The Black Keys: Brother

This post is in the theme Influences on my own Creative Work. Read the first.

January 17, New York: It was 2010 and I quit my job. Mostly I needed to quit my job. But I also really wanted to take ah honest stab at writing a book. I’d written one already, but that had been a draft written for National Novel Writing Month and took nearly year to clean up in edit. I wanted to try the process for real. Give myself more than a month, dedicate all of my time to it, really write a book. So I quit my job and took some time off.

The first step for me in writing is picking a good soundtrack. Music that puts your keyboard-tapping fingers in the mood but also can drift off into the background. Everything I’ve ever written has been powered by some particular music. And I believe strongly that once you pick your soundtrack you can’t change it without subtly changing the tone of the prose itself. Especially in a rough draft. So as I began to write Drain the Gulf! I picked a couple of albums and I began to listen to them on loop. The most memorable was The Black Keys’ Brother.

This really is a fantastic album. It’s exactly the sort of rock I want these days— a couple of dudes making messy, sweaty music in the back of a bar that only serves whiskey. It was perfect for a novel that features plenty of hard drinking and a lot of the South.

I now know every note of this album by heart. Every drumbeat. Every inhalation before a lyric. It took me about six months to finish the rough draft of Drain the Gulf! and in total I worked on the book for about eighteen. Once I’d locked in my soundtrack, I was terrified to change it. Putting this album on equated to the mental space of this book. So it was just about all I listened to for eighteen months. I have such a strong (and happy) memory of sitting alone in our San Francisco apartment, freezing in July, cranking out a few thousand words every day. I had to write a minimum of 1000 every day, but I played a game with myself where if I wrote more than 3000, I could buy beer that night. A nice little incentive.

Listening today, it’s still a fantastic work album. Upbeat but easy to put on in the background (if you know it so well). I was also re-reading Drain the Gulf! this week, so it made a nice companion piece. It made me so nostalgic for that summer I spent rough drafting, hunched over a laptop in a sweater, headphones on and lips wordlessly moving to these lyrics. It made me want to write another book.

Buy this album and write a novel. It’s that easy!

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