Many writers report being able to write well under the influence of music. When I was in my early twenties, I shied away from trying it, thinking I had to “concentrate” while I wrote. But I couldn’t stay away from music. In waking life, I need music around me all the time. It’s one of the best things in life for me, in fact. So, when I started writing my fiction with headphones, and I actually got into the groove while listening, I was relieved.
How does this process work? I don’t know. I can tell you that not all music works for me. Only some. Here’s some of what I’ve discovered:
- I have to listen to music that I know really well. This means stuff that I have put into heavy rotation over the years works well. When I know the music by heart, it tends to melt into the background as I write.
- I need drum-heavy music. Dub, house, techno, and even salsa really work for this. The drumming really provides a soothing groove that lets me fixate on the writing.
- I can’t have new stuff in the mix. New music with new lyrics will distract me, and that’s not what I want or need while writing.
- I need for these playlists and mixes to “loop” while I write. I will create a playlist and set it on repeat, over and over and over. This sounds strange, but it induces a bit of a trance that will let me work undisturbed for up to 3-4 hours.
While I’m editing, proofing or copy-editing, though, music tends to not be as useful. These activities require more detailed focus, and I find that I pay more attention to them in silence. But for the first 3-4 drafts of a novel or short story, music does the trick.
Here’s the latest playlist I have on rotation as I work on my new novel. It’s publicly available on Spotify, so feel to subscribe to it if you like.
So, what works for you? Are you able to listen to music while writing? I want to know more about that. Author Gra Linnaea chatted with me recently about this same topic. Maybe you’d like to chat with me also on The Labyrinth. Or you can tell me what works for your writing process in the comments. Send me some playlists, too.