Shauna Seliy is the DJ for my second novel. She’s sent me at least 7 cds of music over the last three years to listen to as I work on it. So it makes a lot of sense to me that Largehearted Boy has her doing their novel playlist feature, where they ask her to write about music she listened to while writing the novel.
In movies, there’s often a single defining moment when a character seems to be asked, “Are you going to give up?” Maybe in a hard driving rain on an obstacle course, late at night, and the character lets loose a kind of primal shout at the dark sky. No! we understand, no he won’t give up! If the thing you are trying to do is write a book, and if you’re accompanied by the kind of bloodthirsty self-doubt that beset me throughout that process, the question presents itself more on the order of every few minutes. And you are more likely sitting in a crowded coffee shop wondering if your computer will get stolen while you’re in the bathroom. Or thinking, taking a look at a nearby homeless man writing messages on napkins, that the only thing that separates you from him is your laptop. Or maybe the question will present itself to you in the form of roiling night sweats caused by the deep tissue knowledge of your credit card balance that your body seems to have acquired. Or it’s possible that you read a little Alice Munro the night before, maybe a few lines of Chekhov. In the clear light of day, you know you’re screwed. They’ve done it all, and done it better than you ever could even if you were to stay at the coffee shop 24 hours a day for the rest of your life. Giving up starts to look not only fiscally responsible, but noble. Yes, you will give up! You will close your laptop and politely step out of the way so that the avenues to Munro and Chekhov will remain wide.
At times such as these, good tunes are essential fortifiers. They are excellent tools for blocking out the aggressive, unceasing bark of self-doubt as well as the sounds of coffee shop commerce. And more than that, songs themselves are three to four minute testaments to the value of making things. Before they were there, there was just nothing, silence. Each of them is a shout at the same silence that, say, your book itself is addressing.