What Do You Listen To As You Write?



A few weeks ago I wrote a post about the magic of coffee.  Today I want to touch on the second motivational tool that makes my writing world tick.  Music.

I know that not every writer listens to music while they write – some prefer silence, some prefer listening to the hum of activity around them, and some can simply write in any situation.  I, however, love listening to music while I write.  I used to listen to whatever twenty or thirty songs were my favorites at the time.  After that I tried listening to classical music.  Then I tried instrumental versions of popular songs.  And later I tried all kinds of different things.  About a year ago I landed on what I think is the perfect writing music for me.  Movie scores.

I love listening to movie scores because they almost always are without words, which helps them stay in the background.  Movie scores are made with the sole purpose of inspiring people – creating emotions, making you think.  And being inspired, in whatever way, helps me write.  Movie scores are motivational.  Okay, maybe it makes me look like an idiot if I’m sitting in Starbucks with a vacant stare looking like I just saw Superman take flight for the first time, or like I just saw Maximus reunited with his family in Gladiator, but there’s always a tradeoff, right?

The fact that I love movies (the good ones, the ones that inspire you and send a message behind all of that action and adventure), and that listening to movie scores is something I would do just for fun, makes sitting down to write all the more appealing.  And tricking ourselves into getting to work and putting actual words on a page instead of daydreaming is as important as anything we do, isn’t it?

Here are just a few random good scores:

An Ideal of Hope – Man of Steel

Soulseeker – Thomas Bergensen

Becoming One of the People – Avatar

Warrior of Light – Game of Thrones

Discombobulate – Sherlock Holmes

Take a listen if you have time.  For those of you with Spotify this is easy.  My favorite playlist is “Best of Movie Soundtracks” by GuiguiF. It has 977 songs running 68 hours (there won’t be any need to listen to repeats any time soon) and is updated regularly.

What about you?  Do you listen to music while you write?  If so, what kind of music? Does it inspire you?



67 comments on “What Do You Listen To As You Write?”

  1. Great read, Sir. And, yes, I can’t write without music in the background. No lyrics, though, because of the distraction (and a tendency to join in the vocals once in awhile). My choice is Ambient (instrumental Groove Salad picks) and yes, they help to evoke not only feeling but emotion as well into my writing. I’m a huge fan of Movie Scores as well, and both genres have the ability to put your mind in either your own writing setting or one you hope to evoke in your writing. Besides, if it wasn’t for the background sounds of Darshan Ambient, Lemongrass, and Ishq (to name a few) then I wouldn’t get any writing done due to the fact of a television blaring in another room, frequent lawn mowing, dog barking, and child screeching outside, etc.

  2. I usually write in silence, but every so often I like a little background noise, particularly if there’s something noisy going on in the neighborhood. However, I love the idea of writing to movie scores – sounds very inspirational! Not Spiderman or Star Wars, though – I’d be too tempted to watch the movie instead of writing 😉

  3. I almost always listen to country music because it just gives me such a buzz and puts me in such a good mood. (I’m really into the kind of country music community fanbase)

    A friend also introduced me recently to listening to the Final Fantasy score soundtracks and I have actually found them really beautiful and are a great help when you want to just really focus on a scene without having words interrupt them. I agree with you on listening to soundtracks! They really make you focus!

  4. I don’t think I’ve ever written anything – school papers, blog posts, fiction – without some kind of background noise. For most of the first draft of my novel I listened to The Lumineers Station on Pandora. So far for the second draft I’ve been listening to my Dierks Bentley Station. Pandora’s no Spotify but it’s the best Hola Unblocker can get me. In college I often put TV shows on one half of my computer screen and my homework on the other side.

    I really enjoy reading your writing. It’s well done and just easy to read. Thanks for liking my post. It’s nice to Internet meet you.

  5. Amazing read!
    Honestly, being a writer I can relate to both music and coffee. Something slow, preferably: country, acoustics, soft rock, etc.; Oh, the magic they create while writing!

