Miranda Kenneally

Mexican Food Cures Writer's Block

The Importance of Muzak

I hate Muzak. I hate being in the grocery store and having to listen to the incessant groaning of pop-sounding music that’s trying way too hard. I’ll be strolling along, throwing frozen pizzas and cases of Diet Coke (my sister-in-law thinks I’m going to die from an Aspertame overdose) and Tostitos’ queso in my cart, and all I can think is, “If this music is the soundtrack of my life, my life must seriously suck.”

I don’t even get Muzak. I mean, is it supposed to make people feel comfortable? Happier? I’m sure it’s impregnated with hidden messages telling me to buy Tostitos’ queso, but does it really make me feel happier about shopping? Nope. In fact, I hate grocery shopping so much I have it down to a science. I can be in and out with $100 worth of groceries in about 10 minutes. God forbid Whole Foods (Whole Paycheck) or Giant change their aisle placement, because I’d probably have a nervous breakdown like I did at Target recently when I discovered they’d switched the electronics and groceries sections.

Anyway, the real thing I wanted to talk about is how important music is to my writing process. Important to any writer’s process, actually. When looking at authors’ acknowledgment pages, they tend to thank bands and musicians just as often as they thank their friends and editors and agents.

For instance, I’ve got two first drafts right now, and I know the complete stories for both manuscripts, but I can’t seem to finish them because I can’t find the right music to listen to.  When I wrote my first novel, a story about a boy from a dystopic society coming to Earth for the first time, I listened to tons of rap and hard rock (Thank you Flo Rida, Rihanna, Linkin Park, T.I., Chris Brown, Black Eyed Peas, Justin Timberlake, Paramore, Lady Gaga, Crowded House…). When I wrote my southern love story, I listened solely to sappy country music (thanks Taylor Swift, Dixie Chicks, Alison Krauss, the Kinleys, Deanna Carter).

Right now I’m working on a dual-narration YA novel about matchmaking, Quiz Bowl (geeky trivia squad), and suck-ass parents, and I can’t find the right music at all.  I’ve been doing a bit of Dave Matthews, some All-American Rejects… but none of it is working. I need the right music to find the right voice!

And for my other first draft, a post-apocalyptic thing, which I don’t want to say too much about, seems to require lots of classical.  So I’ve downloaded the 50 greatest overtures of all time, and I hope that will work.  (It should, I think the main reason I’m having problems with this first draft is that I need to do lots of research on hydroelectricity, which scares the shit out of me).

Anyhow – just wanted to talk a little about how important music is to me, and to all of us, and how it shapes our stories.

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