Writing to Music

Do you listen to music when you are writing? If not, maybe you should. Music has some amazing benefits for a writer. It can…

  1. Relieve stress or get us moving.
  2. Affect our mood.
  3. Spark our imaginations.
  4. Help us write faster.

How Writing to Music Works

Listening to music increases blood flow to the brain. In particular, the parts of our brain that control our emotions and our memory come alert when we listen to music. Familiar music that holds emotional significance can elicit memories and release dopamine. Changing the mood of music being listened to can also change one’s emotional state. (Learn more here about the process)

Choosing Music for Writing

The question is what kind of music works best? The following guidelines are intended to help in this selection.

Choose music that does not distract: While music has all the above positive effects, it can also be a distraction or conflict with the emotions we are trying to express in our writing. Songs being sung vocally, which encourage you to sing along, can be one form of distraction. Listening to the wrong style of music can cause confusion, such as listening to a happy dance tune while writing a murder scene.

Choose music that doesn’t raise negative feelings and memories. Because it is so strongly correlated with emotional memories, music can also elicit unhelpful negative feelings. Songs that bring up special or disturbing memories will interfere with your writing. Instead, look for unfamiliar songs that heighten the particular emotion you are writing.

Choose music that matches what is being written. The action and emotional context being written will also factor into one’s musical selections. Therefore, each writer needs to create their playlist of a unique music that works best for them and what they are writing.

Harness the power of music to improve your writing.

Genres of Music to Choose From

When building your playlist for your novel, consider exploring genres you may not be as familiar with. Sometimes music you may not choose for your own pleasure listening will turn out to be perfect for the scene you are writing. Explore the many musical videos on YouTube or one of your favorite music sources.

Check out some of these styles. Examples are taken from YouTube. NOTE: An added benefit to YouTube is that many YouTube musical selections are one to two hours long. Perfect for a writing session when you don’t have a prepared playlist.

Classical Music. If you are into classic music, symphonies mirror the highs and lows of a novel. Instrumentals by piano and cello can be stress-relieving. Some examples:

Movie Scores. Movie and series scores follow the same highs and lows found in a novel. They also mark deep emotional scenes and mirror character actions and motives. Examples:

Musicals. Broadway musicals contain musical numbers that mark the plot points and that mirror character actions and motives. One problem is finding instrumental versions. Here is one.

Topical Groupings. These are musical groupings with a common theme. Examples:

Instrumentals. Writing a love scene or quiet inner thought? Listen to a love song or soft piano piece. Here are two quiet works, I like.

Chillstep. These mixes range from soft to fast. But all have a strong beat. Need to up your writing speed? Check out this category of contemporary mixes. Here is an example:

Electronic/Techno and New Age. Perfect for writing a fantasy, scifi, or dream scene. Listen to these.

Find Your Own.

I hope that this article and the sample musical pieces have inspired you to listen to music while you write. You may prefer selecting from just one style or creating a mix. Searching YouTube for “Music for Writing” will bring up a wide range of styles.

Happy Listening and Writing!

What is your favorite music for writing?

2 thoughts on “Writing to Music

  1. Interesting post! Yes, I tend to listen to instrumentals. I write historical, so I choose things from the era I am writing at the time. Example: I wrote my WWII novel with music from the 40s.


    1. Great to hear from you. I listen to historical works when I write my historicals, too. My next novel features a woman who actually composed music in the 1860-1880s. I have the sheet music and have recorded it on the piano. She was also a close friend to Liszt who wrote music for her wedding. It is a wonderful feeling to know you are listening the the same music your characters would have heard.


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