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Does Listening To Music Help You Write? – WN 053

Does Listening To Music Help You Write? - Title Card

It’s a question writers have been asking since owning copies of recorded sound was a thing. What’s the best kind of music to write to? Some swear by classical Baroque as a sure-fire muse. Others claim you should avoid listening to music while writing altogether. But how can you tell what’s right for you?

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The Soundtrack of Your Novel

In today’s Write Now podcast, I discuss the idea of curating music, much like a museum or art exhibit is curated. What type of mood are you trying to achieve? What is the desired aesthetic you’re going for? Are you looking to jog yourself out of writer’s block and give your creative juices a jolt? Or are you trying to focus on the task at hand and be as productive as possible?

On the one hand, intelligible chatter (i.e., lyrics) proves to be one of the most distracting elements when it comes to concentrating. But the right inspirational phrase in your favorite song can create the positive emotion and, more importantly, the motivational intensity you may need to try something different. So which is best: a calming, lyric-less ambiance or a high energy, word-filled catalyst?

“Messy Minds”

Studies show no one is really that great at multitasking, at least not as great as focusing on one thing at a time. But neither is the human mind easily placated by just one external stimuli. We need to hunker down and get to work, but we also need some emotional incentive to jog our creativity from time to time. So the answer to the question “What kind of music should I listen to while I write?” may just be both.

Mellow and calming music (or even just good old-fashioned silence) may be best if you’re trying to focus on productivity and getting the words on the page. For those times when you feel burned out or uninspired, your favorite high-energy, passionate pop or metal anthem may help you discover some innovative new approach. You may find movie soundtracks or simple ambient noise sets a mood that coincides with your writing and helps set the mood. If you don’t know where to start, there are tons of curated playlists out there to help inspire the state of mind you need.

Just keep in mind that music can only help facilitate your writing — only habitual reading and writing will help you become a better writer!

Helpful Resources

Here are some of the articles I referenced in today’s episode:

What do you listen to while you write? Tell me all about it on my contact page. You can also leave a comment below, or simply email me at hello [at] sarahwerner [dot] com. 🙂

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6 thoughts on “Does Listening To Music Help You Write? – WN 053

  1. Pingback: The Write Now Podcast Presents: "Does Listening To Music Help You Write?"

  2. Steve Smith says:

    Just listened to this episode. It’s the first time I’ve heard this topic addressed for writers. Very enjoyable. I write epic fantasy, so I’ve created my own “fantasy” playlist in Spotify. I’ve included soft background music with no words. For example, a few pieces from Lord of the Rings, and others from Celtic mixes. Lots of tin whistle and lilting strings. A few have voices, but with no distinguishable words. Except for one piece from Enya. 🙂

    btw, in case you’re interested I found you by searching for “write” in Stitcher which is the aggregator I use for listening to podcasts.

  3. When I started writing my first novel, I knew there was going to be a climactic death scene between a main character and his pet. One evening I was listening to John Williams’ “Old and Lost Rivers” from his “Five Sacred Trees” album. As soon as the music started to play, I could see the scene – and I just started writing from the pictures displayed in my mind through the music in my ears. Even now, when I listen to the song, I can still see that scene in my mind.

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