Music and Writing

Be warned. I’m about to ask you a common writing question, for no good reason save my curiosity.

Here it is…

Do you listen to music when you write?

18th century house concert. Unknown artist.

18th century house concert. Unknown artist.

If you answered no: Why don’t you listen to music when you write?

If you answered yes: What type of music do you prefer to write to? Do you like it low? Slow? Loud? Fast? Some of the above? None of the above? Why?

My favourite music is loud and dissonant. I definitely don’t dial it back when I write. This allows me to tune out everything but the task at hand. This has been a habit since my high school days, only now I write stories and reviews instead of homework assignments.

What does your typical playlist look, and sound, like?

Click on the link for my Spotify playlist:

Mae’s Writing Soundtrack

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36 thoughts on “Music and Writing

    • Ah, a squeaky toy symphony! Nice. Our Duncan kills all toys within 5 minutes, so he doesn’t have any. From the standpoint of our ear drums, that is really not a bad thing.

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      • Okay, so she’s really a dog then!

        Our dog is part Labrador retriever/part border collie. He thinks that every toy is just a duck to be killed. Thus, no toys for him.

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      • Ani is half English Setter… half Toller… tennis balls take the place of birds indoors, at least. But pigeons? Our garden is a no-fly zone… 🙂

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      • We tried to get Duncan to play with tennis balls. Unfortunately, he methodically tears off the green coating. He doesn’t eat them, though. Just denudes them of all their fuzz.

        He also really loves my husband’s socks. He does what I can only describe as wringing a sock’s “neck” until he thinks it is dead. He also loves to terrorize the neighborhood squirrels and birds. And by “terrorize” I mean “jumps around and barks at them.” Sigh. It is a good thing that he is so adorable and sweet and cuddly.

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      • Sounds like Duncan and Ani have a lot in common. A tennis ball is barely worth her attention till the green stuff has gone and she’s bitten it in half down the seam. At which point I am supposed to be honoured to throw the thing. She misses my sons’ socks too… and the hoard of sparrows nesting in my honeysuckle are driving her nuts 🙂

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      • They do, indeed!

        We’ve never let D get to the point of biting into a tennis ball. Cleaning up a houseful of green fuzz is quite enough trouble for us.

        I’m sure that poor Ani and D do not understand why they are not allowed to have an occasional romp with the squirrels and sparrows. Of course, I am not at all convinced that Dunc would actually ever do anything, even given the chance. He just loves the idea of the chase.

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      • Yes, that’s the thing, isn’t it… the chase. Ani just bounds, barks and grins… and would probably run a mile if a bird came close enough to catch.

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      • Yes, it is! Dunc thinks that he wants the chase, boy does he ever. I’m pretty sure that the chase would terrify him, though. Like Ani, he just wants to leap about, bark, and be happy. He grins a lot, too.

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      • I know that grin 🙂 The only time Ani has actually come close to catching one is when she finds baby birds too young to be out of the nest. Then she calls me to deal with them 🙂

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      • That grin is the best. The best.

        Dunc occasionally nabs an insect, but that is it. As for squirrels and birds, I don’t think he tries too hard. 🙂

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      • Aw, poor thing! I bet she is adorable in her frustration, though.

        Dunc catches the occasional fly, but I do not think his winning percentage is particularly impressive. Last night, The Chef and I (and Dunc) spent the evening on our front porch. Dunc was quite taken with a firefly. Fortunately, he did not catch it.

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      • Once upon a time, they were quite plentiful here. Not so much now, but I still see them from time-to-time.

        Dunc tried to paw the poor thing. He was in play mode, and not trying to be harmful. It managed to escape, though.

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  1. I go back and forth. It varies a lot depending on what I’m writing and how I feel. Of course, I go long stretches without listening to music at all. I do sing a lot, though. But not while I’m writing. I threw that in there for no good reason.

    Anyway, when I do listen it’s usually whatever I’m listening to when I’m not writing which varies from folk to punk to new wave to metal to sacred choral with all kinds of shades in between.

