First, a caveat: Compared to my friends who have eclectic tastes in music, I am an audiotard. And to explain my writing mixtape, we will need to flashback to the time when I listened to the Backstreet Boys.

Backstreet Boys

Yes, them.

Wait, okay? I can explain, please, let me explain.

Back in high school, the Boy Band phenomena had just begun and as a snotty, pimply (I still am, I’m 27 and still get pimples. Dammit.), and angsty teenager experiencing the painful period of puberty, I wrote stories and poems in notebooks. The themes in the music I listened to (BSB, Bread, David Gates, The Carpenters, AirSupply – huhuhu, no judging!) reflected in my work: unrequited loves, broken hearts, and where do broken hearts go. In a word, it was juvenile.

College came along, and I, a clueless kid who did not know what to do with herself after high school, had chosen to study Accounting. I continued writing during my confused freshman year and hung out at the Humanities and Filipinana sections of the UST library. My music widened somewhat, and I wrote escapist fantasy fiction.

A year later, I had dropped out of college and had started working as a draftsman (oo, labo lang). At a little appraisal company in Makati, I met the music of pre-happy Avril Lavigne, A Walk to Remember-era Mandy Moore, and pre-Ryan Reynolds Alanis Morrisette. I continued writing through the draftsman years and more so during the call center years. If you are working in a call center, or have worked in a call center, you would understand how it can provide such pools of misery and pits of dreary despair essential to any miserable writer. I stayed until I finally cursed all phone-related jobs.

By sheer luck, I found this website content company that was crazy enough to hire me as a writer. At this company, I met the oddest, craziest, and geekiest assortment of people you can ever hope to find. As a rookie writer, writing professionally for the first time ever, I basically learned the ropes, ate revisions for breakfast, learned form at lunch, and practiced at dinner. The friends I met at said crazy company saw my repertoire of jpop, ballads, and Duncan Sheik and were properly mortified. They were especially mortified at my music knowledge being limited to mainstream pop. (Friend: Dude, I saw Urbandub last night! Me: Who?)

During this time, I went through boot camp – both for my writing and taste in music. Rica, then my dreaded Editaur, gave me tips. If I were to write something, I should listen to music I cannot sing along to, and if I were to edit, listen to classical music. The reason, I was told, was that if you sing along the words in your work may be affected, thought processes may be interrupted by a chorus, and there may be words lost in between interludes. The classical music, Chopin, Beethoven, and Bach, were supplied when I was promoted to assistant editor and was learning the ropes of editing.

My fiction had evolved as well. I found people who could give me honest feedback and suggest points for improvement. I stopped writing long fiction, trained in short story writing and essays. I learned form, and developed some semblance of style. What I lacked, it was pointed out, was tone. My stories were basically tone deaf.

I don’t know exactly when I found out that I can use music, maybe during the time when I was listening to Please Don’t Tell Her by Jason Mraz. It was not a Eureka! moment, more of a I-was-looping-the-song-endlessly-and-I-was-writing kind of thing. I wrote my stories to certain songs. One was written with Pathetique (Bach, Sonata N.8, 2nd movement), another to Hangover by Sugarfree, and others still to If It Makes You Happy by Sheryl Crow, The Man Who Can’t Be Moved by The Script, and Lying Is The Most Fun A Girl Can Have Without Taking Her Clothes Off by Panic! At The Disco.

If I need angry, I bust out Avril. Sad, I go to Sugarfree. Most of the time my friends send me music (I am still an audiotard) and I get ideas from the songs and I write (sometimes I even finish stuff!).

So there, from Backstreet Boys to a whole truck-full of artists looped ad nauseum. It’s weird, looking back at all of that but it has made me realize that one must come with one’s own background music.