Writing and music

January 5, 2011

I thought I’d blog about writing and music — or more specifically, writing to music.

Some writers can’t write while listening to music. It’s too much of a distraction for them, so they prefer to write in silence.

Other writers have created entire playlists to which they listen while they write. They might even play different types of music, depending on the type of scene they’re creating.

Most writers I know like listening to music while they write, but prefer instrumental music since they find the lyrics too distracting. I’ve talked to one writer who listens to songs in foreign languages for that very reason.

Personally, I always listen to music while I’m writing. And most often, I wear headphones, even when I’m alone. Listening to music with lyrics is not a problem for me. I noticed that I listen mostly to female singers. Most recently, I’ve been listening to Vienna Teng, Vanessa Carlton, Silje Nergaard, Sara Bareilles, and Brandi Carlile while I’m writing.

Sometimes, years later, I’ll hear a song and I remember that I was listening to that album while writing a certain story. It seems my brain associates the music with the story.

I’m curious — do the writers among you listen to music too?



  1. I’m a bit surprised – none of the songs or artists you listed are in German.

    I’m not a writer (and neither do I play one on TV), but I cannot concentrate with music playing in the background.

    Perhaps that’s because I start listening to something like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3stsDXki__U. And then after 2 minutes or so, I find myself pushing aside whatever I’m working on to stare at the screen. 🙂

    • Can you believe I didn’t even realize that there’s no German artists on my list? Actually, I very rarely listen to German music.

      I couldn’t watch the youtube clip (“not available in your country…”), but I have days when I’m easily distracted by shiny objects too, so I avoid music videos when I write.

      • Why is it so rare? Do you prefer songs with English lyrics?

  2. As a matter of fact I do listen to music while writing. I even created some playlists. For example, I have one with music about and from Ireland – which I listen to when I’m writing on my Ireland Saga. I have a playlist which I call “hard and heavy” – which I listen to when I’m writing a fighting scene. And so on.
    That said, I can’t listen to music when I’m editing. It seems that another part of my brain is doing that work. And it can’t stand any distractions.
    By the way: I like your choice of music 🙂

    • Interesting. I can listen to music while I’m editing without a problem.

      But my sister just reminded me that in the past, I could never listen to music while studying. Just too distracting.

  3. It’s not the lyrics, although listening to German lyrics and writing in English might be distracting.

    Guess I just don’t like most of the German music. I actually know a lot of German people who listen predominantly to English music — even some people who don’t understand the English lyrics. You should hear my mother trying to sing along to an English song 🙂

  4. In general, I prefer silence, because I’m easily distracted. When I chose music, it’s classical–no lyrics.It’s especially helpful with romance…
    thanks for your interesting posts.


    • Thanks for commenting, Jeanne. I always love hearing about other authors’ writing process. It’s great to see there’s so much diversity out there.

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