What do I know about music?
The short answer is: Not a hell of a lot. I know that there are 4 beats to a bar, and I know some chords as related to the guitar and that’s about it. That’s just the nuts and bolts stuff. A conversation about composition gets me in over my head from the get go. Music theory? Best call search and rescue because I’ll be totally lost.
The longer answer is complicated: I know a hell of a lot about music. I know that I need music like I need to breathe. I know what will get my toes tapping, what will get my leg bouncing, what will get me to sing along.
I know what makes me want to get up and move, what will run through me like liquid fire and make me want to shout the lyrics to the sky until my voice is gone. I even know the music that can, and has, brought tears to my eyes even if I have a hard time articulating why. Music has a voice and that voice speaks to me on a primal level.
I think that everybody hears that voice and that it’s different for everyone.
What does this have to do with writing?
Well, it should go without saying that I listen to music while writing (even as I type this, I’ve got the ear-buds in so I don’t disturb the house–today’s soundtrack is intense), but that’s not what I’m talking about.
Like music, each of us knows the kinds of stories that turn our dials up past 11, which stories stay with us long after we’ve finished reading them, which stories we go back to in our heads, which stories move us to laugh, to cry, to wonder if we’ll ever be that good.
As writers we all have a unique voice. If we’re being honest with ourselves–and we kinda have to be–we’re all writing the stories we want to read. We’re writing the stories that move us. We have to be. Why else would we spend so much time and effort on something that we weren’t jazzed about?
When you’re just starting out, you naturally gravitate towards what moves you. So, just like every time I pick up my guitar, I want to sound like Andre Olbrich or Marcus Siepen, so to, I can look into stuff that I’ve written and see the influence of Jim Butcher, Faith Hunter, Patrick Rothfuss, Delilah S. Dawson, and so many others.
Time goes by and, as you put the work in, you know that you won’t ever sound exactly like the artists that inspire you. And that’s OK. You’re not them. You’re you.
You keep working and, along the way, something magical happens: Your own voice develops and comes out onto the page…or through the strings.
And it is the most awesome thing in the world.
When it happens–and it will, if you work for it–embrace it, stretch it, work it. There’s no right or wrong, there’s just you and your voice. Go with that, knowing that nobody else will ever sound exactly like you.
The page, the canvas, a guitar, a keyboard, wherever you’re artistically drawn, those are our instruments.
Make your music.
Time: 1:52 pm-ish
Music: Sabaton – The Art of War