Do You Listen to Music When You Write?

by | Dec 8, 2010 | The Writing Life | 229 comments

The idea for this post was recently suggested to me by my pal John Ochwat, and was also a topic in the Forums: do you listen to music when you write? And if so, what do you listen to? Does it relate to your work in progress?

Personally I don’t often listen to music much when I write, but lately I’ve been listening to quite a bit of Iron and Wine. And it relates to Jacob Wonderbar not at all. It’s just awesome.

What about you?


  1. chicleeblair

    Constantly. I have to listen to music to think, it's a fact. When I'm writing I usually play an artist whose music I know by heart, and I have a large amount of. Generally Thea Gilmore or Dar Williams so they blend into the background. If a scene revolves around a specific song I'll play tat on repeat.

  2. Amanda

    I have a specific playlist I listen to because it sets the right mood, but I have to keep it playing pretty softly. I get distracted, kind of like the dog in UP. Squirrel!

  3. Nicole

    All the time! I have certain songs that help me hone in on the mood and action of each piece and/or character. Pandora is usually running in the background when I write. 🙂

  4. minawitteman

    Yes, I do, but it has to be music I either know by heart or that is without words. If not, I get too distracted.
    The Dexter theme works great with thriller writing…

  5. amymyoung

    Constantly. It is what drives my writing. Helps that I write about musicians though. 🙂

  6. RobynBradley

    It depends. I will stop and watch certain music videos that inspire the story, for whatever reason, and will listen/watch obsessively (my poor neighbors!). When I'm in the groove, I like to have it on in the background, but real low. My fave? The soundtrack from "Love, Actually."

  7. Kristina

    Sometimes, it depends on how focused I'm feeling. And yeah, it usually relates to what I'm writing. Not necessarily content-wise, but mood-wise. I listen to something I think my main character would like. So far, in my first two books, I've mentioned specific artists I've listened to while writing. Probably shouldn't do that–it probably dates the material–but whatevs.

  8. Teralyn Rose Pilgrim

    I like complete silence when I'm writing. It's difficult enough to concentrate as it is. Sometimes when I lose focus when I'm writing, I accidently type words other people are saying around me, with some pretty funny results.

  9. Jessica

    I usually have music on as background noise; I function better with white noise than I do in silence.

    The music I listen to can't be music I know well and want to sing along with though, otherwise it becomes a distraction, so often I'll pick a Pandora or satellite radio station with music that hits a relaxed, chill mood, but doesn't beg for my attention as I write.

  10. rnorwicke

    It depends on what I am writing. I like progressive rock for sci-fi/fantasy, and my beloved Mellow Like Jello playlist for a collection of short stories I am working on. Usually it helps. But sometimes it gets in the way, especially when I am struggling over some knotty plot problem. At those times only silence will do.

  11. karen33343

    Always. I am hooked on my Pandora station which is a compilation of all my favorite artists. It is really background noise, just to set the mood.

  12. Andrea

    Always. I usually pick strictly instrumental music. Classical, experimental, film scores. Lately it's been a lot of Neutral Milk Hotel & The Smiths, which don't relate at all to what I'm writing.

  13. Rasmenia

    I've always been a little jealous of people who could just rock out while they write.

    I can't do it. But, I can't write without something. I listen to a lot of instrumental music at a low volume when I'm writing. A few examples: Ennio Morricone, Beethoven & I've recently discovered Ólafur Arnalds.

    My favorite is Nick Cave & Warren Ellis' soundtrack to "The Road".

    I've made an instrumental playlist that I listen to ONLY when writing & have found that I'm like Pavlov's Dog – when I start that playlist up, I HAVE to write.

  14. Jeff Abbott

    Yes. I like to listen to soundtracks (of all sorts, both film and TV–the Bourne films, Lost, Henry V, for example), classical (Mahler and Bach are good choices), jazz (mostly Miles Davis or John Coltrane), and alternative (Muse, Radiohead, Massive Attack, Sigur Ros, Portishead).

  15. Christophe

    Yes ! A lot of soundtracks… I think i've got like 500 digitized CD on my computer… And those musics are a real inspiration while i write…

  16. Ganz-1

    Depends on my mood at the moment. If I feel like listening to something, I'd open up a playlist and write. If I don't feel like it, I'd just stuff my ears with my earphone and act as if I am.

  17. M.J.B.

    Almost always. Usually movie scores or sometimes Broadway stuff. It is always music I have memorized, so I can get inspired by it but not distracted!

  18. Marilyn

    I have to agree with Ara, music is too distracting. I like it quiet and calm when I write.

  19. Amanda Salisbury

    Generally, I don't listen to music when I write. But then I participated in a weekend-long writing marathon, with my children present (and supervised by another adult). Music, for me, is far more efficient than racket in general. I listened to All American Rejects newest album many times that weekend. Now, whenever I hear songs from that album, my brain auto-recovers and initiates WIP information.

  20. Jane Doe

    Only classical and instrumental. Anything with words would end up on the page. Silly brain.

  21. Istvan Szabo, Ifj.

    I always create an OST for the WIP and I used to listen that when I'm writing.

  22. Watcher55

    I have an eclectic mix of stations on Pandora. When I'm writing I turn off stations like Aerosmith and Nazareth and turn on Lissie, Jackson Browne, and Keith Whitley.

  23. jjhoutman

    Like many of your commenters, I like to listen to instrumental music, although non-English lyrics work, too. Upbeat is usually best, although Vivaldi is my "seriously, get to work" music.

    I have several Pandora stations set up. My first book was mostly written to flamenco, and my current WIP is mostly Bollywood. Nothing flamenco or Bollywood in the books, though.

  24. Laurel

    I listen to music while I'm drafting, outlining, etc. but not while I write. I get too sucked into the music and it slows me down.

  25. ~Sia McKye~

    Depends, Nathan. Sometimes I need it to be quiet. But there was a couple of chapters I was having a bit of difficulty getting the tone right for a battle. So I put on some of Shinedown and 10 year and it helped with me capture the energy I needed.

    Sometimes I'll listen to certain types of music with different things I write and mostly instrumental.

    Hope your week is going well. 🙂

  26. Tim Riley

    I like to have Pandora in the background-usually the Springsteen channel. Gives me lots of Dylan, Van Morrison, Mellencamp, CCR, that kind of vibe. Other times I like the New Order channel-lots of Smiths, Depeche Mode in there too.

  27. J. P. Cabit

    Sometimes. I'm a big fan of Ambient Space Music…I love Kent Sparling's "Evening Air, Freeway Birds, No Wind Birds."

  28. Jillian Brookes-Ward

    I write romance and my music choice is Richard Hawley's Truelove's Gutter and Cole's Corner. Every word I have written over the last 3 years have been accompanied by this achingly romantic music. I made a dedication to him in Saving Nathaniel. Mr Hawley was pleased.

  29. folksinmt

    I can't write without music. Especially if it's late at night–I put on the headphones and blast the volume. It has to be alt. rock while I'm writing, but when I'm editing, I can only listen to classical or new age.

  30. K. Harrington

    When I'm writing, I usually listen to music. I'm a big fan of Pandora like many others here. Funny thing, when I'm editing, I have to have complete silence.

  31. Shannon Ryan


    Unless I am in a lazy mood an using Dragon. I have to find just the right groove though, something peppy enough to keep me grinding out the words, but not so poetic that I have to think about the lyrics.

  32. Calenhíril

    Almost always. I have some nice fast soundtrack tracks for action scenes and soft tracks for the quiet moments. Of course, sometimes I forget to press play and the words still come. I haven't noticed any difference on way or another, but if I become aware of the silence, I have to fill it with something.

