Friday, 4 April 2014

Soundtracks to writing

I haven't been doing much, blog wise, recently because I'm in the throes of writing a new section for the punk women project I (innocently) started in 2009. It was, at the time, to be a stand alone piece for the F-Word, but it grew into a behemoth that was serialised in six parts and has never really stopped growing, even after the initial six parts were published.

One day it will be finished, but not yet.

The new section is on fanzines and fanzine writers, and writing it has reminded me of the extent to which I increasingly need a soundtrack when writing.

I am perhaps unusual in that I still write in longhand then, depending on the state of the first draft when it's been gone over/mauled by biro, I either re-draft by hand or type it and edit/re-draft as I go. This is a bit time consuming, but it works for me. One of the advantages of typing from a paper draft is that, if I find something a waste of time/too dull to type then I know it shouldn't go in and, as such, discard it.

Previously, the only really huge things I wrote were fiction and, as such, soundtracks made a lot of sense in terms of developing characters: I still have mixtapes I made of songs I was listening to when writing both Touch Sensitive and Screaming In Public, in the latter case, by the end of it, each character had their own soundtrack.

But when I'm writing about music, I can't listen to the music I'm writing about while simultaneously writing about it. As such, when I wrote my chapter on the music of riot grrrl for the Black Dog Publishing book Riot Grrrl: Revolution Girl Style Now! I wrote it to a combination of the first Rasputina album and Miranda Sex Garden, interspaced with New Order's 'Touched by the hand of God' and Joan Jett's 'I love rock'n'roll'. The latter two were for dancing to whenever I got a bit of a mental block with the writing.

The first version of the punk women series, by contrast, was written largely in silence but I had a mixtape for listening to inbetween writing stints and for when I hit a mental block. The mixtape had a lot of Santigold, Kate Bush and Florence + the Machine on it, along with bits of the Xena, Warrior Princess soundtracks, mainly all the amazon bits. It made a kind of sense at the time.

The handwritten draft was typed to Blondie's greatest hits, but that was coincidence because it was Boxing Day when I started typing, and I'd got it for Christmas. I also typed it to two mix CD's friends had made me, so my two 'pause and dance' songs were The Flirtations 'Nothing But A Heartache' and Architecture In Helsinki' 'Heart It Races'. 2009 into 2010 was a very cold, very snowy winter, so 'Pause and dance' was employed more often than usual as my feet regularly needed warming up.

In terms of the new section, it has been drafted to a mixture of Tommy James and the Shondelles, Spanky & Our Gang, Mediaevael Baebes, and the Aisler's Set. Writing is done in the living room/bedroom (it's a studio flat, so it's both) and typing is done in the kitchen, where the soundtrack is laptop and digital radio derived. So it is currently being typed to what I have in Spotify but, in a minute, I shall get the tape player and plug it in so I can type to my old mixtape from 2009 with the Xena Amazon bits, Santigold, Kate Bush and Florence + the Machine....