Readers recommend playlist: songs about writing

The Beatles, Father John Misty, Prince and 10,000 Maniacs among the artists exploring the writing process with music

Here is this week’s playlist – songs picked by a reader from hundreds of your suggestions last week. Thanks for taking part. Read more about how our weekly series works at the end of the piece.

Dear diary,
I’m tearing my hair out, surrounded by balls of crumpled paper. I’m losing the plot; I think I have writer’s block. I can’t do this. I can’t do this. I can’t do this. I can’t do this … white page oblivion, mental exhaustion.

Listen to the playlist on YouTube.

I’ve found my inspiration! As feral as a Thought Fox from Ted Hughes’s poetry, it hid in this scribble of a song dismissed early and now my opening line. Fucked Up bring the Magic Word(s) I hope will appear like smoke on my page. Maybe a writer needs to suffer? Can my pain be literature’s gain? Are illness, hedonism, excess, drug and drink-fuelled forays to bars and the beach to seek inspiration what I need? Sounds like the temptations and struggles in Father John Misty’s I’m Writing a Novel, the aural equivalent of reading Ask the Dust, by John Fante.

I’ve now got “subjects locked in my cerebral cortex”, and they need to come out somehow. I must learn the art of structuring and rearranging my words on to the page like the Herbaliser in The Blend. Then I’ll edit, edit, edit as in Paul Simon’s Rewrite.

I wish someone thought of me like Prince thought of (The Ballad of) Dorothy Parker. I’d love to be as quick-witted, caustic, sexy and bright as her. She wisecracked her way into history – how do I get that good? Perhaps I need to join a writers’ group from which to draw inspiration, like Virginia and the Bloomsbury Set or Jack, Alan and William and their Beat clique, then I could say Hey Jack Kerouac, like one of 10,000 Maniacs. We could be “the hesitant writers of the next line” – or something equally pithy.

I wonder whether I could sell my soul and write a pulp story to be stacked on airport bookshop shelves. Am I that desperate for writing fame that I’d be a Paperback Writer and have the Beatles tormenting me? What I really need is practice. Elvis Costello tells me I can take inspiration from those around me, my relationships and affairs to make my writing real and state: Everyday I Write the Book. But, Dear Diary, what if I write that one great novel and it’s the only work everyone wants to hear about? It would kill me – I’m so much more than one work of fiction. I don’t want to suffer like the Fall, being constantly asked How I Wrote Elastic Man.

In Storytelling, Belle & Sebastian warned me of the great privilege and responsibility that comes with being a writer because, after all, the pen is mightier than the sword. It’s a minefield! I don’t want to become the kind of Mr Writer Stereophonics end up complaining about. I’d much rather put my writing to good use and make a difference, use it to drag me out of writerly poverty, find fame and fortune for my words and if I get into trouble, I’ll write to clear my name, like in Hurricane, by the Hamilton cast.

Actually, you know what? I’m not sure I’m cut out for this at all. Can a writer ever please all? I think I might not be a writer after all.

I have it! All of the writers featured in The Booklovers by the Divine Comedy had their own thing to say. I need to find my own voice. I need not worry what everyone else thinks or wants. I need to write for me and remember I have “life and have strength enough to say yesterday’s dead and gone – I want to live today”.

Not all songs appear on the YouTube playlist as some are unavailable on the service.

New theme: how to join in

The next theme will be announced at 8pm (GMT) on Thursday 26 April. You will have until 11pm on Monday 30 April to submit nominations.

Here is a reminder of some of the guidelines for Readers recommend:


Sarah Chappell

The GuardianTramp

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