Songs for Writers

Songs for Writers

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I went running yesterday, and as often happens when I run, my mind turned to writing. I have a running playlist, but instead of using these songs as motivation to exercise, I usually apply them to writing.

Yesterday, I realized my playlist mapped out way more of the writing process than the get-your-ass-around-this-track process. Why? I’ve been going through a spectrum of emotions lately, from jealousy at others’ success to despair at my lack of success to excitement because I think The Dante Deception is going to kick ass.

Having that in my head, all day every day, is a lot to deal with. I wear myself out in my sleep before I even have to get up to face the day.

Maybe some of these songs say the things I can’t say in public. Writers must be gracious, thick-skinned, and implacable. We must never reply to a rejection or a bad review, must never protest double standards/impossible standards/poorly defined standards, or complain about anything. If we do, we’re seen as bitter, non-cooperative, and difficult to work with. So I don’t do those things.

Writers must be gracious, thick-skinned, and implacable. We must never reply to a rejection or a bad review, must never protest double standards/impossible standards/poorly defined standards, or complain about anything. If we do, we’re seen as bitter, non-cooperative, and difficult to work with.

But this doesn’t mean I don’t get mad. I’ve had most of the reactions below at some point or other in the past 10 years. No matter where you are in the writing journey, hopefully you’ll see some of the songs below and think, “Yep. Nailed it.” Then listen to the relevant song, let the anger go, and keep writing.

Bonus: I set the YouTube embeds to the relevant starting point to make this whole thing easier to follow. There are some sweary bits, so proceed with caution.

When You and Your Characters Get Along and Writing Seems Like a Pretty Good Idea

Song: Fidelity
Artist: Regina Spektor
Relevant Lyrics: “I hear in my mind – all of these voices – I hear in my mind – All of these words – I hear in my mind – All of this music – And it breaks my heart.”

When You’re Staring at a Blank Page and Feeling a Bit Overwhelmed But Writing Still Seems Like a Pretty Good Idea

Song: Pages
Artist: Bering Strait (a Russian country band, believe it or not)
Relevant Lyrics: “You know me by the stories I have made – You know me, lookin’ out through boxes and cages – And it’s hard to clearly see what’s right in ordinary light – Does the truth filter down through the ages? We cannot see the end so here we must begin – Tell me what will we write on these pages?”

When You Start to Get Ahead of Yourself and Dream of Fame, Riches, and a Literary Agent before You Have a Completed Work or a Query Letter

Song: Use Somebody
Artist: Kings of Leon
Relevant Lyrics: “Off in the night, while you live it up, I’m off to sleep – Waging wars to shape the poet and the beat – I hope it’s gonna make you notice.”

When You Aren’t Sure If What You Wrote Is Any Good But You’re Too Chicken to Show It to Anyone in Case It Sucks Balls Or What If You DO Show It to Someone and They Make That Gymnast-Meme Face So You Just Keep It to Yourself and Pretend It’s Awesome

Song: The House that Heaven Built
Artist: Japandroids
Relevant Lyrics: “When they love you and they will – Tell them all they’ll love in my shadow – And if they try to slow you down – Tell them all to go to hell.”

When It’s Time to Start Revising and You Think You Are Two Editing Passes Away from Completing the Great American Novel and Earning Untold Wealth and Praise

Song: Work, Bitch
Artist: Britney Spears
Relevant Lyrics: “You wanna live fancy? Live in a big mansion? Party in France? You better work, bitch…Now get to work, bitch.”

When You’ve Made Five Editing Passes and Don’t Know What the Fuck You’re Doing Anymore and Look Back at Your Cavalier Attitude Four Editing Passes Ago and Want to Smack Yourself

Song: Pin a Rose on Me
Artist: Chuck Prophet
Relevant Lyrics: “You saw a light – I saw a freight train comin’ – I tried to tell you he [read: your book] was no damn good – You heard bells – I heard the hammer fallin’ – He [read: your book] ran you down like I said he would.”

When You’ve Made Eight Editing Passes and Still Don’t Know What You’re Doing or Why You’re Even Alive

Song: This Woman’s Work
Artist: Kate Bush
Relevant Lyrics: “I know you have a little life in you yet – I know you have a lot of strength left – I should be crying, but I just can’t let it show – I should be hoping, but I can’t stop thinking.”

When You Get a Rejection Letter but the Agent or Editor Compliments Your Work So You’re Pissed and Pumped at the Same Time

Song: S.O.B.
Artist: Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats
Relevant Lyrics: “Son of a bitch – pour me a drink.” (…with the most upbeat possible melody in the background, of course.)