  33. Anonymous

    Sometimes or often but not always. And often I'll listen to the same thing over and over and over, even for a novel! I do worry in the summer when the windows are open that my neighbor is getting mighty sick of the same music. Opera is usually my choice, but it depends on the characters, the mood of the scene and the novel overall. I'm not against listening to something different if necessary, and quiet is often fine, too.

  34. Katelyn D.

    I usually can't listen to music with words, because I'll get too distracted — although there are occasions when I'll have music on, start writing, and completely forget about it because I'm so focused! Usually if I do put music on, it's either instrumental (soundtracks, often from Final Fantasy or Myst games, or sometimes movies) or in a language I don't understand. I have some really upbeat Japanese rock and hip-hop that I got from my sister, and it works great for getting me powered up and ready to write.

  35. Chris Phillips

    I used a song called The Beach by Dr. Dog when intro-ing my last villain. Normally I just youtube some npr tiny desk concerts.

  36. Heidi

    It depends. Generally I find music too distracting, especially if it has words. But I'll listen to music just before I write to inspire me, or sometimes I'll hear a song and then a scene will pop into my head.

  37. Mimi Cross


    And, my characters write songs, sometimes for each other . . .

    Songs that are full of yearning inspire me most, also subtle, moody orchestral pieces.
    Try Pete Yorn for the first, Marcelo Zarvos for the second, and don't forget to check out my music at
    (What musician could resist this opportunity for shameless self promotion?)

  38. Conni

    NEVER. It's too distracting. It's not that the words end up on the page, or that I start singing along, but more that my brain can't process both production and input at the same time.

    (I wrote a longer piece on my blog before Thanksgiving.)

  39. Anonymous

    Iron and Wine is fantastic! Since I am writing historical fiction I listen to music from those time periods. It transports me back to those times and improves my writing.

  40. Emily White

    With two kids under four and very limited time to write, I have to listen to music just to get into the right frame of mind quickly. What I listen to depends on what my MC likes. I know that sounds crazy, but I always decide what kind of music my MC listens to before I start writing a book.

  41. Janette Dolores

    Nope. I find it too difficult to fully concentrate if I'm distracted by a good song.

  42. Jeigh

    My WIP was actually inspired by a song, "Try" from Fame, so when I get stuck, I listen to it on repeat to help me get back into that first brain explosion writing groove. There are a lot of songs that help me visualize certain scenes of my book, though. Right now, I'm loving Secondhand Serenade.

  43. Kathleen

    Absolutely not. But then, I have a bachelors and masters in music, so music demands my attention if it's on. This drives my husband crazy, because he likes to have it for background in the car, and I'll analyze all the songs on the radio. LOL

  44. swampfox

    I prefer a quiet house – a peaceful undisturbed environment. I never get that, since my two sons seem to have the loudest vocal chords in history. And if I have a chance to write when they're not home, that's when the dog next door starts barking.

  45. Aaron

    I ALWAYS listen to music while writing. Or, at least most of the time.
    I have avery eclectic taste, and so my music is like a mish-mash of stuff.
    Some times what I'm listening to corresponds with the scene I'm writing. Though most of the time, I'm listening to randomness.
    I also listen to Iron and Wine sometimes, typically when a it's a slow moving scene. Or maybe Jack Johnson or Michael Buble.
    Then I'll pull out the randomness with Norah Jones, Mumford and Sons, Brand New, Paper Route, Anberlin, Death Cab for Cutie, Postal Service, the Beatles, Sarah McClachlan, X-Ray Dog, Paramore, Owl City, Lady Gaga, Band of Horses, Coldplay, Dave Matthews, Gary Jules, Karen O and the Kids, AND A TON of soundtrack music.

    I've got soundtrack music for film scenes where someone's being murdered, epic battle scenes, end credits, lullabies, the works. I AM THE ECLECTIC KING! MWAHHAHAHAHAHAH!
    That's just a taste of my music.

  46. Alii Silverwing

    No music if I can help it. If I'm working around other people, though, I'll put on background random stuff that I can forget about. I can't both read and listen at the same time, so if I'm doing one it shuts down my ability to do the other.

    I really prefer silence, because I have to 'hear' the scene in my head. Otherwise it doesn't end up as rich because there's not enough ambient sensation.

    My brain is wired weird.

  47. Porter Anderson

    I recommend film scores, instrumental ones, today being written by some of our best contemporary composers. You don't want words, as some here have said, they distract a writer. But for toning, mood, concentration, you can't beat the creative "bed" that a good compositional suite inspired, itself, by story, can supply.

    Want a few to check out? John Powell's superb work for the three Bourne films, Hans Zimmer's scores for Frost/Nixon and Da Vinci Code with Hila Plitmann's eerie vocals, John Williams' Minority Report soundtrack, Craig Armstrong's The Quiet American score, any Philip Glass including his work for Notes on a Scandal and The Hours, Gabriel Yared's unforgettable soundtrack for The Talented Mr. Ripley, anything by Nico Muhly including his work for The Reader, Michael Nyman (anything by him, too) for The Libertine, Tom Tykwer for Perfume (lush in the extreme), and don't overlook Trevor Morris' fine work for Showtime's The Tudors series, particularly if you're working in period material.

  48. Yat-Yee

    I can't. I think partly it's because I am a musician and have spent thousands of hours listening to music intently, without doing anything else and that has become the norm for me.

  49. Stephanie

    I can't have music playing while I'm writing. I can't think with the noise. But I am constantly listening to different music when I'm not writing, but thinking about writing, for inspiration. Lately it's been a lot hard rock, grunge, and even a little rap. I simply don't see soft music for this.

  50. Britt Mitchell

    No. I recently read a few articles about the effect on students who study and do homework while listening to music. Apparantly, they don't do as well. I can't remember all the reasons. So, assuming it COULD affect my writing as well, I just write in silence.

  51. Scott

    It all depends on the project. Sometimes, I listen to music from beginning to end, and other times, just at various points during the writing process. In one book, music played a big part, so I made sure to listen to music constantly.

  52. Vinyl and Mono

    Can't NOT listen. Music has inspired much of my work. I usually have a playlist of inspirations, one of songs that may actually appear in the story, and one of music I just happen to hear or discover while writing. I usually put on my favorite Internet radio station while I'm working and just see what happens, and sometimes what happens is amazing.

  53. Dorothy L. Abrams

    I usually write without musical accompaniment. The exception occurs when I need to capture a mood or belief or value that is foreign to me. Then I seek out music that evokes what I need. My characters soar with the songs and reveal the depths of feelings I had not understood before they appear on the page. I think music helps my characters speak in their own voices.

  54. KT

    Music is a MUST for me. I love making playlists for my WiPs and sometimes for each character (if there are different narrators). I think it really helps set the tone that you want to pull off as you write. (And, okay, I procrastinate sometimes by creating these playlists…)

    Iron and Wine is unbelievable. I've been listening to them a lot recently, too. On my current WiP playlist 🙂

  55. R.A. Harris

    I absolutely need to listen to music to write. A lot of music is what inspires me to write certain things. It moves and motivates me. I usually just turn on my favorites and let my fingers and imagination go to work.

  56. Marie

    Always. I love music and it's what really inspires me. I also use it to block out other noise around me so I can conentrate on the writing. For me, music is like a soundtrack to my novels and I really love listening to movie soundtracks that suit the kind of thing I am writing. As I write fantasy I find that anything by Hans Zimmer is great. The music of Nightwish and Blackmore's Night is really inspiring for me too.

  57. lotusgirl

    I love certain types of music when I'm writing and different when I'm editing. When I'm doing the read out loud edits I will often turn off the music so I can fully hear the rhythms and flow.

  58. You know who

    Music is a must. Unfortunately, I'm one who likes to sing along, which can make creative writing more difficult. So, I have to listen to instrumentals.

