Writing and Music

I find it kind of weird that the question I’m asked most often about writing is what I listen to when I write. Sure, this question leads to a variety of other questions, but a lot of the time, conversations about writing are started with this one.

What do I listen to when I write?

I may actually have chatted about this over on the Couch somewhere in the past, but never in a post of its own. So, let’s get to it, shall we?

As with the writing process, I’ve attacked each book with different sounding weapons. My first two books were written with music, the third one in silence, because I’d just had a baby and I didn’t want to wake her when I wrote. This last book was written to music again.

I prefer to write to music. I’ve admitted a million times by now that I’m controlled by my emotions, so I have to be in a certain mood and mindset to write certain scenes. Music helps me get there.

If you open my playlist, you’ll find a lot of very melodic music, kind of epic-sounding. Anything that makes me feel something can work. That’s the point of music, isn’t it? To make us feel things.

The sound is incredibly important to me, because it has to put me in the right mood. For this reason, I try to include a lot of sounds, from drumming beats to soothing guitar, piano, and violin, so that I have a variety of moods to choose from when I write. Why? Because some of it has to inspire romance, some of it has to inspire war, and every possible scenario in between.

Let’s say one of the characters is being chased and must get away. I can’t write that to slow, romantic music. I need drums and bass and roaring guitars. If my own heart beats faster when I write that scene, it’s easier for me to imagine what the character must feel. The opposite is obviously true for a tender scene. And in the triumphant moment when something great happens, I can’t be listening to something dark and sombre, where that would be what I reach for when I’m writing a break-up.

The lyrics are important to me for the same reason and I read the lyrics of each song before I add them to my playlist. I don’t want meaningless lyrics, even in songs where you can’t hear a lot of the words clearly over the music. I want to be able to understand the meaning the artist wanted to convey with the song clearly, from unrequited love to fighting personal demons. This helps me match a song to a scene perfectly, which often adds to my own emotions for better scenes.

Just like the sounds of the music, the vocals add to the moods and feelings too. That’s why Florence Welsh will always be one of my favourite artists to write to and one of my favourite artists in general. She has the ability to tell stories with the pitch of her voice like few artists in today’s age. The variety of sounds makes for a variety of scenes that fit the different songs, so you’ll find a lot of Florence and the Machine in my playlist.

I’ve recently discovered Ruelle and the music is seriously amazing for writing fast-paced or dramatic scenes. Kodaline is another favourite of mine, great for writing a variety of scenes, and the same can be said for the guitars from Mumford and Sons. I have some indie artists on the list and other names from every genre of sound.

Music is an important part of what I do and I believe any artist will say the same. I remember listening to everything from Mozart to Metallica while I painted, so I’ve always drawn inspiration from music and sound. Sometimes, if a song is perfect for a scene, I put it on repeat while I write. The song gets so intertwined in a scene for me sometimes that I’ll find myself walking in a mall and remembering exactly what I felt when I wrote a specific scene if the song comes on. Some of my favourite characters died in some of those scenes, so certain songs will always be someone’s funeral song to me. 🙂

Thanks to the artists out there for making music that inspires other people. It’s amazing.

Have a good one, folks!



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