What Do You Listen To While Writing?

I have a problem with sounds. I write in libraries and other public places frequently, and I can’t stand hearing other people when I’m trying to think. The slightest phrase, or a peel of laughter will destroy my concentration.

So I listen to music when I write. I’m even doing it right now. Soundtracks to movies, video games, and most instrumental music are the hidden heartbeat behind all of my writing. Currently, I’m listening to the entire Lord of the Rings soundtrack (I was listening to one of those mournful Elven pieces when I wrote Friends Long Gone. Those lyrics haunt me so).

I know everyone isn’t like me. I know some of you out there can work with all that background noise. I know some of you feed off of hearing other people’s conversations, or you love surrounding yourself with the sounds of productivity.

I have to know, what do YOU listen to when you write? Do you have one album you play over and over again? Do you jack up the volume on the television just to have something on? Do you wear earplugs like jewelry, because silence is golden?

Tell me what you think in the comments below! Don’t forget to like or follow, as I love to check out other blogs.

50 thoughts on “What Do You Listen To While Writing?

  1. This is something Ive always been curious about. I got the impression that many authors write to total silence. I can see the reasoning, particularly with lyrical music potentially shaping the voice or feel of the writing. I stick to instrumental only and usually listen to a movie soundtrack similar to the genre I am writing in. I find it helps me brainstorm, but that could come down to the way a person’s brain processes and generates information (think all those studies on learning styles). Currently doing replays on the soundtracks for Oblivion and Elysium

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  2. I find that listening to music helps me brainstorm. Lately I’ve been listening to Beats Antique which is a mix of world/tribal fusion and electronic music, and it puts me in the mood for adventure. (The Lord of the Rings soundtracks are excellent too!) But when I write, I need silence. A little background noise is okay, like the sound of traffic or birds chirping. But if people are talking? Forget it! I can’t even listen to instrumental music, which seems like it should be neutral; I always end up sitting back and imagining what scenes could be happening during the musical piece instead of writing.

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  3. I tend to like it as quiet as possible when I’m writing, the older I become the easier I seem to be distracted; especially when surrounded by the conversations of nearby people.

    Case in point

    Last night two family members were standing outside my office door trying to make a decision whether to pay for a pizza they wanted to order with cash, or put it on a card. One said to the other, “I have twenty one dollars in cash”, and their conversation went on from there. At the same moment I was writing an article talking about fifty one years ago. When I finished the article and read it back, my “fifty one years ago” now read; “I have twenty one dollars in cash.” So yes; I like it quiet.

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  4. I always want to listen to music while I write, but then by the end of the writing session I realize, I’ve gotten too wrapped up in my work to remember to turn on the radio/CD player/iTunes. Must make note to self.

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  5. I’ve always wanted to be the type of writer who listens to music while they write, but I just can’t. I find it all so distracting, even instrumental. For the most part, I feel most comfortable writing in complete and total quiet, which is why I have to get most of my writing done early in the morning when everyone else is asleep! Music, TV, other people….it’s all too much. It’s just got to be me, my pen, the click of my laptop keys, and the occasional purr of a sleeping cat curled up next to me, and I can take on the world. 🙂

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  6. I pick music that fits what I’m writing. I can easily relate most of my poems and stories back to a specific song. If I’m writing pain, I want angry music. If I’m writing romance, I want sappy love songs. Great post.

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  7. I prefer as close to absolute silence as achievable in lieu of the lack of a vacuum in which I could comfortably write without my blood vessels exploding. Of course, if silence becomes deafening, I resort to YouTube playlists featuring epic scores from video game and anime soundtracks. This one – Fides en lucius dei – was introduced to me by a friend of mine. Makes for some great battle writing.

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  8. I tend to listen to old-time radio, which is usually a blend of melodramatic shows and 40s sitcoms that’s pretty effective for me; the things are kind of ritual enough that I don’t have to focus on them to follow along, but they’re entertaining and dynamic enough to keep me from distracting myself.

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  9. I usually listen to metal, though if I’m trying to channel a particular character I sometimes tailor the selection to the. Space pirates get Alestorm (pirate metal) and space ninjas get the pillows (J-rock). Interesting to see all the other selections above! I think if I listened to classical my characters would go Hannibal Lector on me. ..