    Yes, if it relates to what I'm working on, I feel it helps me set the mood for the part of the book. I have entire playlists created for writing different things.

  59. Anonymous

    I agree with Porter Anderson (and thank you for the list), film scores are very motivational. I also like to open Pandora with Yiruma as my radio guide.

  60. Sean

    Though I often refer to songs/artists in my WIP, I don't listen to music/TV when writing. I can make it work, but find it can subconsciously take me one way when I'm trying to go another. I do, however, listen to plenty of neighbor dogs barking when I'm writing whether I like it or not, which can really help me amp up any torture scenes I may be hashing out. But overall, much like Jack Torrence, I prefer peace and quiet.


    I like listening to bands like The Cinematic Orchestra and Radiohead – things that remind me of movie scores. But during NaNoWriMo I got hooked on putting Rainy Mood on in the background and it was AMAZING.


  62. Clemens P. Suter

    I always listen to classic rock on my internet radio – a station from Austria strangely called "Radio Vorarlberg". Helped me to write both TWO JOURNEYS and CELETERRA.

  63. Phil

    I do indeed, each novel written to its own soundtrack, such that years later, certain songs recall characters and moments within plots that I had not thought of in years, evoked dreamlike from nothing but sound and air.

    The neighbor's dog is dancing in the bushes again.

  64. Stephanie  Barr

    No, because I like vocals and the words will distract me.

    However, if I'm doing anything else (math, reviewing documents for my engineering dayjob, etc), I work much better and faster with music.

  65. Wendy Paine Miller

    I love music at all other times except for when I write. Can't do it. Too distracting.
    ~ Wendy

  66. Malia

    If I listen to music when I'm writing, I can't get a darn thing done. I have a tendency to get up and sing and dance. It's very hard to hold the computer. But, I can watch TV.

  67. Anna

    I don't like to listen to music because I get distracted too easily. I like to sing along to my music and I find it difficult to sing and write at the same time. That and song lyrics creep into my WIP and soon I'm just writing out an artist's ouevre rather than creating something new.

  68. Courtney Price ~ Vintage Ginger Peaches

    It can't have lyrics. I adore lyrics too much and I can't unplug my brain from them, thus ruining my train of thought and killing my story. I would be interested to know if any published authors listen to music while writing. It doesn't seem to make for a great writing environment. (And please, no on bring up the fact the S. Meyers writes with music, with lyrics, because… well, I'll point out some flaws with that tactic.)

  69. salima

    no, no music…silence must reign. while i draw, i need music. but i do love iron and wine and have seen them live here in austin a few times. he's amazing!!! his lyrics! the music! and he seems happily married and he's a MUSICIAN!!!! love that man.

  70. Miss Sharp

    No music but I do listen to conservative talk radio when writing or doing just about anything, even reading. I find it pretty easy to zone in and out as needed.

    I really am a political junkie and feel quite dull without the company of Glenn and Rush and Levin I confess, I find music boring and/or distracting and don't like TV much.

    Long live talk radio! 😀

  71. roh morgon

    I always write to music. It helps me to tune out the real world and create the atmosphere necessary for whatever section I'm working on. I have extensive playlists for all of my longer works.

    Sometimes a song will trigger a new scene in my head. It's usually not the lyrics, but the tone and mood that does it.

    As an example, I'd been struggling for the right opening scene of a new novel. The main character (Sullivan) was in the back of my head, and I kept visualizing different openings, but none of them sent me running to the keyboard to get started.

    And then I heard a song, and knew immediately that this was Sullivan's song, and an opening I'd never considered came tumbling into my head. I dropped everything I was doing and started writing his story. And 15k words later, his story is still pouring out of my fingers.

    It wasn't about the lyrics, though a few lines do pertain to his situation. It was really about the emotion it evoked, and how well it matched the place his head was at. (The song, BTW, is Circadium Rhythm by Son Volt).

    In other instances, I'll hear a song that seems to relate to a scene already written. I'll play that song when I edit, and the music helps to bring out the emotions I'm trying to infuse in the scene.

    I couldn't write as well without music – it's very integral to my process.

  72. Robert Trevino

    I have to listen to music. It helps to drown out the outside world and helps to put me in the zone. I listen to the Gorillaz and Daft Punk and other similar music. I like to have the volume around medium. A little louder than background music but not enough to where the neighbors bang on the walls.

  73. Mira

    I'm abstaining from answering this question because you're not posting on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and I feel abandoned.

    I thought I would mention that I was abstaining from posting in case you didn't notice that I hadn't posted.

    So anyway, I hope you are finally getting a chance to rest from the intense amount of work you've been doing, Nathan, and having some fun and your work on Wonderbar is going well. You know, during the time you're not posting on Tuesday and Thursday.

    I also liked John Ochwat's blog, I thought his section on "About me" was very funny.

    Oh, and I don't listen to music when I write, I need absolute quiet except maybe the chirping of birds and the buzzing of bees, as long as they are quiet bees.

    Okay, I might abstain from posting on Friday again, I'm not sure. But I promise to let you know either way.

  74. Claudie A.

    I'll listen to music, either classical or a few particular tunes with a good beat and which I know by heart. These put me in the right mood, and help drown out the outside world.

    Oen thing I cannot do, however, is listen to a new CD when writing. I pay too much attention to the music when that happens.

  75. Stephanie Garber

    Yes! Absolutely. I like to make soundtracks for when I'm writing. Sometimes when I get stuck on a chapter I will just pick one song that I think represents the mood of that chapter and then play it over and over again.
    Some of my favorites are Florence + The Machine, Damien Rice, Muse, AFI, and Stars.

    And I agree with everyone who likes to use Pandora.

  76. Vienne

    While I am working with words, I cannot listen to other words. I can, however, enjoy music sung in a language I don't understand.

    Currently, and for at least the last ten years, that's been the late and greatly lamented Ali Farka Toure. He sings in African languages, and also in occasionally in French. I don't speak that language very well, but the sporadic word or phrase I do understand is very distracting, so my playlist does not contain any of his French work.

    One odd thing about his music is that he falls into the category of what is called "Wild Blues" – regarded by many as the ancestor of the genre of "Delta blues," which itself is the progenitor of a great deal of American music.

    Another is that I once introduced him to a painter acquaintance, and now she too uses AFT as her "inspirational" music.

  77. Pamala Knight

    I do listen to music when I'm writing. Sometimes it relates to the scene I'm writing but most often, it's just a way to keep my muse in motion.

    By the way, Iron and Wine is a fabulous choice–love them. I've been listening to a lot of Calexico lately and they also have a joint venture with I&W. You might also like John Grant.

  78. Ara Grigorian

    Music is critical for me. I write at nights. I need to shut out everything else and focus. I slap on the noise canceling headphones and off I go. The music I choose is specific to the novel I'm writing. I develop a playlist that in one way or another inspires me. Maybe the song lets me get a clearer picture of my characters, the scene, the emotion. Recently I blogged about this very topic.


  79. Maggie Secara

    Music with words is way too distracting. I wind up typing what I'm hearing, or singing along which is worse. My writing music of choice is movie soundtracks, the orchestral kind: Lord of the Rings, Master & Commander, Restoration are at the top of my list. when I worked for harlan Ellison (long ago, now) his favorites were Ennio Morrecone scores for Clint Eastwood movies!

  80. Courtney Odell

    My first step when I'm sitting down to write for the day is to turn on I don't blast it or anything, it's more for background noise, but it does contribute to my mood. If the tone of the book is melancholy and I'm having a great day, the music helps me get into the proper mindset quickly. Likewise if I'm having a bummer day, but trying to write a happy resolution. The few times I've tried to write without music have been choppy and less productive. I think music also distracts me my inner OCD that usually tries to do a hard core edit while I write.

