Friday, July 13, 2012

Do You Listen to Music When You Write?

Music can help the words flow or it can get in the way. For me, music serves several purposes that make my writing sessions more productive.
  • I use music to cover auditory distractions.
  • Music inspires me, creating mood and emotions.
  • Music sets rhythms in my head.
  • Since rewriting (especially ferreting out junk words and typos) is my least favorite part of writing, I use music to make the experience more pleasant.
  • A forty or fifty minute piece makes a great timer, setting the boundaries of my work period.
I can write without music. (If fact, the only sound I have as I write this blog is the perking of the coffee maker.) But music contributes to my productivity, as long as it does not have words. I cannot ignore lyrics. I sing along in my head. (This may be a leftover from my memorizing every jingle and TV theme song I heard when I was a kid.) The only music with words I can listen to is music in a language I don't know. Opera works great because it is full of emotion.

My wife seems to be able to listen to anything, even have the TV going when she writes. I know writers who need silence during drafting and need music during rewrites. Some people need silence all the way through.

If music is part of your writing practice, specific tunes and the style of music may make a difference. Film scores, classical music, heavy metal, jazz -- they may not be equally valuable (or horrifying) at different stages of writing. But, if you understand how music impacts your productivity, it can become an ally.

Try different styles at different stages, and track your experiences. The number of words written is only one factor. Make notes about how you felt as you wrote, how the music impacted the rhythm and emotion of your work, how it inspired you, and the quality, too.

If you understand how music and silence make a difference for you, you'll have a way to write more and have more fun writing.


  1. As a singer, music is a distraction for me when I'm writing. It does, however, inspire my thoughts and emotions leading up to the writing. I have a "song" for each of my books and have a playlist for each book, which I post on my website. Songs that evoke strong emotion or a picture in my mind can help me translate those images and feelings into my writing. Fun post, Peter!

  2. That's wonderful! And the playlist at the site is a use of music I haven't seen before. For those who would like to see examples, check out I love the music for the On Thin Ice video, btw.

  3. LOL we are on the same wavelength again, Peter. The day before yesterday I had a junky writing day, and I attributed it to the fact that I listened to Nine Inch Nails, which I love, but didn't work with that manuscript I guess. Last night I switched back to some of Yoko Kanno's music (soundtracks for Stand Alone Complex) and things went great. With my last story, I just had the CD of Amanda Palmer singing Radiohead's songs repeating over and over. Every project seems to have its own music that goes best with it. I can't play things that make me want to sing, like musical soundtracks, because that's too distracting. It's fun to discover what music goes best.