I actively read through a variety of writing related forums- which sounds worse when I actually say it- and at least every other day I see something about writing while listening to music. It’s almost trivial that people are too afraid to give it a try, like somehow it’s condemning their writing career if they do it without asking first. So I’m going to compile a list of the pros and cons.
- The noise is good for some people. For many people it’s easier to concentrate with noise in the background to tune out so they can focus on their work.
- Music can set the mood for writing. For instance if you’re writing a story set in the south and you pop on some blues or country, many find it well change their mood and get them in the right state of mind. This can work with themes as well. If you’re writing about poverty, for instance, listening to rustic bluesmen sing about ain’t gotting no spare change then you’ll definitely translate that into you’re writing.
- Many people can find inspiration in music. If it’s the themes of the music, the images it portrays, or the overall mood and attitude, there’s always something to take away from it. Whether it affects your writing on a sentence by sentence scale or by impacting the entire story it can be a positive.
- Many people can’t work with background noise. It all depends on the type of person you are.
- Sometimes it’s good not to have distractions. Even if you can work with background noise, that doesn’t mean you should. There are times when you need to buckle down, eliminate all distractions and just write. In this instance, you should not listen to music.
- It’s easy to make it more about the music. In this sense it’s about procrastination. It may take hours for some people to find the perfect music, create the perfect playlist, or get in the perfect mood before they start writing. Oh you can go to skip the next song and find yourself cleaning up the music folders on your computer moments later.
So there’s that. It all really depends on knowing yourself and what works best with you. Don’t be afraid to try new things. If you try it and it doesn’t work, you lost maybe five minutes, for which you can blame me.
If listening to music does happen to work with you, I have some more advice. A way to reduce the amount of distraction is by listening to music without words, or at least just long instrumental sections. Finding movie soundtracks and game soundtracks you like is a good first step to this. For a good period the only thing I listened to while writing was Echoes and Atom Heart Mother Suite, both by Pink Floyd. Then The Endless River came out and I stopped listening to anything else. One band I’ve noticed is very popular with writers would be Explosions in the Sky. They’re a purely instrumental band with some of the most beautiful and elegant modern music I’ve ever heard.
This goes back to the second pro I listed, but try to fit the genre you’re writing. If you’re writing an epic fantasy novel, maybe give the Skyrim or the Lord of the Rings soundtrack a listen. Or if you’re writing a space sci-fi adventure, you can’t go wrong with the Halo or Star Wars soundtrack. It’s all about trying to get those influences to rub off onto you’re writing.