    Pandora allows you to make many different "stations." You start with a song or artist and it plays music similar to that seed. You can thumbs up and down songs and that helps the website decide which other songs you might like. My most commonly used station is Matchbook Romance, but I also have Blondie, Pearl Jam, Concrete Blond and more. Every now and then an Iron and Wine song comes up and I usually thumbs up it.

  81. Ilima Loomis

    Love this questions and all the great replies. Music helps me break writer's block, but it has to be instrumental or in another language so I'm not distracted by the words.

    If not music, sometimes I listen to those ambient nature sounds like rain they make to help babies sleep.

  82. Leigh Wetmore

    Anything with a melody and my mind's churning out totally unrelated ideas. For getting down to business I have a white noise playlist. "Dishwasher" is a personal favorite… I could listen to that ish all day.

  83. jen

    Yes, I have to listen to music and it is almost always classical (along the lines of Strauss, Jr), jazz or Celtic.

  84. Kathy

    Always. I find it hard to concentrate if I don't listen to music of some kind.

    As for what I listen to, it depends on my mood. Little to none of it has anything to do with my WIP or pretty much anything I write.

  85. M.A.Leslie

    Billy Joel's Greatest Hits. For some reason it is my favorite thing to listen to when I am writing.

  86. Dan

    I prefer silence. I only listen to music if I have to drown out the noise around me, and then I try to keep it in the mood of what it is I'm writing.

  87. JES

    Nearly always. I've got a different playlist for each of my main characters (one classical, one New Age, one "easy listening," and so on); depending on who I'm working with on a given day, that's the playlist.

    One caveat: most vocal music confuses the hell out of my neurons while I'm trying to write. The playlists thus are almost exclusively instrumental. The exception? Vocal music in another language, especially in genres like chants and other medieval pieces.

  88. S. Kyle Davis

    I have ADHD and dysgraphia. No way I could listen to music while I write, unless it's instrumental. Of course, almost all of my instrumental is classical, which isn't exactly the mood I want for my writing.

  89. D.G. Hudson

    No, I don't usually listen to music while writing. I find it distracts me. That may be due to the type of music I prefer (jazz, blues, and rock).

    Music restores my equilibrium, but I listen to it outside of my writing time.

    I just need coffee, laptop, BIC and uninterrupted time when I'm writing. A glass of wine and music comes after.

    Thanks, Nathan, for keeping the "you tell me" posts!

  90. Julia Rachel Barrett

    Never. Too distracting. I listen to rock and roll and Motown when I'm driving, not when I'm writing. I prefer some sort of silly television program or music in the background – white noise.

  91. Anonymous

    I like quiet when I write. I need to hear the story, the cadences, the rhythm in the words, the characters' voices.

    And… there is a LOT of music in my characters. They play music, write music, make up lyrics, but it works best of all when it is their music, not outside the story.

    In one recent novel, however, I had the characters listening to all sorts of music that actually exists and then added a play-list. Although it's workable, I found that way weaker than the above way.

    If someone (one of my beta readers, for example) wasn't familiar with a song or score, it didn't "read' for him. Another worried that actually music might date a novel.

    Beyond that, I found it distracting.
    It is too easy to be moved by the music (and just look at a book trailer without the music on and you get a very different experience).

    So I find that if the words themselves, read, are moving, that's what I'm after. That becomes more seeable without the outside music.

    For what it's worth, I also can't bear music while reading either.

    word verification: tring
    (interp: my own inner music is playing: Oh there that writer goes, tringing again.)

  92. joncwriter

    Oh definitely–been doing so for years, actually. Who I listen to depends on what project I'm working on (I'm the writer who makes soundtracks/mixtapes for their projects, natch), but for a fallback I always use bands like Lamb and Hooverphonic (lighter sort-of-electronica stuff). I also wrote most of a trilogy fueled on LaunchCast when it was still around. 🙂

  93. Rachel Searles

    I listen to music before I write, to get my head in the right place. But during writing, I need absolute silence.

  94. Gina

    I probably shouldn't admit this, but I do a lot of my writing when I'm bored at work. (Hey- desk, computer, Microsoft Word- they're all there. It's only natural!)

    We always have a radio on in our office and if I'm really in the zone I can completely tune out the noise around me. But if I'm stuck or not liking what I'm writing, the music will annoy and distract me.

    On the other hand, the right song can serve as instant inspiriation. That's why my IPod is always handy!

  95. Becca

    Yes, if I have a choice. And it depends on the mood I'm in. If I'm excited about what I'm writing, I'll listen to anything. If I need to force myself to write something, then it has to be something without lyrics (like my *coughcoughxmenmoviesoundtrackscough*) or something not in English, that way I can't get distracted and sing along.

  96. Josin L. McQuein

    Before, yes. During, rarely. If I do, it has to have no words (usually a soundtrack / score from a movie)

    I can't think if there are words coming in from the outside, and I've been known to put on my headphones without anything coming through them just to get some quiet.

  97. Alex J. Cavanaugh

    Yes, because it sets the mood. I'm also a musician, so music is a very integral part of my life.

  98. T. Anne

    I need to listen to it before and after but during I need silence. I hear the voices better that way. 😉 *wish I was joking*

  99. Anita Saxena

    If it's playing in the background it's ok. But, I don't usually listen to music while I write because I end up typing out words from the song lyrics sometimes. It's just a mess.

  100. Diana

    No. If music is playing while I am writing, I tune it out. It doesn't make much sense to turn on music that I'm not going to hear.

  101. Denise

    I always listen to music when I write. To be creative I like to be surrounded by creativity. It inspires me.

  102. hannah

    I make playlists for all my books, but I have to turn the music off when things get serious. A lot of times, I listen to the playlists only when I'm not writing, just to get my head in the right place.

    Lately the playlists have been heavy on Dar Williams.

  103. Jenny Torres Sanchez

    I always listen to music, but it has to be a playlist I've made for that specific work–something that "feels" like it.

  104. Kelly Lyman

    Love, love, love Iron and Wine. They are on my playlist for my current WIP. There are times when I listen to a playlist before I write to help me get in the right frame of mind for whatever scene I'll be working on. But usually, when it comes down to it, I turn the music off. If I get stuck, I press play again for brainstorming.

  105. Chase March

    I listen to music when I write.

    Sometimes I listen to rap radio podcasts. Other times I feel the need to listen to something a little softer and play some R&B or easy listening stuff.

    I have found that a particular song coming on at the right moment in the writing process can sometimes even help me to tell the story.

  106. Womanji

    A simple yes, and what I am writing depends on what I am listening too and so goes it the other way around.


    I could not write without listening to my fave band of all time, Bauhaus. If not them, the only other who will do is Bowie.

  108. Stephanie McGee

    I put iTunes on shuffle and open the WiP. I just need the noise there for some reason. It doesn't matter what the music is. Except when it came to writing the climax battle in my last book. I put together a "Battle Anthem" playlist and went through that twice to write the scene. It worked really well, I thought.

  109. Hannah Jenny

    Mostly not, because I need to concentrate more. But sometimes I have to have the distraction because otherwise I'll be more distracted (doesn't make sense, I know). With my current WIP, some of the pen-and-paper writing (how I do the first couple of drafts) was written while listening to rock radio, which I don't even like, but fits with the main character. And some of the first-typed-draft (as far as I've gotten yet) was written to celtic/new-agey stuff, which fits with the world. Now I just need to find out what the editing music is . . .

  110. Kristi

    I can only listen to instrumental music or music with lyrics in a language I don't understand. Anything with words in English confuses my writing brain.

