Judine and I are in Tasmania for a week and a few days prior to attending two venues of Supanove in Melbourne and Gold Coast. This part is a real opportunity to wind down from writing the third Shannara book before going into the last. I had some opportunities to write on the various airplane flights we’ve been on over the last few days, but I just didn’t feel like it. Instead, I listened to music.
So I get asked all the time if I listen to music when I write, and the answer is no. I haven’t even really discussed the importance of music in my life, and maybe this is a good time to do so. I love music, and I have always used it for inspiration for writing my books. I listen to it to let it suggest ideas and characters and plot scenarios and all sorts of random pieces of a story. When I was a boy, my mother used to shop at Krogers on Fridays and always bought me a new LP record of classical music as a treat. I loved those records, and I gained a huge appreciation of classical music.
Of course, on the side, I was listening to rock and roll, but those songs never made me imagine quite the way classical music did. (Oddly, though, I still remember the lyrics to so many of those songs – they just stuck in my head and now are lodged there for all time.)
However, getting back to classical music. I had this great collection of albums purchased by my mom at a dollar apiece, all nestled nicely in these green and gold embossed folders. I listened to them alone. None of my friends wanted to listen to them. My mom was all about Tony Orlando and Dawn. My Dad claimed to have met Turk Murphy and bought him a drink in the 40s. I can’t remember what my sister was listening to, but I am sure it was horrible. (Full disclosure. She did go on to a successful career as an actress and singer and now writes plays for young adults, but I don’t think this justifies whatever music she was subjecting the rest of us to when she was 5 or 6.
Anyway, I would sit for long periods of time listening to my classical music – imagining scenes of wild country and wilder creatures, terrible tragedy, heart-stopping action and deeds of valor and courage. Even so, I never got into listening to them while writing. The music seemed to get in the way of the creative process when writing. Better that I just listen and dream.
This is still so, right up to this very day. So while flying here, I sat in my seat and listened to playlist after playlist for hours, just letting go of everything and dreaming whatever dreams happened to need it. I didn’t try to create, I didn’t try to write anything down. I just let it happen and if I remember some of what I dreamed, then I will use it. If not, that’s okay too. It all goes into the stew of creativity that allows me to put a story together.
By the way, my father received a letter from Turk Murphy late in life. In the letter, my father was reminded of the drink they had shared and the stories they had told, and Turk wished my father a Happy Birthday. Unfortunately, my father pointed out, Turk had died some years ago, and the letter was a fraud. I told him he was mistaken – Turk was alive and well, and the news of his death was premature. Also, he should stop looking at me like that. Sometimes you just believe things that you wish were true – especially if they might be.
Turk Murphy was well known in the 40s for his jazz and swing music. I will always remember his classic rendition of this song:
Evolution Mama, don’t you make a monkey out of me.
They just don’t write songs like that anymore. Maybe they should.