When You Get Any Other Kind of Rejection Letter, Especially Ones That Misspell Your Name or Book Title and/or Arrive Sixteen Months after You Sent the Query
Stage 1: Anger

Song: Fuck You
Artist: Cee-Lo
Relevant Lyrics: “Fuck you.”

When You Get Any Other Kind of Rejection Letter
Stage 2: Bitterness

Song: Girl from the Gutter
Artist: Kina
Relevant Lyrics: “I hope your hell is filled with magazines – and on every page, you see a big picture of me.”

When You Get Any Other Kind of Rejection Letter
Stage 3: Self-Loathing Mixed with Bitterness

Song: Untouchable Face
Artist: Ani DiFranco
Relevant Lyrics: “Fuck you and your untouchable face – fuck you for existing in the first place – and who am I, that I should by vying for your touch – yeah, who am I – I bet you can’t even tell me that much.”

When You Get Any Other Kind of Rejection Letter
Stage 4: Acceptance

Song: This Isn’t Everything You Are
Artist: Snow Patrol
Relevant Lyrics: “And in one little moment – It all implodes – This isn’t everything you are – Breathe deeply in the silence – No sudden moves – This isn’t everything you are – Just take the hand that’s offered – And hold on tight – This isn’t everything you are – There’s joy not far from here – I know there is – This isn’t everything you are.”

When You Get Any Other Kind of Rejection Letter
Stage 5: Hope Reborn

Song: Fight Song
Artist: Rachel Platten
Relevant Lyrics: “This is my fight song – Take back my life song – Prove I’m alright song – My power’s turned on – Starting right now I’ll be strong – I’ll play my fight song – And I don’t really care if nobody else believes – ‘Cause I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me.”

When You Get An Acceptance Letter

Song: Thrift Shop
Artist: Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
Relevant Lyrics: “This is fucking awesome.”

When You Test Your ePub Media Queries a Million Times But Keep Seeing Double Images Until You Realize You Exported to Epub2 Not Epub3 and Also That You You Just Solved a Tech Problem without Stack Overflow

Song: Into the Blue
Artist: Kylie Minogue
Relevant Lyrics: “When I got my back up against the wall – Don’t need no one to rescue me.”

When All the Book Marketing Advice Tells You That You Need a Fuckload More People on Your Mailing List or You’ll Never Amount to Anything and I Thought This Was Writing But It Has Nothing to Do with Writing and When the Hell Did It All Get So Complicated?

Song: Airplanes
Artist: B.O.B. f. Hayley Williams
Relevant Lyrics: “…somebody take me back to the days – Before this was a job, before I got paid – Before it ever mattered what I had in my bank – Yeah, back when I was tryin’ to get a tip at Subway – And back when I was rappin’ for the hell of it – But nowadays we rappin’ to stay relevant – .”

When People Ask You Why You Don’t Just Give Up and Do Something That Actually Makes Money

Song: Anyway
Artist: Martina McBride
Relevant Lyrics: “You can chase a dream – That seems so out of reach – And you know it might not ever come your way – Dream it anyway.”

Second Relevant Lyric: “You can pour your soul out singing – A song you believe in – That tomorrow they’ll forget you ever sang – Sing it anyway – Yeah, sing it anyway.” Replace “sing” with write and this pretty much sums it all up.

When You Wake Up in the Morning and Realize Your To-Do List Is Longer than War and Peace and Gone with the Wind and All the Emails You Ever Wrote Your Ex-Boyfriend Put Together But There’s Still Nothing You’d Rather Do with Your Life Than Try to Make It As a Writer

Song: The Fighter
Artist: Gym Class Heroes
Relevant Lyrics: “Until the referee rings the bell – Until both your eyes start to swell – Until the crowd goes home – What we gonna do ya’ll? – Give em hell, turn their heads – Gonna live life ’til we’re dead – Give me scars, give me pain – Then they’ll say to me, say to me, say to me – There goes the fighter.”

See how I ended all that on an upbeat note? It’s not all drinking and depression around here.

Now it’s your turn. What are your favorite songs for writers? What music keeps you believing in yourself and what you do?

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About the Author

Jenni Wiltz

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I write thrillers, romance, historical fiction, tiara posts, and more. Right now, I'm working on a nonfiction trilogy: Grand Duchess Hilda of Baden, Grand Duchess Elizaveta Mikhailovna of Russia, and Princess Augusta of Brunswick.

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