  111. B.E.T.

    I definitely listen to music while I write. Sometimes it applies to the characters, lots of times it doesn't. Like now, I'm listening to a South Korean Pop group called 2NE1 whenever I write and it has nothing to do with my characters. Either that or Glee…but still!

  112. Regina

    Music is on 24/7 for me. It is the only thing that helps me focus or I am all over the place.

  113. Anonymous

    I'm most productive when I listen to music. I like something upbeat with a touch of romance. I listen to Latino. Since I don't understand the language the music is just background and lets my mind focus on the story. I like Julio Iglesias and Marco Antonio Solis.

  114. mt si dad

    I listen to what the characters listen to or what era/culture the characters are in. Helps to set the mood and helps to keep me flowing in the "language" of the characters.

    I am afraid of what I'd write if one of my characters was into hip-hop, though.

  115. Paullina_Petrova

    I listen to music whenever I write. It helps me clear my head of everything that is not related to writing and to dive into the atmosphere of my book. I wrote the different parts of my book, listening to different music. These were Katie Melua, Norah Jones, Nadia Ali, Metric, Hurts…

  116. meredithmansfield

    Not when I write as in first draft, but sometimes when I edit. Then I usually just let my playlist go on random.

  117. Avery June

    I think music would keep me from giving each character their own, consistent voice.

  118. Bree D

    Never. Listening to music is a serious endeavor and requires almost as much concentration as writing. I don't consider music "background".

  119. Anonymous

    Yes ! Absolutely ! But it must be in keeping with the style of what I'm working on . For instance I've been listening to both Martha Wainwright's Piaf album & the music of Serge Gainsbourg . I'm hoping that it bathes my current project in that certain ' je ne sais quoi '.

  120. TheWriterStuff

    I listen to music with just about everything I do, including writing; mostly jazz but also gospel or world music. If I'm working on a particulary difficult passage, though, I sometimes "pull the plug" long enough to "hear" what I've written. Once I'm happy I plug in again and continue.

  121. Kiara

    All the time. So many scenes have been written on the basis of a song I've listened to or a mood it has put me on. Any number of things can contribute towards my writing through music.

    It helps focus me. When I'm listening to music and writing, there's less chance of being distracted by trivial things, simply because I'm blocking the outside world and focusing solely on the world I'm creating.

    Though I will admit I've had times where I've written and it's been impossible for me to listen to music. Usually when I'm writing a major scene and need all my concentration for it. When music turns into a distraction, I know it needs to be turned off.

    Good post!

  122. Marquita Hockaday

    I do every now and then. Sometimes I try and have it relate so it can get me more in my character's head. Sometimes it can be distracting because you want to sing along with the words that you know 🙂

  123. Scarlet Passmore

    I have to listen to music to get into the mood. In fact, I listen to a specific kind of music; the orchestral soundtracks to the Final Fantasy series. Sometimes, if I know a specific song matches the scene I'm doing, I'll play that one on repeat. I'm trying to incorporate the FullMetal Alchemist soundtracks I have too, but the game ones have a special place in my heart ^^;; It can't have lyrics though, or I get caught up listening and it breaks my train of thought.

  124. Travis Erwin

    When stuck a well written tune seems to open my mind. So while not often I do on occasion turn on some singer songwriter types.

  125. February Grace

    Absolutely- music is vital to my writing.

    Sometimes a song will inspire me and I'll sit down and start writing because of it (even if the writing has nothing directly to do with the song lyrics, it may remind me of a character I'm working on and so inspire original material.)

    Also, when I'm planning to sit down and work on a new project, I'll make a playlist of songs first to set the tone of the atmosphere. For my top secret NaNo project this year, a genre I haven't tried before, the music was vital to help me create the right environment.

    Words and music, inextricable for me 🙂 Great question!

    Oh, and what I listen to when I write varies wildly but when I really need to haul on something, I tend to revert to two bands: Keane and Coldplay. I know the music so well it lights up the creative centers of my brain as my mind dissects each song while I'm writing but since it's so well known, doesn't distract me.


  126. Sheila Cull

    Yes! Mostly violin and piano sonatas. Fav living classical musician, Yo Yo Ma (Cell0), divine.

    Fav dead, it's a tie between Chopin and Mozart. And, I'll leave it to two.

    Does anybody else under 43 like classical too? lol.

  127. taratyler

    Not as much as I did at first. The sci fi thriller I'm working on requires more concentration. If I want to get more done, I have to turn it off.
    My ipod has a little of everything.
    Except country ={
    From the Beatles to Journey to Green Day to Black Eyed Peas and beyond!

  128. G

    I usually need complete silence when I write. Helps with my imagination going off the deep end when need be.

    However, I'm finding that listening to music while I'm editing (currently going through a fourth round of editing my manuscript) helps keep me alert while doing it, plus it quite often puts into a groove as well.

    Hard rock does it for me. The harder the better.

  129. wonderer

    Yes, but only classical and usually non-vocal. There's a specific "classical relaxation" CD I often put on; it's become my writing music. My last novel was written to Beethoven's 9th – which movement depended on the mood of the scene. Worked great.

  130. Mark

    vocals distract me as I spend time listening to them instead of writing, but I like to have some music going so I use only instrumental – mostly guitar like Strunz & Farah or Jesse Cook.

  131. Lisa Tener

    No music. It disturbs my concentration.

  132. stacy

    Yeah. I listen to a lot of classical and film music as well as world music. I can't listen to anything with lyrics unless it's in a foreign language—otherwise I spend too much time trying to figure out the words. But music helps me think.

  133. Barb W

    I don't listen to music while writing. I get too caught up in the music and forget what I am supposed to be doing.

  134. Lillian Grant

    I do listen to music and it depends what I am working on. I am currently writing a story that has a heroine who is defying the world and I listen to Rebel Rebel by David Bowie on repeat. It must be her theme tune 🙂

  135. mlevy

    I go so far as to find the perfect song to set the tone for each chapter or scene that I'm working on. I always find motivation from music in my writing. Or maybe that's just my justification for spending hours searching for the perfect song. Ah, procrastination, how many, many forms you take.

  136. R.D. Allen

    I have a really hard time writing without music. Of course, it has to be the right music, so the first ten minutes of my writing time is usually picking muse music. It usually varies between stories — each narrator, in fact, has their own taste in music — and there are only a few songs that inspire the general audience in my mind.

    "Far Away" by Apocalyptica is one that applies to all my stories so far, so I can turn that on repeat sometimes and it works, but usually I have to find the specific song they want to listen to.

    Recently, with the three narrators in the novel I'm writing, the most common sounds are by Paramore, Fall Out Boy, and Josh Groban.

  137. Lucinda

    I prefer to listen to the clock ticking on the wall, but when I cannot hear it ticking due to other sounds, I put a heavy-duty set of headphones on and listen to music without words…ranging from native American to Yanni and David Lanze.

    Sometimes I listen to pure old-time classic to drown out any interference or inhance the damn scotch.

    Had a bad day today wondering down memory lane…so, yeah, very loud music helps drown out the memories.

    bottom line…music only when needed.

    ps…too bad Nathan, that you decided to quit agenting. I just finished a beauty and was considering sending you a query.

    Best of everything on all your adventures in life.

    gotta love this one….word verif: In Ape. Just one more monkey…

  138. Dawn Pier

    Yes…almost always there is something on quietly in the background. It varies but I am a believer in the Mozart effect, so am very careful WHAT is on.

    Strangely, during the writing my WIP I have noticed that often upon starting a section or chapter, a song pops into my head that is the perfect "theme" for the chapter. For example, "We're on a road to nowhere" by the Talking Heads started resonating when I started writing about my wedding day.

