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The Write Music for the Write Mood

The following was originally posted on May 5, 2010.

Here’s the scenario: It’s late at night and after a long day of doing what you have to do (i.e. working, cooking, cleaning, etc.) you finally get a moment to do what you want to do: write. You sit down in your personal writing space, put your fingers on the keyboard (or wrap them around a pen) and wait for the words to come to you.

And wait.

And wait some more.

And then pass out face down on your desk for an uncomfortable (and unproductive) nap.

We’ve talked a lot about how hard it is to find time to write, but even when you do find the time, how do you also find the inspiration? My answer is music.

photo by photosteve101

Not only can music stir up your brain waves, the right music can get you in the right mood for the exact subject matter you need to write about. Music can be a geographical reference (jazz, latin, hip-hop, western, etc.), an association with a particular time period (big band, disco, grunge, etc.) or specifically associated with certain emotions.

Currently, I’m working on a piece that deals with some difficult subject matter–death. It’s hard to get myself in the right frame of mind to explore such a difficult, emotional topic. So I’ve created a playlist to help me stay on track, including songs like:

On the opposite end of the spectrum, when I need to get myself in a light, cheerful mood, I turn to some of these songs:

I usually listen to my chosen playlist before I start writing (my ADD makes it necessary for me to write in total silence), but I’m sure some of you probably like to listen while you’re in the act. Either way, music can definitely put you in the right mood and give you the inspiration to get going. When you find time to write, you definitely don’t want to waste it!

What songs get you in the writing groove? Share your playlists with us in the comments!

Later days,


  • Movie soundtracks, preferably something with no lyrics while I’m planning a WIP.

    • Shannon

      Good idea! No words = no distractions, right? I confess sometimes I listen to instrumental tracks of the Sleeping Beauty soundtrack–a little Tchaikovsky never hurt anyone, right?

  • My ADD prevents me from listening to music while writing, but a few minutes before I usually play a song or two. Plus, I find listening to music throughout the day – on the way to work, on break, working out, etc. keeps the creativity flowing and preps you for writing.

    My stories are usually darker so I like metal, rock, some dance, grunge.

    I can listen to instrumental while writing since it has the absence of words. :)

  • I like listening to Andrea Bocelli or Sarah Brightman while I’m going over my notes and getting ready to write. But once I start writing, I either switch to instrumental music or turn it off completely. However, I can write with the TV on as long as it’s not too loud. When someone is singing, I pay more attention to the music and the words so I can’t focus on my writing. But due to years of doing my homework in front of the TV I can easily block that sound while writing.

  • I am an utter music junkie. If I’d not been endowed with 36Gs I would have mastered the guitar, I don’t know how Dolly Parton does it, because I can’t!!  Anyway, getting side tracked. I have music on when I write but some of my friends find it too distracting. I find during an extremely intense session of story-telling, I zone out 100%, I love it when that happens. But music can enhance a  mood and take you somewhere new, for sure. I created two themed CDs when writing Gunshot Glitter. One was called Angry Glitter and featured bands such as Hole and Nine Inch Nails. But more recently, I’ve found that Mogwai ( post rock band from Glasgow, Scotland) are amazing to write to. I love them. Check them out. 

  • If I’m writing a heart racing action scene, then definitely the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack. Other than that though, I usually write in silence :-)

  • I developed a play list for my heroine.

    • Great idea, Kristen! Would you mind sharing a link to the list? We’d love to read it :-)

  • When writing a new scene for my 2nd book, characters took a road trip, so I came up with a playlist for what they’d listen to while driving. :) Usually I listen to soundtrack music, but for action scenes, there’s a lot of crash-bang-drums to get me going!

    • I love that idea, Liz! Have you shared that playlist with your readers? It could be a fun sneak peek into your writing process!

    • I like the idea of a road trip playlist!

  • Grace

    I’ve posted two entries on my own blog about music and writing and how I use it. :) I can’t listen to music while I write, but I use it for inspiration while I’m brainstorming.

    And after reading these comments, I may come up with a playlist for some of my characters in my WIP, just as something fun to share with my readers when the book comes out. :)

  • I think I have some sort of ADD as well. I can’t write with any kind of noise distracting me. Heck, I can only concentrate on reading if I have silence or maybe classical music on my iPod at the gym. I rarely play music at home. Music to think to when I’m out is all right sometimes though. Glad to know I’m not the only one.

  • Yes! I use music for mood all the time — but usually without lyrics, or with unobtrusive lyrics, to stay focused. I wrote a whole blog post on the topic! http://lauravanarendonkbaugh.com/music-and-the-writer/

  • moscowrunner

    This made me smile as soon as I saw the title on your tweet! A few years ago, I was doing a lot of midnight writing. There were a lot of stresses in my life – constant, necessary (or so it seemed) activity. So, I would come home, grab my ear buds and just disappear into the page in front of me. There was just one problem. I only had one CD that I could listen to and write at the same time. It fit my opening chapters really well…but not the rest of the book. The other problem was that I started writing to the rhythm of the music. I realized one night that my sentences literally fit the metre of the songs in the order they came up on the CD! So, I found new music and did a bunch of re-writing! :)