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Writing and Music: Making The Two Work Together

13 June, 2008

As I write this, I am listening to the album Memoirs by the avante-garde, experimental rock/metal band The 3rd and the Mortal. In all honesty, that’s fairly irrelevant, but it does illustrate my point nicely. For many writers, music is an integral part of their process, from inspiring a novel through to keeping them sane whilst they slog through the revisions.

On the good days, music can become as much of a fuel as coffee. Song lyrics and even melodies can inspire short stories, characters, even whole novels. Strong beats and fast-paced rhythms can help me type faster, until I don’t even notice how the words are getting onto the screen – they just seem to appear as quickly as I can think them. Music can even keep me writing longer, as I prefer to listen to a whole album at a time, which often means I’ll sit at my desk for a hour or so to finish the album, writing all that time.

Admittedly, there are times when music becomes too much of a distraction during writing. Some writers even find they must write in complete silence. I’m definitely not one of those writers, though I do have days when even the slightest sound is enough to take me out of the writing ‘zone’ and into the one where I remember how much washing up is waiting for me downstairs.

For those who do find music useful to the writing process, I’ve found a few ways of making it even more so. which I’m going to share.

  1. Listen to music without comprehensible words. This could be as simple as listening to film soundtracks or instrumental music. Alternatively, try bands/artists who sing in a language you don’t speak. I listen to numerous bands who sing in Japanese, German, French, Finnish, or even just growls that I can’t decipher. As such, the vocals just become another part of the music and I never end up accidentally writing them out when I’m not concentrating.
  2. Pick music with a pace that suits your writing style. If you want to type fast, listen to songs with a driving beat, for example.
  3. Likewise, pick music with a mood that suits the scene you’re working on. A melancholy song can really help you get into the right frame of mind for writing a sad scene, whilst I often find songs that make me smile help me to write humorous passages more successfully.

Of course, the best advice is to only listen to music when you’re writing if that suits you. Every individual writer must find their own process, their own way of getting the words down. Deciding whether music helps you write is just one small part of that. If you’re struggling to stay at your desk though, music may be enough to keep you there just a little longer.

One Comment
  1. 14 June, 2008 4:29 pm

    Music and writing – they cooperate beautifully for me :]

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