Part 4: iTunes and the Pen



In this final piece of a four-part series titled iTunes and the Pen, authors Kevin Canty, Monica Drake, and Paul Eckert explain how they feel about listening to music while writing.

For other authors takes on the topic, check out the following:  For Part 1 of iTunes and the Pen, click here. For Part 2, click here. And for Part 3, click here.

Kevin Canty, whose most recent release is the collection Where the Money Went, describes himself as “a cork-lined-cell type writer.”  Canty says, “I love silence and solitude and the random play of my own thoughts.”  Because of his background as a guitarist, he can’t be in the same room with music without actually listening to it.  Still, he finds music helpful for getting his way into a story, often finding what he’s looking for in a pop, blues or jazz songs. Canty is the first to admit that most of his story titles come from songs.  “Nothing mysterious about this,” he says.  “I just stink at coming up with titles and somebody's already done the work for you when they write the song. Why work when you can steal?”

When Monica Drake, whose debut Clown Girl was released on Hawthorne Books, first started writing she found inspiration in different musicians, from Tom Waits to Lou Reed, but certain artists with “associative leaps in lyrics, the rough, rugged riffs, the driving emotion,” as she says, would make her want write short stories. These artists include Liz Phair, Tom Verlaine and Television.  These days, however, Drake spends less time listening to music while writing. She says, “A lot of my time is surrounded by people talking, so when I manage to find writing time I like to sink into my own thoughts and have no music on at all. I'm writing in more compressed time periods, an hour here or there, and I like to focus."

Paul Eckert, author of Ghostwriter Circus, was once working on a short story with the music of Godspeed You Black Emperor! playing along.  “I found my groove, and I was just writing away. And when the music started to build tension, the writing started to build tension. I didn't realize what was happening until the climax when the song was loud and crazy and the tension I'd been building in the chapter started to explode all over the place. Now that I think about it, maybe that experience scared me away from writing to music,” Eckert says.  Since then, Eckert admits he rarely listens to music while he works.  “If I take three minutes to write two sentences, and I realize a three minute song just finished, it makes me aware of time," he says. "Then a song may come on that I don't like, so I have to spend time skipping to the song I want. Instrumental music is more open to interpretation, hence it can fit any mood and help me find my groove.”

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