  139. Lady G Pendragon

    I definitely feel more inspired when I listen to music. I find that punk rock is the best for tapping into that rebellious, writerly spirit deep within. Green Day…yay!

  140. wry wryter

    My music…TV on in the other room.

    My husband is having a couch affair with Judge Judy…bitch.

    When I'm alone…"New Age" very quietly, love it.

  141. Becca C.

    Sometimes it really distracts me, but depends on the project. Certain WIPs, I listen to music all the time and I make playlists specifically for that story. Certain other stories, though, music scatters my thoughts and I just can't.

  142. Deniz Bevan

    It's fun having a playlist for your story? I’ve got two at the moment, the one with all the Turkish and Ladino songs, and the one with the Cistercian chants. All my other playlists are the default bands I turn to when I just can’t decide what to listen to, but have to have music on! Here they are:

  143. Deniz Bevan

    Oops, question mark instead of exclamation point!

  144. Carson Lee

    There's power in silence.
    There's also power in Dylan.
    And Fleetwood Mac.

  145. Patrick Neylan

    I have a special playlist of music I can play while reading and writing.

    Much though I love punk rock and heavy metal, it's too distracting so my playlist largely consists of classical, jazz and prog.

    It's heavily skewed towards Beethoven, Neu! and Can, with a bit of Miles Davis thrown in. I've got a thing about Germans. My kids hate it.

  146. Clara Rose

    Yes, I do listen to music when I write.

    It started with my high school English teacher… we started each day with 15 minutes of journal writing to various classical music tapes (yes, back in the day).

    Now, it seems a natural setting for creativity… try it for yourself!

  147. Lucinda

    …just in case someone read my reply ^^^^ that is NOT a typo…I didn't "wander" anywhere, but I certainly did a lot of "wondering."

    Love reading these responses



  148. Alicia

    If I listen to music while I write, the lyrics end up in my story. Thanks for the Iron and Wine link…beautiful harmony. I needed a new band to listen to.

  149. Kat Nove

    I usually write to Golden State by Bush or the soundtrack from With Honors. I'm not sure why, but hearing these familiar songs keeps me working. And as an added bonus, I've chosen a song from the WH soundtrack to be played at my funeral…then my ashes need to be placed in the gas tank of my ex-husband's most expensive vehicle.

  150. Terry Towery

    Music and writing are the two great passions of my life. Consequently, I don't mix them. I do listen to music before I write, while brainstorming. But when I sit down to do the actual writing, I need complete silence.

    For my first book, hard rock ruled. For the current one, I am listening almost exclusively to Arcade Fire.

  151. Matthew Rush

    God no. Are you kidding? I wish I could but I have nowhere near that level of concentration. Way too distracting.

  152. missmystra

    Music definitely help sets the mood for me–I actually have two VERY different playlists that represent the main characters in each of my two stories, depending on which one I'm working with. One list is upbeat with lots of 90s pop music and the other list is more gothic, with Phantom of the Opera taking up a good portion of the songs.

  153. Katherine Hyde

    Nope. Any kind of music is too distracting for me. I like to give my whole concentration to music when I do listen to it, and I prefer it live.

  154. Kristin Laughtin

    On rare occasions I'll listen to something instrumental, but most of the time I find music with lyrics too distracting.

  155. The Red Angel

    I usually listen to music right before I start to write or when I am having trouble finding some inspiration or coming up with, say, a character's name. Music is too powerful to even comprehend, and sometimes all I need is that little scale of notes to perk up my senses and get my creative juices flowing. 🙂


  156. Terin Tashi Miller

    Normally, no, I don't listen to music when I'm working on something. I have enough going on in my head without wanting any potential outside distraction or attraction taking me out of my dream-state and into the present.

    However, I did write a crime novel years ago, partly inspired by Phil Collins' "I can hear it" (coming in the air at night). Almost every word fit the story I was working on, and even now when I hear the song I find myself mouthing the words to it, if not outright singing, and can recall like a computer dump the entire plot line and story it inspired.

    It was my first "crime" novel, called at the time "Bad Moon Rising," titled also by another song that inspired it, Credence Clearwater Revival's "I See A Bad Moon Rising."

    So, you've got "don't go out tonight, for it's bound to take your life…there's a bad moon on the rise," and "I was there and I saw what you did, I saw it with my own two eyes; so you can wipe off that grin, I know where you've been, and it's all been a pack of lies…"

    The novel, never published and I believe only briefly shopped by one of two agents representing me through the years, sits in a box today. Actually, I recalled recently it was shopped to Bantam by Ray Puechner's wife, Barb, and then she planned to send it to Joe Blades, who'd moved to…Random House? Anyway, because the Bantam editor had declined it only because he or she had just signed another author with a Texas Panhandle series and didn't want to have two.

    I might revive it for the Amazon contest this year.

    It's a story based on actual events–the "wrongful death" of a ranch foreman in the Texas Panhandle by trigger-happy and relatively untrained sheriff's deputies and local police looking for an escaped convict on the ranch foreman's land.

    The foreman left his home to investigate the commotion on his land. Officers arrived at his home and told his young wife to lock her doors and windows, as there was an escaped convict seen in the area. What they didn't tell her is that they'd met her husband, thought he was the convict, cut him nearly in half with automatic assault rifles (SWAT weapons they were 'trying out'), as he was reaching for his wallet inside his pickup truck to present his identification. They cuffed him, rolled him onto his back, where the majority of his injuries were, even stepped on his face, according to a boot print, and knew by the time he'd died and they'd stopped by his house that they'd killed the wrong guy.

    The wife sued. And won. Legally, it wasn't murder. It was "wrongful death."

    That's the one and only time, though, I can recall using music, or considering music, an aid in my writing process.

    The meat and start of the novel, by the way, came to me first in a dream, after I'd covered the actual lawsuit…:)

  157. adventure in London

    Absolutely. I had a certain playlist that got me through the writing of my dissertation. Now I either listen to Pandora or create unique playlists in iTunes to fit the type of writing I'm doing (which has been more academic lately – )

  158. Jan Markley

    I need absolute silence … in fact, even the sound of my typing is disturbing me ;-j

  159. White Shadow

    I have to listen to music in order to write for academic courses. It helps me to maintain my focus and not fall asleep. I'll listen to a variety of styles from new age, trance, instrumental, Scottish/Irish, to popular artists… Dave Matthews, Coldplay, Nightwish… a broad variety really, but I tend to favor European styles the most.

    If I'm writing for myself, I don't necessarily need music, though I certainly don't mind it! Music really sets the atmosphere for creativity for me, and like I said, helps me pace along through it as well.

  160. Regan Leigh

    And I must say that your tastes in music are beginning to make me mad. You know, mad cause I want an agent with good musical tastes. Really, it's a must. If they can't understand my inspiration?

    *hand to forehead in dramatic near faint*

  161. StirlingEditor

    I don't recall ever writing anything of worth without music playing in my ears. It's almost exclusively film scores, as I can't listen to music with words, or I'll just sing along. =) Lately it's been Mansfield Park, The Mission, Children of Dune, and Rudy.

    Music makes drown out the present and takes me into emotions I cannot tap any other way.

  162. sex scenes at starbucks,

    Yup. Punk rock, mostly, depending on what I've just bought. A lot of U2, as well. Their poetry inspires me.

  163. Winter Hansen

    Writing rough drafts requires mood-appropriate music to unleash a scene's emotional veracity but revising often demands silence and cutthroat concentration (business!!). New music can be distracting unless it's well matched and helps bring me deeper into a story.

  164. Gael McCarte

    Why yes, thank you for asking, I have mood music. If the words won't come I just play Richard Harris, it's and old old LP converted. But it works.

  165. Lee Thompson

    I enjoy quiet music in the background when I write. Something by Danny Elfman, or Muddy Waters.

