caribbean, Irish. No one expects better. We ain’t IT. But we sure ain’t shit. All we need is a likkle bit of riddim. So we go inna it, deep, into the dance-hall Crypt.
Music is at the heart of the book, so Jacqueline created a playlist for readers to listen as they follow the story. I love that idea! Other authors make playlists for their writing: songs a character loves, to evoke an atmosphere or place, or to capture an era. My current project is about friendship, fury and ghosts, so this is definitely something I want to try…
How about you? What’s your relationship to writing, reading and music? Drop a note in the comments!
Writing with the Seasons is brought to you by Write & Shine, a programme of morning writing events and online courses. Spring artwork by Lizzy Stewart.
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