What Is The Soundtrack Of Your Life: Keeping A Song Journal

When I was in middle school, I went to a school dance.  It was your typical dance – some snacks, construction paper decorations, dim lighting, but this dance was special because a certain boy who would be there. 


The stars were aligned that night for me – he asked me to dance.  Today, I don’t recall much about him; mostly, I remember the song we danced to –  “If You Leave” by OMD –  and I remember I wore a lime green mini-skirt.  Now, anytime I hear that song, I’m vaulted back to that dimly-lit gym and that terrific dance.

Often, people have songs that remind them of a place or time in their lives.  Maybe the song reminds them of a vacation they took, or of a sport they played, or of a friend or parent who is important to them.  We are a soundtrack culture and each of us walk around with our own soundtrack.

In my young adult novel, Songs for a Teenage Nomad, my main character Calle keeps a song journal.  She titles each entry (and each chapter of the novel) with a song title, and in the entry records the memory the song gives her.  In the first chapter, she tells her high school counselor, Mr. Hyatt, that:  “Last year, I started writing down memories I get from songs….Like glimpses of my life as I remember it.  Snapshots.”

For example, chapter two begins with the  following entry:



…my mother turns the radio up because she has always been in love with John Cougar Mellencamp, insists on the Cougar part of his name, even if the singer has dropped it.  We sprawl on the sloping lawn of the park, my mother letting her lunch break run way long.  Light glints off her silver rimmed sunglasses as she  hands me half a tuna sandwich with extra pickles…


Calle’s journal centers around the music in her life that has shaped her, has brought her to where she is when the novel begins. 

Here are some tips for keeping a song journal of your own:

but remember, a song journal, like the songs that shape it, is unique to the person crafting it, so give it your own spin, your own angle – these are just some ideas to get you started:

  • Select songs that have significance to you somehow, the type of song that always sparks a memory for you when you hear it and use the title of the song as the entry in your journal.
  • In your entry, describe a scene/memory in your life that this song brings to you.  Focus on using specific detail and sensory description to “show”  memory rather than just tell the memory (you can look closely at what Calle does in her journals if that would help you) but think about it as writing out all the details that make the memory special (the smells, the sights, the tastes, etc.).
  • Design a creative cover for your song journal, something that makes it special to you.

So now it’s your turn…what is the soundtrack of your life?