Music While You Write

I often listen to music while I write. Usually I’ll make a playlist of songs that fit the mood I’m going for in my writing (and I’ve considered posting these playlists before, what do you think?). Over time I’ve moved away from my usual listening while writing, and I definitely don’t recommend listening while editing, or at least listen to something with no words. The reason for both is that if I’m tempted to sing along, that requires my brain to write one thing and speak another, and the two can get confused. It doesn’t happen often but is just not worth the risk. When it comes to editing, I tend to prefer silence. I often edit aloud (and you should too, sometimes you’ll catch things you didn’t catch just reading). But when it comes to writing, music can be very inspiring.

At the moment I’m working on a fantasy story. My music of choice right now is Joe Hisaishi’s incredible soundtracks to the Studio Ghibli movies (Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away etc.). Another fantasy favorite of mine is Yuki Kajiura, specifically her soundtracks for .hack//SIGN and Tsubasa Chronicle. While writing horror I might stick more to Akira Yamaoka’s Silent Hill soundtracks. I haven’t written hard science fiction in a while, but Yuki Kajiura’s music would fit sci-fi just as well as it fits fantasy.

A common thread you’ll probably notice is that a lot of these are soundtracks. They’re music made to be in the background, to enhance something else going on. This works very well for writing.

I love Rage Against the Machine as much as the next guy, but Zack de la Rocha screaming “Fuck you I won’t do what you tell me!” doesn’t make me feel like writing about dragons. It might, however, keep me in the right mood to write a frantic zombie shootout scene. It’s all about the mood you’re going for, and if you get it wrong, music might just be more of a distraction than inspiration.

These are of course my own musings, and what works for me may not work for you (but if you think it might, go ahead and try it). So what about you? What do you listen to while you write? I’d love to hear about it.

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4 thoughts on “Music While You Write

  1. karcherry February 11, 2012 / 6:35 am

    Generally I like it quiet when writing or editing. But when I’m out walking, hiking or driving and thinking about the next scene, I like it loud and mood-setting. Music is very inspiring for me but too much of a distraction when I’m actually at task.

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  2. Sarah Marie February 11, 2012 / 8:05 am

    For my most recent manuscript, I actually had a playlist dedicated to the main character (It’s written in first person). It was full of soft, sad songs that would put me in the mindset of Biddy. I haven’t figured out my newest character yet, but I’ll probably make a playlist when I do.

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    • crackedthesky February 11, 2012 / 10:38 am

      I did this with one of my more complicated characters. Mine wasn’t first person though. I also kept a journal from her point of view even though I don’t plan on putting it in the book; it was just another thing to help me understand the character.

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  3. Sevidian February 11, 2012 / 3:17 pm

    I find it very inspiring to listen to music as I write, although I can listen to just about anything in my playlist, and it doesn’t really hinder the process. In fact, I played the hell out of Remnant by Machinae Supremacy while writing some zombie-related scenes. That song still inspires me with some current things I have going on. 🙂

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