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    • Haha! Thanks for the singing info. I cannot sing, so that never happens with me. Is there a reason you sometimes go without listening to music, whilst writing (or otherwise)?

      I listen to lots of music other than what’s on my playlist (especially blues, classical, and opera) but I cannot write to it. I write best when I have punk/post-punk/no wave/noise on. It helps me concentrate.

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      • I couldn’t sing, either. But you actually get better with practice. I’m hardly a wonderful singer by any stretch of the imagination but sometimes people enjoy hearing me sing – which is not something that used to happen! So, I can’t really say “I can’t sing” anymore.

        As to why I go periods of time without music – I’m not really sure. I think music kind of takes over my thought life after a while. I’m actually planning a post about this song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eo3MfA9xBGM

        It’s been in my head a while and it is kind of symbolic of a period in my life my mind keeps drifting back to – the late 90s. Lots of seeds were planted then and they are only know sort of coming to fruition of sorts.

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      • I wouldn’t. I am tone deaf. It’s totally okay, though. I don’t need singing to be one of my skills.

        Was not expecting that band or that song. I highly approve, though! I almost added one of their songs to my work playlist a few days ago. Might have to do that, after all. Looking forward to your post!

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      • They had a big impact on me. Recently re-bought one of their albums – I had thrown them all away in a fit of misguided piety – and it brought to the surface wave after wave of emotions I had forgotten I even had.

        Not sure when the post will happen. I’m too busy writing fiction at the moment. But hopefully it will happen soon.

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      • This sounds quite interesting, especially the misguided piety part. I’m sure it will make for a great post, whenever you get around to it.

        I have a lengthy list of to-be-written posts, all set aside for when I have the time. Sigh.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I mostly listen to Aaron Copland before writing to get me into my Americana mood: Appalachian Spring Suite, Rodeo, Billy The Kid, the theme from Our Town and the list goes on, but once I’m in the mood I turn it all off. Random songs playing in the car often become a character’s theme song in my head.

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    • I love that you give your characters theme songs in your head. I might have to try that.

      I almost exclusively listen to punk, post-punk, no wave, and noise music when I write. I love all kinds of music, and listen to a wide variety at other times. But, when I am working it has to be something dissonant and jarring. And I cannot bear to work in silence.

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      • I used to listen to Duran Duran in high school when I wrote 🙂 I went through a Nanci Griffith phase where I almost exclusively listened to her music. Then an Irish folk phase and then a classical/new age phase . . . now it’s everything from the Beach Boys to Yo-Yo-Ma.

        I get a stress headache if I listen to music during writing. I don’t know how you do it and turn out such beautifully written pieces.

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      • Duran Duran! That takes me back, although I was not yet in high school when they were in their prime. Nanci Griffith is another person I have not thought of in ages. I wonder what she is up to these days, musically speaking?

        Aw, thanks! I am just hardwired to function amidst noise and chaos. Silence is what kills my productivity. Loud music allows me to tap into my creativity; silence brings out a bunch of extraneous thoughts that totally block my writing process. I guess the moral is to do what works for you!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I listen to pretty much anything for a few minutes at the front end. Something to get the vocabulary going at the front end – John Prine, Bob Dylan – are good choices. Maybe Jeff Beck, old Faces, Grateful Dead to just shake the cobwebs. String quartets or nothing while actually settled in and writing.

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    • That’s an interesting strategy. “Something to get the vocabulary going at the front end.” I like it.

      I’ve really enjoyed finding out about everyone’s music-whilst-writing habits.

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  4. I do listen to music when I’m writing. It has to be upbeat music that I know by heart, because the beat propels me to type. I listen to a lot of pop music when writing because it’s mindless which helps me focus. If I have writer’s block, I put on Of Monsters and Men which really helps my creativity.

    Great question!

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    • Yay! Another person who listens to music whilst writing. We’re outnumbered, at least so far. 🙂 The noise and dissonance of the music I listen to is what keeps me focused, but I can see how mindless pop music accomplishes the same thing.

      Liked by 1 person

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