Music is a strange thing for me. During my formative teen years in the the Program, I wasn’t allowed to listen to music (other than their Christian music, which I didn’t like because it was being forced on us). When I got out of the program, I was so focused on surviving and work, I didn’t pursue music then either.
As an adult, I went in and out of liking music, mostly disliking it. It was something that was hard for others to understand. I mean, who doesn’t like music?
Music reminded me of how much freedom I had lost in my childhood. Going through life, people make constant references to artists, albums and songs that I had no clue about. It made me feel even more like an outsider.
But as I wrote my book, my relationship with music shifted.
I wrote about 70% of my memoir from a delightful cafe in the Highlands neighborhood of Louisville, Kentucky (Day’s Espresso & Coffee). Writing about emotional, private life events can be challenging in a public environment, but I struggled to stay focused when I wrote at home. I found when I’d write about my trauma at home, I’d avoid writing about the hard stuff and instead distract myself with chores like laundry or get up and play with the dogs. There were too many easy ways out at home. At the cafe, I was there to sit and write (and drink too much coffee and tea). It forced me keep me in my chair, and keep writing.
Cafes can get loud, so I brought headphones to stay focused. I started listening to white noise but it would lull me into a sleepy state. To pep up, I started listening to music again, something I rarely did unless I was in the car and there wasn’t anything appealing on NPR.
As I wrote, I found I actually enjoyed listening to music. It helped me keep focused and it challenged me to tap more deeply into my emotions.
I mostly listened to the same songs on repeat (I paid for them all via Google Play, I believe in supporting the artists). Here were my go-tos:
- This Must Be the Place, Talking Heads (reminds me of Brandon, a great friend who is no longer here)
- Make America Great Again, Pussy Riot
- Like Sugar, Chaka Khan
- I Drink, Mary Gauthier
- Juice, Lizzo
- Come on Eileen, Dexys Midnight Runners
- Ace, Noname featuring Smino and Saba
- Wildflowers, Tom Petty (reminds me of Clam)
- My Mind Ain’t Right, Nikki Lynette
- Motownphilly, Boyz II Men
- Bucket List, Saba featuring Matthew Santos
- Career Boy, Dorian Electra
- Violet, Hole
I’m glad I found my way back and joined the rest of the human population who embraces music for the wonderful art it is.
What are some of your favorite songs to listen to when writing or trying to unplug? Please share them in the comments.