  166. Ben Campbell

    I think about the past; why Mary slapped my hand away, when Julio swore he'd kill me, why I didn't attend my college graduation…and then…the music took me away.

    As a mood setter sometimes I listen to music. Other times as company for writing I listen to Jenn Mierau or Jin Wigmore.

  167. Justine Hedman

    I do, but I don't do the whole "Play list" thing. I usually listen to classical or celtic. The pan flute is a favorite of mine while writing. If I listen to music with words I can't consentrate enough on what I'm writing and make mistakes more often. 🙂 Or I start singing along and don't get the writing done I need to.

  168. Clare WB

    Often I do. In current novel, now in re-write, my protagonist is a classical pianist, and whenever she's playing something in the novel, I listen to the work she's playing. Really gets me into her mind and into the scene.

  169. Morgan Lee

    I've often read about people listening to music when they write and it amazes me to be honest. For me, it would be such a distraction. When I listen to music, I like to be in the moment with it–and when I write, music would sooo distract me. I have to focus and be in the book if you know what I mean. Too easily distracted I guess. Like Amanda said…"Squirrel!" lol

  170. Annikka Woods

    Most of the time I have to have the background noise. Sometimes I pop on a DVD or a movie. Usually it's something foreign with subtitles so I can ignore the movie but the odd sounding words are there to keep me going. The way the languages flow is rather inspiring at times (okay, mostly Japanese stuff but I do have a few Chinese movies).

    I also listen to music. I lost most of my music collection – and a third of my writing projects – to our major computer crash in 2009. It's been slow going rebuilding that collection. But I have certain songs that inspire certain scenes, or bands that have music that make me think of my characters, and I utilize that when I'm writing.

  171. Joanna van der Gracht de Rosado

    Music, like everything else, has a time and a place. When I am getting down the bare bones of my story – there's no music, no talking, no phone, no anything else – just the writing. When I am describing a particular scene and need some inspiration, then definitely music comes into play. The other day I wrote a chapter and during the whole 5 hour session, I had Bob Dylan's "Lay Lady Lay" on repeat… you can only imagine what found itself on to the page… Sweet, if I do say so…

  172. Anonymous

    Yes definitely. It seems I listen to a particular artist and it's linked to the wip. My first ms. was all Sting, all the time. My son thought I would never stop listening to Sting, but then I finished the book. The second ms. I started out listening to period pop (to set the scene) but very quickly latched on the The Verve, because one of my main characters was a musician and the music seemed to express what he was going through and who he was. Sometimes though, just classical or jazz or new age stuff that won't distract me from something complicated that I'm writing.

  173. amethyst

    i try but find myself typing down the lyrics to the song rather than the words to my story.

    i opt to listen to my thoughts instead…

  174. sapphicscribe

    Noooo! I cannot have any distractions whilst writing or reading. No TV on in the background, no-one talking to me, nothing. I love music and have my ipod on all the time whilst walking, running etc and music on in the car and house, but I cannot write and have it on, even classical. Just personal taste I think. Saffina

  175. Other Lisa

    I like quiet best, but sometimes will write to music with no English lyrics — I like a lot of "world" stuff like Gamelan music and Bulgarian women's choirs. And a lot of African stuff, and of course, Chinese pipa music!

  176. A.M Hudson

    Music has inspired much of the heart and soul of my book. However, if you're not careful, you can often think, because of the emotional depth that music has inspired, that your scene has more feeling. Then, when you read it back, you cringe.

    Sometimes it's good, and sometimes it's a hinderance to great writing. I listen to what inspires the pace and feel of my scenes–lyrics aside. I could be writing a love scene to a song called "kill me now"–it's all about the music, the melody and the higher connection that you have with that song.

  177. Paullina_Petrova

    I was wondering how do you manage to post almost every morning exactly at 7:00am? Is this coincidence or you just want to make us sure that every day at this time we can find out what you want to share with us? For me it is not so easy. I live in Europe and 7.00am in the U.S. is not at the beginning of the day here. So you should always wait until noon:)

  178. Ty Johnston

    No, I find music too distracting while writing.

    However, I do find music enlivening of the thought processes, so I do like to listen to music while walking or driving and thinking of writing ideas.

  179. Sarah E

    No, never. Ever! Too distracting for me.

  180. Elaine AM Smith

    Yes and no.
    I create playlists designed as background music. I also find some tracks embody mood or emotion – I play these on repeat.
    Another interesting question is WHERE DO YOU PLAN?
    I work on initial plans at sporting events where the atmosphere is electric.

  181. Marla Warren

    I listen to either classical or operas where I don't know the language. It's difficult to hear words and write words at the same time. It's like someone else counting while you're counting.

    I do select certain pieces of music for certain projects. If I'm feeling aggressive or victorious, then I like to hear the 1812 Overture.

    When I was compiling tributes to Michael Crichton for my blog recently, I listened to Symphony #2 in D Major by Johannes Brahms (Georg Solti). Crichton said in an interview that this was one of his favorite cds so I thought it was apropos.

  182. anvil

    ALWAYS. It's probably a throwback to when I'd have to do my homework with my dad perched at my side like the Raven, beady eyed and everything. The radio went off, the TV went off, other family members were banished to other rooms. I had to have complete silence to think and work, he said.

    Of course, now I cannot have complete silence to think and work. YRock on XPN is on, or iTunes on shuffle and then -oh sweet racket, then I can write.

  183. KH

    No. It is distracting for me. After years of playing the piano and singing in choirs, music is a participatory activity for me. I need the quiet of my own thoughts when I write.

  184. Teri

    Silence. I even wear Noise Canceling Headphones in the library. There's nothing better than looking up to notice that 4 or 5 hours have gone by and all I've heard or seen or thought about is the story.

  185. Rick Daley

    I do sometimes. I prefer classical or jazz…something without singing, which I find distracting. I end up singing along, which is not only distracting to my writing, it sounds awful.

  186. vnrieker

    No music. Everytime I try to convince myself I can listen to music while I write, I end up surfing the net, pacing the floor, or batting at ribbon.

    I'm so glad Iron and Wine brought the fishies back to life! I was so sad.

  187. Jennee

    Always. If I'm writing a novel, I make a soundtrack for that story first. Lately, I've been listening to a lot of film scores as I write. I figure if I listen to music while I read, it's not that different when I write.

  188. Rosalie Lario

    I actually vary. Most of the time I'll either listen to nothing or to the soundtrack of a rainforest, but I do have special tracks for very emotional scenes (love or fight scenes) when I want to draw out more emotion from within myself.

  189. Hart Johnson

    Nope. I am easily distracted and I'd lose my story if I listened to anything. I like music (or a DVD) while I am TYPING (I write long-hand) but not while I write. Ironically, I can write anywhere, so the music can be PLAYING, but I can't pay attention to it.

  190. Iliadfan

    Sometimes a song will set the right mood for a scene or invoke a certain character, but that's only when I'm NOT writing. If I have music on, eventually I realize I've stopped writing and am just listening.

    But I can have the television on. For some reason that's easier to tune out, even when it's a show I like.

  191. Chuck H.

    Brickman, Jim Brickman. 'Nuf said!

  192. okwari

    I make playlists for every story, depending on the tone of the tale. In some cases, if a song has a certain mood attached to it that mirrors a scene I'm writing, that song will play on repeat until I've written the scene. So, yeah. I have soundtracks for every story.

  193. Mary-Lou

    I know what you mean, Amanda! I've made a playlist that goes along with my story and I like to listen to it often when I'm writing. It helps me get into the mood. However, sometimes I find music very distracting because I like my head clear of everything so I can zone in.