    The transitions, lyrics, the beats: its so sinuous and enchanting. I could simply relate to it. It’s beautifully perfect with all it’s flaws ^_^ 🙂

    Few of ’em
    – falling in love at a coffee shop
    by Landon Pigg
    -Just the way you are
    Cover by Boyce Avenue
    -Manja [Indian Song, inevitable on the list- I am a proud Indian ;)]
    from the movie Kai Po Che
    – Silhoettes
    by Of Monsters and Men
    -Let it Go
    by Avril Lavigne ft. Chad Kroger
    -I see Fire
    by Ed Sheeran

  6. I tend to like old-time radio, a mix of drama and comedies, although I’ve noticed as possibly a side effect that if I try writing fiction I end up having nothing but dialogue. Apparently my calling is that of being a radio writer, and I’m only seventy years too late for the trade.

  7. Interesting post. I listen to Western classical instrumental or white noise, as i usually work with a lot of noise around me. This help me block off all the distraction and focus. Would be a good idea to try movie scores and see what that does for me. THanks.

  8. I tend to listen to video game music while I write, as it gets you pumped up and ready for action without distracting you from what you’re doing. I’m particularly fond, currently, of the soundtrack of Starbound.

  9. Great post. Alas I rarely write with music for the same reason I rarely drive with music: I can’t concentrate… The Smiths however sometimes find their way into my writing space

  10. I love movie scores! I listen to them a lot when I’m writing or sewing.
    My favorite ones are: Gladiator, Dances with wolves, John Williams (Jurassic park!, I can even see the dinosaurs eating grass! ), Coraline and everything by Bruno Coulais, all Rachel Portman scores (Chocolat, The Vow, Never let me go), Yan Tiersen (Amelie), Michael Nyman (the piano… uff.. what a soundtrack!), Ennio Morricone is wonderful and inspiring and Danny Elfman soundtracks.
    Another kind of music that helps me feel creative is Celtic music by Loreena McKennitt. Wonderful sometimes sad music that goes deep into your heart.
    Thanks for sharing your favorite music! 🙂

  11. Thanks for following 🙂 throughout my whole first draft I listened to music, but with my second draft, I cant listen to a thing! I don’t know how I’ll go with my second book, but I do know that even if I cant listen to music as I write, finding new music and listening to it in between writing sessions helps me move onto a new section of the book 🙂

  12. If I listen to Chopin on the ride to my prompt group, I know my response to the prompts will be entirely different from those I’d make after hearing Willie Nelson or Dave Brubeck or movie scores. Funny thing, I’ve tried listening to rap and to metal, and all I write is gibberish. Do you suppose there’s a connection?
    Nice post.

  13. I’ll occasionally put something on, but for me music is never “background”! I’ve even considered writing something where music is part of the story, but not sure about… A) the legality of using someone else’s songs or… B) the pull for the reader of using my own songs?
    When I do listen it tends to be something rock-y like Alice In Chains, Pearl Jam or Frank Black, as I find they tend to inspire me to write outside my comfort zone, which is relaxed and funny.

  14. Good music is the food of soul. It can surely enhance the drive for productivity. personally, sometime i prefer perfect silence when am writing and other times i listening to music which sometimes traditional fuji music just like i am now.. Thank you for your visit. Rgds.

  15. Used to listen to classical radio station all the time – Classic FM in London – plus Movie scores especially Lord of the Rings. But adapted so now listen to whatever is available – within reason. But movie scores are most inspirational.

  16. Great idea to listen to soundtracks! I usually listen to Pandora (I paid for no ads). This means I am playing music that I am not attached to, so it ends up being more of background noise. If I listen to music I know I usually want to sing and dance and lose focus on writing. But, I think non-lyrical soundtracks are worth a try. Thanks for sharing.
    PS my favorite soundtrack is to Marie Antoinette, but that has lyrics on many songs.

  17. Sometimes I write with music playing softly in the background – but it has to be classical or new age and just music, no words or I get distracted. Mostly I write with silence around. What I hate most going on when I’m writing is pneumatic drills outside on the roads or my boarder bugging me with something. I guess it’s when writing – leave me alone.

