How to use music while writing

Music. Like a literary masterpiece it has the ability to depress your spirits or make them soar. It can deepen sorrow, strengthen resolve, bolster you through tough times, and make sweet moments more memorable. When writing I have found it can be a great ally.

My father loves classic rock and roll, also country music. But he’s not a fan of the ‘pop’ country artists. Something I’ve always appreciated is good story in music lyrics and I think that appreciation comes from being his son.

On the other side of influence is my mother. She loves classical music. From an early age I loved Mozart, Vivaldi, and especially Tchaikovsky and Strauss. How I love the 1812 Overture!

When writing I choose music without lyrics because my mind is distracted by the spoken word when it is creating with the written word. For some writers this may not be true, but for me it certainly is.

Some movie soundtracks make excellent inspiration. My movie soundtrack selections range among Rudy, Thor, Guardians of the Galaxy, Lord of the Rings, The Time Machine, Pirates of the Carribean, and Gladiator.

The key is for the tracks to blend almost seamlessly together. That way it can encourage a certain writing mood for long enough that I can write out a longer scene or even a total chapter.

In the last couple of years I’ve found some modern, digital compositions that work as well. The group Two Steps From Hell has some excellent epic music.

The best way to zone out from the world around me and fall fully into my imagined one is to sit down with my headphones on, computer keyboard positioned before me, my digital manuscript open on the screen, and listen to music with my eyes closed. Sometimes it can take a half hour before inspiration strikes, but when it does I feel like smiling (and often do). Music can so deeply relax my body and yet it keeps my mind sharp.

This year because I’ve not found time to sit and do this my writing has fallen behind. But this is one of the best ways to start a great piece of story. Emotions engaged. Soul inspired.

Q: Do you use music to inspire your writing?


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Most obvious thing about me is how much I love reading and writing. This is truly my passion and has been for almost as long as I can remember. I know that sounds cliche, but it is true. Growing up in a conservative Christian home I learned to value God, intelligence, and life. I am always learning. I am a husband and a father of three young children. I love my family and my life. God is good and I attribute my success to His provision.

Great fantasy stories are a lot of fun. I write the stories that I want to read and am fortunate enough to have several published novels under my belt as well as more in the pipeline.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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15 thoughts on “How to use music while writing

  1. Every time I write something, I listen to music. It helps me think so much faster! It also helps me with schools projects and homework.

  2. I have, but I have always used spoken word music, which has often given me inspiration. I remember writing a hole story in my mind listening to a whole CD one time when I was 12.
    Each song wrote the next part of a chapter. But more recently, I find spoken music harder to help create ideas, and this has been a pondering question on my mind. Hearing it’s worked for you, I will definitely have to give it a try!

  3. Hello Mr. Appleton!
    I completely agree with you on the merits of inspirational music for writing, but I also use music for school (mostly soundtracks, but I also enjoy Classical music). I prefer nearly the same soundtracks and composers as you, LOTR coming out on top, and I love Two Steps From Hell. “The Chronicles of Narnia”, “How to Train Your Dragon”, and “The Hobbit” are some of my other favorites. Have you heard any of Zack Hemsey’s or Thomas Bergensen’s music? Thomas Bergensen is one of the composers of Two Steps From Hell, but he also composes independent tracks. I also recommend David Arkenstone’s “Music Inspired By Middle Earth”, and Emily Black’s “Kingdom Series” and “Knights of Arrethtrae” music. Along the same lines of soundtrack music, but heavily influenced by classical, The Piano Guys are another awesome group to listen to. The only downside is that, because their songs are so distinct from each other and diverse in style, it would be difficult to immerse yourself, as you like to do, in a consistent theme.

    Thank you for another great post! I hope you get the time to write this year. We are looking forward to your next book!
    Grace

    • The Piano Guys are great, however I don’t listen to them for inspiration so much as for entertainment because they seem to do mostly mashups instead of original pieces. Their Star Wars mashup is fantastic.

      :) I’m glad you are enjoying the posts! …I’ll keep chipping away at Neverqueen2 so you’ll have something new to read.

  4. I absolutely agree with you!! Listening to music, especially soundtrack/score oriented (no lyrics) is an amazing way to get you fired up during writing. I even do it when journaling!!

  5. Hi Scott,
    I can definitely relate to you in terms of music and writing! I always write with music as well, and find that it puts me in that special ‘zone’ that helps me focus my thoughts. Unlike you, though, I am not distracted by lyrics – sometimes I use the themes in the words to my advantage. I often match the mood of the music to the tone of a scene, and frequently will listen to the same song in a loop to preserve that tone in my mind during the entire writing of that scene. (In which case headphones area mercy for anyone who happens to be in hearing range.)

    I think to some extent movies go a long way in influencing us to essentially put soundtracks to our own stories. Our readers may not be able to hear it, but I believe it leaves an imprint in our writing, and helps to clearly express the passion and emotion.

    • Hi Mairi,
      Interesting you should make that connection with movies. I believe you are right. In fact, I have many times put a favorite sci-fi on in the background while writing. However, I experimented and found that playing a movie greatly reduced :) word-count productivity.

      • Hi Scott,
        If I have a movie playing while writing, my word could is a solid zero! What I meant was that the soundtrack in a movie goes a long way to elicit a strong emotional response, and helps to tell the story in the film. But in a story or novel, all of that must be done entirely with words. Hearing a soundtrack (without the movie itself) sometimes helps me to write in a particular tone.

  6. Hello Mr. Appleton!
    I completely agree with you on the merits of using inspirational music for writing, but I also use it for school (primarily soundtracks, but I like classical also). I prefer nearly the same soundtracks and composers as you, LOTR coming out on top, and I love Two Steps From Hell. “The Chronicles of Narnia”, “How to Train Your Dragon”, and “The Hobbit” are also favorites of mine. Have you heard any of Zack Hemsey’s or Thomas Bergensen’s music? Thomas Bergensen is one of the composers of Two Steps From Hell, but he composes independent tracks as well. Another group I highly recommend is Audiomachine. Along the same lines of soundtracks, but heavily influenced by classical, The Piano Guys is another awesome group. The only downside is that, because their songs are so distinct and diverse, you would not be able to immerse yourself like you like to do with a consistent theme.
    Thanks for another great post! I hope you get the time to write this year. We are looking forward to the next book!
    Grace

    • Agreed! Audiomachine has a couple of really great pieces. Some others of their work sounds too digitized for my taste but overall they are well worth the listen.