Musical Inspiration


I hate days like yesterday when, no matter what you do, you just don’t feel like writing. Even the thought of reading over stuff you’ve already written feels  exhausting. On days like these, I find that putting in my earphones and listening to some music always helps to get the juices flowing. It’s time-efficient; you can listen while doing the cleaning, and I spend the time daydreaming  about what my characters are going to do next.

Here are five of the songs that motivate me to do some writing:

  1. Pompeii – Bastille:

This is a song that my sister Alex introduced me to back in 2013, and it really struck a chord with me. At first it was painful to listen to because I associated it with her (she’s living in Australia and I miss her every day), but when I listened to the lyrics I realised that this song aptly encapsulates the message of my ‘novel’ – the notion of a society that is reluctant to change: (‘If you close your eyes, does it almost feel like nothing changed at all?’) Every time I hear it, I think of the Independent Living Movement and how it sometimes feels that we are getting no closer to achieving equality for disabled people.

   2. Talking ’bout a Revolution – Tracy Chapman:

Thanks to my friend Orla, I’m still a shameless Tracy fan. Almost thirty years later, ‘Talking ’bout a Revolution’ is still as relevant as it ever was. Our government continues to create social divide and while we are all furious, we can’t seem to change anything; revolution in Ireland sounds ‘like a whisper’. My love affair with Tracy Chapman started shortly before I read To Kill a Mockingbird. and for me this song – and indeed all of her music – demonstrates the importance of denouncing discrimination. All of her music is slightly uncomfortable, and again reflective of a society that is slow to change.

3. Dear Mr President – Pink:

This song is so different from Pink’s usual ‘in your face’ style, which makes it even more poignant. Although the song is addressed to former President George Bush, it could also be directed at Donald Trump or even Enda Kenny (‘How do you feel when you see the homeless on the streets? … How do you sleep while the rest of us cry?’) The line ‘how do you dream when a mother has no chance to say goodbye?’ hits me every time as I think of all the women across Ireland who were forcibly separated from their babies over the last century (including the protagonist of my novel and her mother). A history that, in Ireland, we are still too embarrassed to talk about.


4. Just a Girl – No Doubt:

The tone of this song is slightly more upbeat – and more angry. It’s the ultimate feminist song, a call for women to be treated equally. It’s sarcastic from start to finish (‘don’t you think I know exactly where I stand?’ ‘I’m just a girl, guess I’m some kind of freak.’) It’s a song about being tired of being defined and controlled within a patriarchal society. And I can relate to how annoying this is (‘Oh I’ve had it up to here’).


5. Turning Tables – Adele:

This is an important song to me because the music and lyrics capture the relationship between Rachel (the protagonist of my story) and Sister Anthony (the antagonist). Anthony is Rachel’s carer but she abuses her power, and her words and actions mould Rachel into a person who believes she is worthless. As Rachel moves away from residential care, Anthony’s words continue to haunt her (‘under haunted skies I see you, and where love is lost your ghost is found’). Rachel needs to forgive Anthony her mistakes in order to move forward, but has built an emotional wall (‘I won’t let you close enough to hurt me’).


Admittedly, these aren’t the cheeriest of songs, but they really help to get the creative juices flowing. Don’t worry, I’ll use headphones, I promise.


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