(Reed’s Playlist for the occasion: The Last Lost Continent by La Dispute)
I’ve been writing all my life, it seems. When I consider choosing any other art form to build my career path on, it just seems silly.
And yet, when I think about things, I realize I’ve been playing and writing music for just as long as I’ve been writing. Which is weird to think about, because I hardly consider myself a musician.
I started playing piano when I was nine or ten years old – about the same time I first started writing little kid stories and such. The first “song” I ever wrote on the piano was when I was twelve – about the time I started my first novella. And the first time I ever wrote something I considered to be an actual piece of music was in exact conjunction with when I wrote my first novel.
How do I know that? My first songs were the soundtrack to my novel. (I know, I was a weird little high-school nerd.)
It’s just funny to think that I’ve been playing music for the same amount of time as I’ve been writing, and yet I feel so much more like a writer than a musician. I want to believe a part of it is innate talent, but it’s not – I’ve struggled just as much with writing as I have with music.
And neither is it training – I have been very informally trained in both writing and music, having learned both of them mostly by trying (and failing many, many times) on my own.
Still, when I remember bringing my whole family into my room after dinner to show them my newest “song” and then tripping up on the notes because I hadn’t even learned my own song well enough to play it without mistakes, it reminds me a little too much of me showing my rough, terrifying first drafts of writing projects to my alpha readers far before they’re ready to be seen.
So why did I choose writing over music? Others’ music is a lot closer to me spiritually than others’ writing, and I’ll generally spend more time in a day listening to music than I will reading.
It’s just a difference in medium.
Now, before I continue, I really have to say that I know nothing about music theory or writing theory, so if I’m completely wrong, I apologize. These are my own reflections outside of any formal training.
Disclaimers aside, I feel that music is an incredible way of conveying emotion. When I hear a well-written song or thematic score, I can feel the emotion behind it without ever needing a word said. To me, that auditory format is better than almost any book, short story, or poem I’ve read in terms of conveying a single emotion or feeling.
(As an aside, this is why I love hardcore music – “screamo”, to those of you who are uneducated on the topic. Some of the most emotional, most beautiful music I know is lyrical hardcore music – like they say, some of the best art is produced by tortured individuals. For today’s playlist, I’ll put up one of my favorite hardcore songs – the one whose lyrics I’ve tattooed on my skin. The song, despite being “screamo”, talks about the unity of humankind against the cruelty of our world, and it never fails to make me tear up.)
Contrary to music, I believe writing is the ideal form of storytelling. The words we choose, the ways in which we put them together, allows us to take stereotypical, archetypal situations and characters and breathe a new life into them – something similar enough to the rest of fiction to be beloved, and different enough to be enticing. We can gather the expectations of our audiences and fulfill them, if we want to – or we can flip those expectations on their heads and leave the audience infuriated, but satisfied in a completely different way.
I’m not saying music can’t tell a story, or words and writing can’t impart emotion – obviously they both can. I’m just saying that I see each medium as being best at something, and the more important something to me is telling a story. I love being able to construct worlds, to weave thematic and symbolic concepts into them so that the world becomes a parallel of our own, and to have an audience come away from the tale with a new perspective on how our own world works.
Or, I would love that, if I was any decent at writing.
Yours, laughing his ass off,