Writing Music

Music. We all have our preferences, favorite artists, genres, and what not. One would think it would be out of place on a writing blog, but it is a topic frequently addressed on message boards and in writers’ Q&A sessions. Specifically, what kind of music aids writing?

Before I continue, I should point out that I am an unashamed metalhead. I have been a fan of heavy metal in most of its forms since my teenage years, and have played in a number of bands ranging from quite melodic to fairly extreme. So for me, the answer to this question is pretty clear: I listen to metal when I write.

That said, I have seen many writers state that music containing lyrics is a distraction during the writing process. For that reason, some prefer movie soundtrack music, while others tend to listen to instrumental music in general. Some others may prefer silence as the means to concentrate on the topic at hand. The one impression I got was that many writers tend to focus on music that gets them into an appropriate frame of mind for the type of stories they are writing, and that does not distract them from accomplishing their writing goals.

But can the right kind of music elevate a writer’s proverbial game? Does it generate the creative flow that aids in getting the right feel for the story, for the characters, for the worlds they inhabit?

My personal answer is that it helps, but then, I also do not write for a living (although I would definitely like to write professionally sooner rather than later). While I am happy with the word counts I consistently achieve, I do my writing mainly during leisure time, and as such, the only deadlines I have are those I impose myself. Someone who has a looming deadline may dispense with the music and worry more about getting that chapter finished, completing the draft, or performing changes suggested by his or her editor.

If there was an easy question as to the kind of music that stimulates quality and quantity writing, the writers’ productivity and output would probably be impacted. I can imagine it now, a sudden spike in record sales due to aspiring and even professional writers loading their iPods or equivalents with the dulcet sounds of (insert artist or genre here). All contemplations aside, it does seem that the “writing music” is a tool in a writer’s arsenal more so than anything, indicating that it may not cover the breadth of the writer’s usual taste.

So how much of the “writing music” can make it into the stories? I can only bring up my own experiences, but in my case, there had been definite impact. No, I am not going to write a novel detailing the exploits of Judas Priest’s “Painkiller” character, or have a sudden urge to write an epic Tolkienish fantasy quadrilogy after a Rhapsody song comes up in my playlist. Just because my mood at the moment may lead me to older Carcass albums does not mean that I will strive to write in a particularly gruesome scene (well, Nickelback might have that effect, but for an entirely different reason). That said, the overall feel of stories is often impacted by what I listen to at the time, affecting the pacing, the mood, even some of the character interactions. And occasionally, I may even write in a small nod to my favorite artists, hopefully in a way that does not detract from the story, but provides a welcome “Easter egg” for the readers of similar taste in music.

I would be very interested to see what other writers may think on this topic.

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1 Comment

  1. I don’t listen to music at all when writing. I find it a distraction, though I sometimes do listen when planning scenes.

    Chris

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