Music to write by

Even my cat loves music!

Like writing, music is a big part of my life. I am married to a musician, and that means plenty of song, heaps of sound, and loads of (real) rock band. I have consequently become a “drummer-in-training” for accompaniment purposes. Yes, my (writing) life is a melodious one.

When it comes to writing, there is always music playing in the background (in some form or another), and I’d probably be lost without it. As I write this, I am listening to Arcade Fire (The Suburbs), their “sprawling but intimate new album.” Some other faves from the soundtrack to my writing life, are: MGMT, WeezerThe Cardigans, and (forgive me for this), Vinyl 95.3.

According to research from the University of California, listening to music creates new neural pathways in our brains that stimulate creativity. Music can train the brain for higher forms of thinking (bonus!). For me, music definitely inspires and sets a mood. It can also unleash writer’s block, relax the brain, jump-start a session, and infuse fiction with rich emotion. Music might just be my perfect muse.

How to use music as part of your writing practice:

  • Claim a starting song: Okay, this is vaguely similar to Pavlov’s famous experiments with dogs. Sound the bell. Play your song—every time you sit down to write. Consider Aerosmith’s Back In The Saddle Again.
  • Reflect the time period: Connect with your characters in every way possible. Are you chronicling the 1980s disco period? If so, you should, like, totally fill your writing brain with M-a-d-o-n-n-a.
  • Set the mood: Play music that reflects what you’re writing. If it’s action, how about some Smashing Pumpkins, Muse, or even Guiseppe Verdi’s, Stiffelio.
  • Keep it light: If this is all too much for you, give Mozart or Vivaldi a try for background music. Higher brain function will be yours.
  • Silence is golden: Use your starting song to get going, and then turn it off.

I. Love. Music. I am always surprised how quickly my brain responds to music. Give it a try. Do it often and be consistent; consistency is, after all, the age-old practice of successful writers.

What is YOUR music to write by?



Filed under Inspiration, Life and stuff, Motivation

8 responses to “Music to write by

  1. I have trouble listening to music when I write. I get too distracted. I can listen to classical or jazz, but I think I’m developing ADD as I get older (or maybe it’s just Twitter).

    But music and cooking? Now there’s something I do. Maybe I’d cook better, though, if I pressed “off.”

  2. I’m with I.M. – if music is on, my writing doesn’t happen. BUT, if I’m doing a particular scene that requires a certain mood, I find myself listening to appropriate music when I’m not writing (I’m looking at you, Sexy Times).

  3. p.s. I LOVE the new banner pic, BJas!

  4. Trish Loye Elliott

    I never used to listen to music when I wrote but then I got feedback on my novel that said it was tending towards MG (and it was YA). I realized that I’d been listening to kid cartoons and chatter while I wrote. So I rewrote the novel while listening to music and it really changed it.
    Typically I’ll listen to Rise Against, 30 Seconds to Mars, Pink, Linkin Park or something similiar. It’s changed how I write, though if the house is quiet I will write without music too.
    Good post, I like the idea of a starting song!

  5. bjas

    Yeah, I think I might give that starting song a try too! Oh nice selections, I like your soundtrack: Rise Against, Linkin Park — I’m in!

  6. I love your idea of a starting song, Beckie. I should try that to “set the mood.” Normally, I listen to music that I know so well, it just slides along beside my brain as I work–stuff like New Order that I over-listened to. But I also like listening to really amazing lyricists to mooch off their creative vibe (Elbow is my big favourite right now). Nothing too funky though; I am prone to the distrations of seat dancing.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s