The creative process is a magical thing, and every creative person out there has their own unique way of tapping into it. Some people just flip open their laptop and go. Others need to do it with a pen and paper. And then there’s the vast majority of us, who have all kinds of ridiculously particular routines that will probably only get more ridiculous as we get older.
For me, when I decide that I’m feverish enough to start writing another novel, I like having a soundtrack. Seriously, having the right music gets me into the zone. You know, the creative zone. That’s the place where characters come to life and start arguing with you. Where the environment you’re creating starts to become more real than the room around you. Writers exist for this zone. We think about it constantly, whether we’re at the grocery store or trying to sleep. And for me, the right music helps me tap into that zone like cracking an egg creates the possibility of an omelet.
Coffee helps, too.
But it’s not just any music. For me, I’m apparently so ridiculous that by now, I like to have a specific playlist for each writing project I take on. I know, I know, it’s too much! But that’s how it is. When I’m writing, this music becomes so intimately connected with the novel that it becomes, for me, the story’s playlist. Back when I was writing Pale Highway, I spent a lot of time listening to The Album Leaf. But Intraterrestrial required a different soundtrack.
Intraterrestrial is, without question, a weird novel. By its nature, this book is two stories, each one wrapped around one another like a braided rope: on one hand, there’s the tale of Adam, a young boy undergoing an imaginative journey through the cosmos, meeting “aliens” formed by his own imagination, while knowing that when he comes back to Earth, his life could be totally unlike what it was before. On the other hand, there’s the story of Camille, his mother—a woman stubbornly fighting to protect her son from the perils of the medical system, while battling her own guilt about the car crash that created this situation.
As I was writing Intraterrestrial, the music that really jump-started my creative process was that of Italian composer Ludovico Einaudi, whose work I was introduced to when he scored the French film The Intouchables (which, by the way, I highly recommend!). To put it clearly, Einaudi’s album Divenire helped me form the backbone of this novel. Seriously, I almost can’t imagine writing it without that soundtrack. This particular piece, to me, totally captures Adam’s journey through space:
However, there’s another song that played an important role in the development of Intratrerrestrial, and this song also plays an integral role in the novel’s story. If you’ve read the book (now available on Amazon, don’t forget!), then you know the song I’m talking about: it’s Soundgarden’s “The Day I Tried to Live,” sung by the now tragically deceased Chris Cornell.
It’s hard to pinpoint the exact moment that Intraterrestrial first came to me, as a concept. But I do remember that when the story finally came together in my head—as I envisioned this boy riding a “lightboard” through outer space, while his physical body remained in a hospital bed on Earth—I was definitely listening to this song.
Now, let me ask all of you other writers, artists, and creative types in general: do you have specific soundtracks for your projects? Or on the other hand, maybe you have your own specific creative habits, outside of that?
If so, what are they?