Music for Writing

A close up shot of piano keys. When I look back on my high school and university years, I am astounded that I was able to get my homework done with the radio, the stereo or the television on.

I remember that the music helped me keep the neurons firing, especially after a full day of classes. The background noise also helped keep me company through a lonely night of homework, keeping the borderline extrovert in me happy.

While I don’t seem to have a vivid recollection of the homework process in itself (and truly, who would?) I seem to remember that for most tasks, I could multi-task with music playing in the background.

Did I have music on to study for tests? My memory is a little fuzzy on that question, but I would be inclined to think that I didn’t. I can’t imagine that I could successfully memorize if I had lyrics or radio chatter playing interference with the words on the written page. Today, I definitely can’t.

But did I have music on for writing essays? I am pretty sure that the answer is yes, as this is a habit that still holds true today for my writing projects. However, the music that forms the soundtrack of my writing is very carefully chosen.

Finding the perfect writing tunes has been a fascinating and fun journey in itself. As an all-around music lover, I have thoroughly enjoyed the process of listening to different artists and trying different genres of music to see what works best.

I find that the right music can help keep the pace of ideas flowing, much like the right song can be a perfect complement for working out, when the beats coincide with the movements of the exercise.

The key for me is that the music cannot contain words to interfere with the connection between the brain and wherever the words come from, whether the subconscious, the imagination or a “frequency” of inspiration.

To my great delight, I enjoy instrumental music of all kinds, whether classical, jazz, “chill lounge” music, instrumental versions of pop songs, or electronic dance music.

Ever the fan of game show nostalgia, over the years, I have collected a playlist of instrumental Price is Right background music used when describing individual prizes and showcases. Would you believe that for me, this is another fun and energizing playlist for writing? It puts a smile on my face every time.

Through my research for the perfect writing tunes, I have found a few exceptions to my no-words rule. I have enjoyed albums by Enigma, Enya and Secret Garden in my routine as the ethereal nature of the music seems to be the star, with just a few breathy lyrics finding their place in the background.

In retirement, I find myself going over my music collection with a fine-tooth comb to see if I lost track of some of the perfect songs for writing. It is often like a reunion with an old friend when I do find some and am able to enjoy them all over again with a fresh pair of ears.

No matter what music I choose, choosing the right volume is essential. It can’t be blasting. Even certain classical tunes can turn into a distraction if the volume is such that a crescendo can scare the crap out of me and make me lose my train of thought.

I also find that certain songs with a repetitious riff might not make it to the playlist just because the riff can break my concentration in the same way that a dripping faucet might be a distracting sound at bedtime.

As much as noise cancelling headphones can be a great tool to help block distractions, none of the ones I have owned (and I have been through a few pairs) acts as an absolute cone of silence.

But having some gentle, light, instrumental music playing through noise cancelling headphones at a low volume seems to be the right recipe to enhance my focus and ensure an uninterrupted flow of ideas… until the cat bursts into my studio insisting at the top of her lungs that it is meal time or that she needs me to take her for a walk. Life still happens!

When I go over my criteria for the perfect tunes for writing, I sometimes think I sound fussy, but why shouldn’t I be? I am certain that every writer has their own preferred soundtrack for writing, even if it is complete silence.

When I find the right song, album or even tranquil moments that can keep me at my desk, riding a brain wave for an hour or two and completely losing track of time and space, then that, to me, is great music for writing.

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Sincere thanks for reading!
Have a great day,
André

3 Comments

Filed under music, Writing

3 responses to “Music for Writing

  1. I’m fascinated by this!

    Any sort of music is too distracting for me when I’m writing. But I’m glad it works so well for you! 🙂

    • Hi Lydia
      Thank you for taking the time to comment!
      It is indeed fascinating to compare notes and to see what helps each writer stay focused.
      I find that such conversations offer ideas or tips which we may try to adapt into our own writing processes, or conversely, to help reassure us that we are not alone in our preferences.
      There really is no right or wrong answer as long as it keeps the ideas flowing!
      Thanks again and have a great holiday season.
      Cheers
      Andre

  2. Pingback: My First Script | It's the Journey

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