Introduction to the Music Shuffle Challenge

Photo credit epicfireworks; permissions: CC BY 2.0.

March has been incredibly busy for me – partly because of a writing project I undertake every March (which I’m going to talk about here) and largely because of much more boring and horrible nonsense (which I shan’t mention again).

March is Music Shuffle Month for me – a challenge I established for myself in 2010.

Music Shuffles are one of my favourite writing challenges in and of themselves, actually! They’re great for people like me who enjoy writing to prompts, but also like being able to go off and follow however the idea branched with no idea how it related to a prompt. Of course, I also love music (and having a large music collection makes this challenge even more fun and/or unpredictable).

I don’t, however, run the challenge the way I originally found it. I tried that once and decided some of the rules needed to be shifted a little to make it more workable for me. So here are the rules as I use them!

Music Shuffle Rules

• Step 1: choose a character or pair (or simply a ‘verse/fandom) to focus on
• Step 2: open your music player and either open ‘all music’ or make a mixed up playlist including most of the songs in your library (even ones you’ve no idea how you’d write from; mine currently has 1,515 songs in it)
• Step 3: play your first song, and write whatever idea comes to you from it! (if you have replayed the song three times and have no workable ideas, skip to the next)
• Step 4: repeat until you have ten music-inspired ‘scribblets’ (or whatever number you choose; mine range from five to thirteen, though I usually aim for eight or ten)

That’s it!

The original rules as I read them didn’t include an allowance for skipping songs, and you could only think and then write for as long as the song was playing, which doesn’t suit me personally. Especially when the songs in my playlist may range up to seventeen minutes, but also down to thirty seconds! I also allow myself to take breaks, rather than complete an entire Shuffle in one sitting, as the original rules stated. I’ve since seen an update saying the time limit for thinking/writing is now playing the song three times over. I still prefer the rules the way I adapted them, for my own use of the challenge.

Every March I focus on writing these, often for fanfiction pairings, but also for several of my original ‘verses. (One of them is composed almost entirely out of stories written in Music Shuffles.) I start one every Sunday, Tuesday, and Friday. (And work on them until I reach the appropriate number of scribblets and/or it is the day to start the next one.)

I find it a great way to stretch my creativity in a simultaneously focused/unfocused way and also play around with interesting bits of inspiration I might never have come up with otherwise. Who would have thought an interesting story about 1700s pirates could come from Rihanna’s ‘Shut Up and Drive’? (That was my very first song for my very first Music Shuffle, and I almost packed it in right there, to be honest with you.)

I find some of my stories written for music shuffles fall rather flat, but some of my very favourites among my own work have come from them as well. I just allow myself to write whatever comes to me, however much (or little) sense it makes with the song that I’m writing from.

In the end, it’s just another way to use music as an inspiration for writing!

(Photo credit epicfireworks; permissions: CC BY 2.0.)


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