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  10. As I age I seem to collect musical interests like grey hairs. Through my youth I focused on the Seattle grunge scene, then darkening to metal. Both assisted my studies by drowning drowning the world in a flood of drums & guitars.

    Now, particular when I write I’m much more eclectic – old easy listening (Elton John, Air Supply etc), classic gangster rap (tupac, snoop) & early 2000’s emo (my chemical romance).

    I’m not sure yet if the story influences my music choice, or if my music affects the story. I shall continue my research.

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    1. Why not both? You choose the music, and the music keeps you in a certain mood.

      I used to be a metal fan myself, but as of the past few years I’ve been exploring almost everything.

      Do you find yourself selecting a specific artist or genre when you KNOW what you want to write?

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      1. I put on ‘what I feel like’ when I start writing, but if it isn’t working for me I will continue to change it till it fits.

        So maybe the mood does drive the music choice 🙂

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  11. I have a pre-set play list that I tend to leave running 24/7, though I have been experimenting with other music. However, when I am writing, I have trouble with anything having lyrics in it. I love DJ Tiesto, the Caribbean Steel Bands, or the Irish clogging music – the hard, upbeat rhythms really get the fingers flying. (Old habit from my days doing data entry.) Sadly, I don’t have enough of any one of these genres to build a good playlist that really suits a mood.

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    1. Have you tried internet radios like Pandora, or internet playlists like 8tracks? Those are some of my favorites for when I know what kind of music I want to listen to, but just don’t know enough artists.

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      1. I have tried pandora, but every time I do, I am lucky to get 30 minutes of uninterrupted music. Then, they throw about 20 minutes of irritating adds.

        Just heard about 8tracks recently, so haven’t had a chance to investigate that one yet. Maybe in the future if this new playlist doesn’t work out.

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      2. Oh god, there is nothing like those advertisements that are FORTY TIMES LOUDER than the rest of your music to ruin your flow.

        That exact reason made me look around the internet, and then I found 8tracks.

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  12. If I’m writing something that is YA, I usually try and listen to some indie/alternative tracks as they’re usually written about teenagers’ experiences. But if I’m doing location/setting/ or something a bit more abstract, I’m just like you – soundtracks to anything and everything. If you go on my blog, you can find a page all about the kind of music I listen to when writing!

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  13. I definitely like to listen to movie/tv show/ video game soundtracks when I write. But sometimes the themes and music are so good and unique that I can’t think of anything other than the story it goes with, which doesn’t help my writing at all. So, to avoid that, I like to listen to a group called Two Steps from Hell. They write music for movie trailers and stuff, so it’s all very epic and soundtrack-like, but there’s no set story to go with it, meaning you get to make up your own. It’s a good time!

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  14. I wasn’t able to reply directly to your comment, but thanks so much! Not gonna lie, the worm was actually a big reason i liked the theme so much.

    That’s exactly it, so long as you feel something then I think that’s probably the biggest thing music does when you’re writing

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  15. A conversation distracts me. But, a room humming with many conversations doesn’t bother me at all. I guess it’s like white noise. Music with vocals affects me the same as a conversation, so I only listen to instrumental pieces when I write. Very interesting how individual writers focus on their craft!

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    1. So, have you ever tried listening to a bunch of songs with lyrics, all at ONCE?

      I completely understand though, when there are so many voices they stitch together like fabric, and you don’t hear each one.

      But I’ve only found that number of conversations in an airport. Where do you write where there are many conversations going on all at once?

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  16. I have a playlist of instrumental music I like to listen to. Some of it’s Mozart and other composers, but I also listen to movie scores. Sometimes, depending on what I’m working on, I’ll listen to music related to my work. I was writing something about war so I listened to a lot of songs based on war and soldiers and found it helped a lot

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    1. Nice. I do the same when I’m trying to get in the a particular mood for writing. When you say songs based on war do you mean battle songs, like Flight of the Valkyries? Or something more like ‘war, what is it good for?’

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      1. The second one, because the thing I was writing involved a young boy in the war so it was a lot of songs about why is there war/soldiers coming home (or not) it wasn’t always the most cheerful music, but it definitely helped me write those tough scenes I needed 🙂

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      2. Hey, nobody ever said writing was about making people happy. As long as you’re making them feel SOMETHING.

        Off topic, but I love your blog. That worm is the best thing I’ve seen on WordPress.

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