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Sunday, September 5, 2021

Philosophy, Music, and Writing Scenes

 Post by Doris McCraw

writing as Angela Raines

Labor Day Balloon Glow
Photo property of the author

On this Labor Day weekend, I thought I take a sharp turn and write about something I do, but don't always talk or write about; Philosophy, Music, and Writing.

I have always been involved with music, starting with singing for the PTA at two and a half. I began playing piano at five and was always surrounded by music. It informed my thoughts and actions. 

As I aged, I began a life-long love of philosophy. From the online dictionary "Oxford Languages", philosophy's definition is 'the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence..'

As I rewrite my stories, those two play a big part in how I try to convey the thoughts, actions, and environment of the scenes. Below is a breakdown of the process.

Photo Property of the Author

If I'm writing a fight scene, my hero is usually reluctant to be the aggressor. He doesn't want to hurt people but realizes that sometimes you don't get that luxury. This ties into the Stoic philosophy of going for the greater good. I also will listen to Saint-Saens 'Danse Macbre'. The interplay of tempo, notes, and silences lend itself to the ebb and flow of fights. This works for both my Western and Medieval stories.You can listen here: La Danse Macbre

If I'm writing a scene where the setting is important, I think of Thoreau and his quote from Walden, “We need the tonic of wildness...At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed, and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature.”  If I'm writing Western I'll listen to "Grand Canyon Suite" by Ferde Grofe. Grand Canyon Suite

Photo property of the Author

Thoughts and character development in scenes rely a lot on what I perceive as their way of living. Machiavelli comes into play for some of my antagonists. The protagonist would fall into some of Nietzsche, Satre for the men and for women some of Mills, Locke plus a bit of Confucius and Lao Tzu for both. One of the few times I will listen to music with words is this section. "Dust in the Wind" by Kansas is a go-to. Dust in the Wind  or from the same group "Carry on my Wayward Son" Carry on my Wayward Son

For endings or other scenes, depending on where I want to go I have a few pieces of music, and a lot of Stoic philosophy will come into play. "I Am a Rock" by Simon & Garfunkle I Am a Rock  Almost anything from Bach, " Keyboard Concerto No. 4 in A major" Bach Concerto, Of course, there is always Pachelbel- "Canon in D Major" Canon in D Major,  "Ashokan Farewell" Ashokan Farewell or the Everly Brothers "Let it be Me" Let It Be Me  

I will finish with the following songs and invite you to share your 'writing' songs and prompts. These songs and videos always seem to help the creative process. We've Only Just BegunWe'll Sing in the Sunshine

Ethan Hawk on Creativity  and  A Video for every Creative Person

Have a great September and keep those thoughts and fingers going. 

Doris Gardner-McCraw -
Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women's History
Angela Raines - author: Telling Stories Where Love & History Meet


  1. Music certainly influences moods as much as it reflects them.I honestly never thought about putting on apiece of music to write to. It seems so obvious now you've pointed it out.

    1. I don't always listen but sometimes, when stuck, I'll put a piece of music on and the words just flow. Doris

  2. Doris, this is really fascinating. I don't listen to music when I write because I get sidetracked if I do--I find myself listening or singing with the music rather than concentrating on my writing. I used to say I was great a multi-tasking, but it seems the older I get the more "one track minded" I become. LOL This is really an interesting concept--the way you go about writing and your incorporation of philosophy and music.

    1. Thanks, Cheryl. I know I used to have the same problem. Now, I've gotten better at only using it when I'm stuck.
      I also found the videos from on creativity pretty helpful also.

      I've always been fascinated by philosophy and music and they just fell together for me. I also think since I always visualized when I was playing piano or singing, so it makes sense I'd finally figure it out. LOL Doris

  3. Like Cheryl, I don't listen to music when I write because when I listen to music I get caught up in it, but I found your process really fascinating. And I enjoyed being reminded of many once-favorite songs, some I haven't hear for a long time but find I still know the words. Thanks for the enjoyable post.

    1. Ann, I'm glad you like some of the same songs I do. I hadn't realized how much I used the system until a couple of years ago. I guess I just thought I' share it. Doris

  4. You have a good process going on, Doris. Thoreau is a favorite of mine. I enjoyed his essays as a kid and found a kind of comfort in them.
    While I can't play music when I am writing, I like to develop a play list for each story to play as inspiration before I start. You chose some god tunes. Here are some of the songs that inspired me: "I won't Let Go" by Rascal Flatts, "Blue Ain't Your Color" by Keith Urban, "Let It Be" by the Beatles, "Perfect" by Ed Sheeran, "Halleujah" sung by Josh Krajcik", and "Love Hurts" by Alison Krauss to name a few.
    I play a lot of instruments (none really great), but I could never coordinate my hands to play the piano. I envy that you do that. And you have me bested because you can sing.

    1. Thank you, Sarah. Thoreau is perfect, isn't it?
      I love you're idea of play list for each story. What a cool idea.
      There are those who wonder if my being almost ambidextrous is from starting early or was I that way before playing. I grew up with music, so it seems natural that it is a part of my creative life. Doris

  5. Music affects your mood. Doubt that? Just put on up tempo bouncing happy songs when you have the blues. I often don't have music going when I write because it might shift how I feel about a scene. But I will use "prep" music to get me in the right frame of mind.

    1. Deborah, I am thrilled that so many love and use music at some point in the creative journey. I think, since I do use some music when writing, I am very picky about what I listen to.

      Here's to more wonderful stories and the music that inspires them. Doris

  6. Super music choices, Doris! When I was writing one of my romantic suspense novels I played Dvorak's Stabat Mater over and over - for some reason it suited me mood as I wrote. Happy writing and listening to you!

    1. Thank you, Lindsay. I will have to check out the Dvorak piece. I've also used, but didn't include because it's so long, 'Pathetique' by Tchaikovsky. That was my favorite to listen to as I was growing up. I still have a fondness for it and listen to it often. Doris