  18. Hi David, thanks for stopping by my blog 🙂 I’m always having this conversation with writers and I find that there are quite a lot of people who listen to music while they write. Soundtracks are a great idea – in fact I used a ‘mash up’ of Woody Allen soundtracks to create the mood for my new novel, which is set in France. I added some of my own favourites too and I found it really inspired me and helped me to feel like I was actually there. Hope this link works! http://open.spotify.com/user/evie_g/playlist/6dqbIe5bgKVlPQ1jjLWG3s

  19. I write sometimes with instrumental music, symphonies and concertos and the like. But anything with words is just a distraction. One of my favorite authors, Patrick Rothfuss, said that he can’t stand listening to music while writing since it gives you ideas that form according to the song. I think there is some merit to that. A song is a story in itself and that story can distract or contort the one you are attempting to write.

  20. Personally, I can’t write without some form of ambience. Chillwave electronica and some good ol’ Shoegaze are my go-to genres. Both musical styles facilitate a broad range of soothing/relaxing to more upbeat/dramatic sounds. Great article topic!

  21. I agree with you about using movie themes. I especially like Joe Hisaishi. When I am writing historical fiction, I use Pandora to find music for the time period and country. Russian Music Box was a beautiful instrumental station.

  22. I can’t listen to music as I write for the most part, unless I’m writing an action sequence that I need to strike the right urgency for. But I listen to music as I’m preparing to write to put me in the right frame of mind or even to suggest story lines to me.

    Before I wrote my first, biggest, trial balloon of a novel, I listened to a wide variety of music that seemed to almost tell the story I wanted to write. I created a recording (we used tape cassettes back in then) that was essentially a musical outline or soundscape for the novel. It contained Rush, Pink Floyd, Journey, Styx, Heart, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and Rainbow, among others.)

    My husband produces our albums and I’ve found that for almost every novel I write, there’s a song that he’s been working on that becomes the anthem for the novel. I sometimes even write a scene from the song, or a snatch of lyric into the book. Makes for some interesting mind journeys when we’re performing the songs!

  23. Great post!
    Thank you for the like on my blog post- White Lies First Chapter Sneak Peek. This being my debut novel so I’m very excited about any feedback I receive.

  24. Reblogged this on 'Trees Please' and commented:
    Couldn’t agree with you more! Writing to the music of Shadow Fax and Windom Hill are a constant inspirational tool in my writing and music I listen to while biking along with the album Graceland by Paul Simon – love my music – I breathe it’s inspiration into my days.

  25. Over time I have ended up limiting my writing background music to just one or two artists. My main go-to artist is David Sylvian, and the albums in order of preference are “Secrets of the Beehive”, “Brilliant Trees”, and “Gone to Earth”. Once in a while I will listen to Sigur Ros, either “()” or “Ágætis byrjun”. Sometimes, if I’m agitated or frustrated, I can’t have anything on when I write.

  26. Great idea! I usually don’t listen to music when I write, but maybe I’ll give this a try sometime. I’m a fan of background noise, like in cafes (where music is often played so maybe I need to adjust my answer) so I imagine soundtracks would work.

  27. I completely understand how you find movie themes inspirational. I haven’t listened to any recently but used to have two albums, many years ago, Great Western Film Themes, and Epic Film Themes, they were fantastic to listen too! I now write anywhere, in any situation, but writing in solitude I listen to anything, whatever takes the mood 🙂

  28. Great post! I have to write to music. I haven’t tried movie scores so thanks for opening my mind to that possibility. I have several writing playlists on my phone that I normally listen to when writing and I will alter them and create new ones depending on which story I’m working on.

  29. I have a playlist called “Kopa Konoway” (a Chinook Jargon phrase that means “everything”) with more than 38 hours of music that I often put on, and my tastes are as broad and eclectic as they come.
    Seven random tracks from my playlist:
    Look Left- Searching
    Queen- Crazy Little Thing Called Love
    Richard Lewis- Total Eclipse from Handel’s “Samson and Delilah”
    Borodin- Dance of the Polovetsian Maidens from “Prince Igor”
    Fleet Foxes- Grown Ocean
    Rudy Vallee Orchestra- Harbor Lights (1937)
    Sting- Wilt Thou Unkindness Reave Me (Dowland)

  30. I don’t listen while I write, but I listen while walking or running before I write (and I make playlists to go with different books, to get me in the right frame of mind). Nice post.

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