What can music teach you about writing?

Translating the lessons learned from one craft and applying them to another. Is this possible?

Of course it is.

Before I wrote books, I was a musician. I’d been playing guitar since the age of fifteen and switched to bass in my early twenties.

It was fun.

I was a bit of a show off in the early days to be honest, especially on the bass. I took to the instrument quickly. I was a busy player. Playing too many notes. Playing to get noticed by the girls (it worked – I married one of them in the end!)

Compare that to when I started writing. Writing too much. Too many words. Telling, telling, telling. Trying to get noticed by the girls again? Eh, well no.

But there are similarities between the two types of busyness.

In music there was no space in between the notes. No room for the listener to insert something of themselves. Their thoughts and feelings and longings – all the things that a great piece of music can evoke in us. You need a little space for that. This is something that you learn to add in when you mature as a player and it applies to so many other aspects of life, including writing – what you don’t play or write is just as important as what you do play or write. Sometimes what you leave out is more important.

I am of course talking about the space in between the notes. Where the gold is.

Similarly, I left no room for magic in my stories. Too many words. Trying to cram too much in there and that meant I left no room for the reader’s imagination to fill in the gaps. It was tell, tell, tell. Busy, busy, busy. It was all about me and not about you. I was that same little show off in the rehearsal room again, doing it all wrong and thinking that it was great.

Sometimes it sucks to get old.

Not all the time though. A mature author and a mature musician (mature, not old!) learn to go beyond the superficial, eye-catching stuff as they progress in their chosen art. They realise with some certainty that the old saying ‘less is more’ is more than just a good line.

It’s the truth.







So how does this translate to writing?