I’d like to write words like Keith Richards plays guitar.
Music is one of my favourite tools as a writer. Listening to music can settle me in, rev me up, and inspire me. I make specific playlists for each project I’m working on. Sometimes a playlist for each character. When I sit down to write a certain person, listening to ‘their’ music can help me get into their head. Or I’ll make a playlist for certain sections of a story, like ‘The Love Story Playlist’ or ‘The Down and Out Playlist’.
In my own head, I compare myself more often to musicians and singers than to other prose writers. That’s mostly useless, but interesting nonetheless. A good songwriter can tell a complete story, sometimes spanning years, in three minutes. That’s writing talent. Take a listen to Beeswing by Richard Thompson (okay, a complete story spanning years in five minutes).
Off the top of my head (and at this particular moment), as a writer, I’d like to be Steve Earle (the real Steve Earle – not the one known only for Copperhead Road and the like), John Hiatt, Richard Thompson, Lucinda Williams, Macy Grey, Lou Reed, Mark Knopfler, Nick Cave, Peter Gabriel, Buck 65, Rickie Lee Jones, Sheryl Crow, Tanita Tickaram, Benny Goodman, and of course, for those that know me, Mr. Tom Waits. I don’t think I’ve ever made a playlist for anything that doesn’t contain several Tom Waits songs.