Writing Tips from a Composer

Today’s inspiration comes from my writing playlist. Relax, I’m not going to share my entire youtube playlist with you.  In fact it wasn’t really the music itself that I found inspiring, but the composer.

I listen to a lot of movie soundtracks while I’m writing because (1) there are no lyrics begging me to sing along and totally forget about typing words and (2) they are specifically written to make you feel a certain emotion, which is great for getting me to write when I could use a little emotional charge to get me going.



(No, no I couldn’t. Well ok. La La…LAAAAA *glass breaks*)

As I was looking through my playlist, I noticed that I had a lot of music from a certain composer. Let’s see if you can guess who it is (come on, it’ll be fun).  The soundtracks I have on my list by this composer include The Prince of Egypt, The Last Samurai, Pirates of the Carrabin, The Dark Knight, Gladiator and the opening song to Lion King.

Are you nerdy enough to know who I’m talking about? (I guess that should be whom not who, but I don’t want to sound that nerdy.)

If you said Hans Zimmer you are correct!

The thing I found so remarkable about Hans Zimmer isn’t just how awesome his music sounds or how successful he’s been: It’s how he creates his music that I find so amazing.

He uses a secret mix of the force, Harry Potter’s wand, and Gandalf’s staff.

(Come on Gandalf. You remember that one time your staff went missing…oh yeah that didn’t happen)

Ok, so it doesn’t involve all that (admit it though, it would be really cool if music were made that way).

What makes the way he creates his music so different is that he doesn’t use music notation for his work but computer software.  Which might be a little more acceptable now, but wasn’t something that was done when he started. Why didn’t he just write music notes on a staff like all the other composers?

He can’t read music.  At least not well enough to compose music by it.

What he did was courageous. Deciding to compose music when you’re not strong at sheet music is like someone who can’t read declaring that they are going to write a book. Then declaring that they aren’t going to learn to read either.

Well, that’s not going to happen.

(Um…I believe I already said that. I don’t need a backup singer. I’m a soloist!)

Or could it?

What if, while they couldn’t read books, they’d been listening to audiobooks? What if they couldn’t type words into a word document, but they could speak into a microphone  and use a software that put the words down for them?

Writing a book when you don’t know how to read might be difficult, but it’s not impossible if you’re willing to be creative.

That is exactly what Hans Zimmer did. He was creative in how he came up with his music. People probably scoffed at the idea of creating orchestral music on a computer. They probably laughed at the idea of someone without a good grasp on sheet music composing music for movies.

(All those composers when they meet Hans Zimmer)

 Hans Zimmer could have listened to them. He could have dropped his head and told himself not to even try. He wasn’t as educated in music theory as other successful composers. And if he couldn’t do it the traditional way, then he might as well go find a job at Wal-Mart (or whatever place like Wal-Mart they have in Germany).

But he refused to believe that the traditional way was the only way. He knew what he wanted to do and knew he could make it happen.

Because he didn’t let his lack of traditional skills stop him, he is a hugely successful Hollywood composer.

What we can take away from this is that just because we aren’t educated in writing in the traditional way doesn’t mean we are doomed to be horrible writers.  We may not have a degree in literature or a job in journalism, but that doesn’t mean we can’t write. We may just have to learn about it in untraditional ways (books, youtube videos, and online articles).   We may not be published by one of the big publishing companies, but choose to self-publish through Amazon.

If we can learn anything from Hans Zimmer, it’s that taking the traditional route isn’t always the only way to get where you want to go.

So be untraditional, be creative, do things your way and know it can make something amazing.

Then go listen to some Hans Zimmer.



8 thoughts on “Writing Tips from a Composer

    1. Same here. I’d always loved his music and it wasn’t until a few months ago that I found out he didn’t write it in the traditional way. I got so excited when I found out. Here was a perfect example of why you should do what you love even if you may not think you have the skill it takes to do it. And this example happens to come from my favorite composer! Couldn’t be better. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  1. AHHH! High-ten for Hans Zimmer! This post was fantabulous, Megan. I never new (new–knew, I’m trying out your “non-nerd” ways.) this about Zimmer, it’s so interesting/inspiring. I mean, that’s incredible talent right there! Just imagine, he wrote all that music and he couldn’t even read a lick… That’s so awesome.
    I really, really, REALLY enjoyed this post. Thank you. From the bottom of me li’l heart, thank you.

    Jazzy @http://thetruthsofmyheart.weebly.com


    1. I know! I just loved when I found out that he didn’t read music. It was such a great example of why we should never give up on our dreams, even if we don’t feel qualified to do them. Haha…I loved your non-nerd phrase. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This was so encouraging! I’m gonna send it to my writing friends.
    Sometimes I feel bad about my writing. Like, I’m writing a book, but I have no idea what I’m doing lol. And, I know that new writers publish books every day, so it’s not a huge deal. But at the same time, sometimes I feel inadequate, you know? Like, I don’t read as much as I should, and the experts say that writers are avid readers. But I’m like, weeeeeeell, I’m not an avid reader, so does that mean I can’t be a writer? Does that mean I’ll never be respected as a writer? Is my own imagination not good enough? True…I should read more, and I’m not trying to absolve myself of that responsibility, but at the same time, I don’t want to be defined by it. After reading this, maybe I don’t have to be. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m super glad it inspired you!!! I don’t think any of us know what we are doing (I definitely don’t) but that doesn’t mean we should give up. Sometimes it helps me to focus not so much on being published but on writing itself. I love writing, and I don’t want to wait until I’m published before I enjoy it. As long as I’m writing (even if it is a crazy mess), I give myself to be perfectly content with what I’m doing.
      Keep doing what you feel to do, whether it’s conventional or not. Keep writing! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

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