  194. Sierra Gardner

    Weirdly enough, I can't listen to music when I write. I find it distracting, usually because I start singing along. However, I grew up in a big family so I have a hard time getting work done in complete silence. I usually turn the TV on to something I don't want to watch and put it on low volume.

  195. LorieInTexas

    Cant' hardly write without it. I'm a Pandora junkie and pay the $35/year to have it commercial free. I usually pick the artist Enya – few vocals – and then the program plays similar artists works. If the song distracts me, I give a thumbs down and it moves to the next one. I also pick The Fray sometimes to start.

    I've read through everyone's comments and have written down some new songs/singers to try next time. Thanks!


  196. LorieInTexas


    I'm a Pandora junkie and pay the $35/year to have it commercial free. I usually start with Enya and then it plays similar style artists with very little lyrics. I also like The Fray for darker chapters.

    I've read through most of the comments here and wrote down some new singers/groups to sample. Iron and Wine will be the first. Thanks!


  197. LorieInTexas


    Can't write without it.

    I'm a Pandora junkie and pay the $35/year to have it commercial free. I usually start with Enya and then it plays similar songs with very few lyrics. I also like The Fray for darker chapters.

    I've read through the comments and have written down the ones that I wasn't familiar with and will try them next time I write. Maybe starting with Iron and Wine.


  198. Ashley R. Graham

    Due to what I'm currently writing, I've listened to three songs to the point I'm actually pretty sick of them. Two of those songs are by OneRepublic–whose music has influenced my writing more than anything else out there.

    But, no, I cannot listen to music WHILE I write. I don't know what it is and I really wish I could…but any kind of distraction at all disrupts my thought process. I listen to music, turn it off and then write.

  199. literating

    yes. In fact recent studies show initial inspiration comes from visual stimuli while prolonged, sustainable inspiration comes from audible stimuli.

    So I actually give theme songs to characters and environments. Sometimes it's classical, sometimes it's indie, sometimes it's old late-90's hardcore, sometimes it's blue eyes, sometimes it's the Beatles – whatever I choose, as soon as it's attached to a character or a sequence or a location, I hang onto the train and ride it wherever it takes me.

  200. Anonymous

    Sometimes I even sing and dance around the room like Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music.

  201. Melody

    I usually listen to soundtracks and classical. Lyrics – especially lyrics to songs I'm familiar with – keep me unfocused. The only time I listen to songs with lyrics are when I'm writing contemporary YA, and then I put on the U2, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin mix.

  202. Kirsten Imani Kasai

    Of course! I've been using Brian Eno's ambient music for years. Other standards: Harold Budd, Mercof, Bjork's Vespertine and Natalie Merchant's Ophelia. Music is the wheel that keeps the hamster happy.

  203. Anonymous

    I listen to movie soundtrack music when I write. Maybe someday I'll have a score set to my stories. Hey, one can dream, right?

  204. Cathi

    No music for me. If I listen to music, I get the song or melody stuck in my head for the next three days.

  205. Melissa Petreshock

    I'm not sure I can possibly write anything without music playing. What I have playing depends on the mood of the scene I'm trying to write though. My iTunes is full of various playlists for all different moods. When in doubt, I always go for Coldplay.

    If I find one particular song that really strikes the right chord for a scene, I'll put it on repeat and just keep listening to it over and over until I've completed writing the scene. Most recently, I wrote a wedding scene and listened to Johann Pachelbel's "Canon in D" about 50 times. Another one that I did that with was Thirty Seconds to Mars "The Kill" during an intense argument between two characters.

    I also find that if during a certain scene I've mentioned a character listening to their iPod or the radio or having music on, I play the song I know they're listening to even if I don't specify to the reader what song it is. It helps me to get into the mindset of the character if I'm hearing the same music they are when they're thinking, speaking, or taking action of some sort.

    So, yes, I listen to music while writing. I listen to it obsessively!

  206. Cmilles

    My iPod is entirely movie soundtracks… sometimes when I need to write in a certain "mood," I'll find a song that helps with this. My favorites right now have to be the soundtracks to all of the seasons of LOST. Michael Giacchino truly knows how to help you feel emotion through music.

  207. Kate

    I used to want to listen to music while I typed, but I found I would stop and play around with my playlists, or whole Itunes library. Now I reserve music for just bringing an idea to my mind. I have some songs that help me work through specific scenes.
    Listening to music is like having the tv on while writing. Distracting. Which is too bad because I love music.

  208. AM

    It depends on the developmental phase.

    If I am outlining the plot then I listen to music that best matches the pace and mood of the storyline.

    When I am writing, I want to hear nothing.

    When I am editing, I listen to classical or jazz or screeching guitars – determined by the type of editing that I am doing.

  209. Ishta Mercurio

    I love Iron and Wine! His lyrics are poetry.

    I listen to WiP-related music as a way to set the tone, then I turn it off once I'm in the thick of writing. I get distracted by lyrics and rhythm.

  210. Ivory

    Never, unless I'm writing lyrics, and even then, it's the score for the song.

    If I'm writing a period piece, I might watch a film about the period, but other than research on the internet, that is the only media ever involved in my writing.

  211. Anonymous

    It depends… sometimes I do, sometimes I don't. But when I do, I usually listen to songs that are somewhat calm and relate to the scene I'm writing – love songs for romances, etc. Some people say that they listen to songs that are powerful and make them angry, but I can't do that. I need something, well, accoustic.

  212. lahn

    I can't listen to music while I write. For me, part of writing is "listening" to the rhythm of the words, and I can't do that with music on. Sometimes I wish I could!

  213. Cari

    Yes, I love that music can get me in the right frame of mind for a story. I have a "soundtrack" to a novel and sometimes to short stories. And I love Iron & Wine!

  214. Madeleine

    I did for a little while, but it tends to distract me, and I'll sit back, stop typing, and just listen. Not to mention the fact that I can hardly keep from singing along, which is also distracting. ;D

  215. Dayana Stockdale

    Hi, Nathan. If you like to write to Iron & Wine, check out The Weepies. I get swept away when I write to them. I love that the lyrics flow into the music so well that they don't disrupt my word choice. To get a taste, listen to the songs "Antarctica" and "Nobody knows me at all."

    Also, I promised not to go around begging you to read this post, but I think I make a good case as to why your next You Tell Me should be "Do you eat when you write?"

  216. Raleigh RoxStar

    I often listen to music while writing. I recently wrote a post about this. I created several playlists. Easy listening songs like Amos Lee or Michael Bublé. A hard-hitting hip hop compilation. Butt-kicking chicks who make me feel like a warrior girl, etc. Just depends on the mood.

    When I am doing a freelance writing assignment I usually require complete concentration and silence.

  217. Kenner R. McQuaid

    I couldn't write WITHOUT music. It doesn't even have to relate to what I'm writing, although sometimes it helps evoke a certain mood.

    If I'm really locked-in on writing, though, I don't even hear the music in my headphones. I guess I'm bad at multi-tasking.

  218. K Wodke

    I don't always listen to music when I write, but I have done so. I like new age music when working on sci-fi, and smoky detective-type sax jazz when working on suspense. I should start doing that again, listening to music while I write. Of course, that would just be for fiction.

  219. Somerset Wedding Gal

    I'm not a writer, but I find music very inspiring, so if I were to write I think I would certainly listen to music!


    it depends, sometimes i do to get a more musically creative mind, it is pretty much mandatory when coming up with new riffs and fills for me and i created a really good thrash metal song just by listening to motorhead and anthrax, or new music in general for anyone's case.


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Hi, I’m Nathan. I’m the author of How to Write a Novel and the Jacob Wonderbar series, which was published by Penguin. I used to be a literary agent at Curtis Brown Ltd. and I’m dedicated to helping authors chase their dreams. Let me help you with your book!

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