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Writing to Music Helps Words Flow

How to write to music

How writing to music affects the writing process

Writing to music is an effective writer’s tool. Many writers not only enjoy the rhythm of words but the beat of music. When the two are combined, those writers often find themselves in an altered state. So many embrace writing to music. The words come fast, the mood of the music is channeled, time expands and the writer’s world is entered into. I know, because that is how it is for me.

Best music to listen to while writing to music

When I write, the music becomes the background. For that reason, instrumentals are my first choice. Instrumentals tend to be less distracting. The lyrics don’t bump up against my own words breaking my internal flow and causing me to lose focus, become distracted, or , worse, have the music take precedence. The last thing I need is an internal competition. So I find instrumental music helps me become more productive, more focused, and more likely to enter the flow state–and flow is the goal.

How piano music helps me write

Best piano instrumental to write to musicPiano music. Like many kids of my generation, piano lessons were part and parcel of growing up. Never was great at it, but it helped make nimble fingers that easily took to typing and now keyboarding. My speed has always been pretty high often easily hitting 100 wpm.
Back in the late 80s or early 90s I visited Seattle, Washington and came across David Lanz’s fairly new album of piano music, Cristofori’s Dream. (It was actually a cassette recording . . . .)  I can’t even tell you how many hours upon hours I listened to this music as I floated away into the fictional worlds I inhabited. For me, it’s a magical piece: I listen; I write. And as I write, I find my keyboarding matches the rhythm of the music and, surprisingly, my wordcount increases and my fingers fly across the keyboard–as they are now. I absolutely love to write to this music. I’m not typing anymore, I’m keyboarding the music of words. Cristofori’s Dream is all I need to tease words forward when the world interferes with my flow. Perhaps, you, too, will experience this if you listen to YouTube for Cristofori’s Dream here.

How writing to music helps to create the mood of a scene or novel

Different music offers up different experiences. When you’re writing fiction, you often want to write scenes that evoke emotion. Keeping a wide selection of music on hand is a good way to set the tone and mood for a specific piece of writing. Phantom of the Opera is one I use when I when I want bold, heavy emotions, and yes, it is available as a full instrumental.

Years ago I was writing a middle grade that had the characters go deep into the jungle and Ray Lynch’s Deep Breakfast proved to be the ideal music. It begins with footsteps in a cave and continues on. Even today, the music will take me back into that story.

Another mood establishing piece of music is Hours by Phillip Glass. Written for the movie version of the novel, this piece is dramatic and builds. Exactly what you want to happen in many stories. Listen and tell me what story you’d write.

Charge your creativity while writing to classical music

Writing to music with DebusseyMore and more research has revealed the impact of classical music on the brain. The book The Mozart Effect had a great impact on today’s thinking when it comes to using classical music to enhance thinking, productivity, and creativity. Of course, he was specifically discussing the work of Mozart. However, neurologists speak now of the impact music has when it “activates the brain regions related to attention, semantic processing, motor functions, and emotional processing. (See Brain: The Journal of Neurology.) Try Kempff’s version of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata on YouTube or, if you’re looking for a darker mood, try Chopin’s Nocturnes available through YouTube. Tired of gloomy, maybe you want something full of life? Give Vivaldi a try.

Seeking to form images out of words? Look to Debussey’s work. His intention was to create music that formed images in the mind much like those of the French Impressionist painter Monet. Listen to YouTube Debussey’s Clair de Lune and see if your creativity floats on air.

How to create signature music for your story

Deep Breakfast became the signature music for that middle grade book. Every time I wrote on that story, I used that music. If you align a particular piece of music with a specific story, the music can often lift you over any perceived writing blocks that may be making it hard for you to settle into a writing session. This can be a great tool if you find real life gets in the way of writing and throws you out of a piece. Play the music and enter your fictional world. I’m currently in the process now of finding my signature music for my new project.

Think of the work you’d write if The Alan Parson’s Project (instrumental) became your signature piece. Check out the instrumental of Where’s the Walrus?

Enhance creativity and productivity using brain-wave music

Plenty of work has been done on the effects of music on the brain. The resulting music is often called binaural music. You can find music for inspired and creative writing speed as well as music to enhance your creativity. Over the years I’ve used this type of music during pre-story planning sessions, first draft writing, and even as background music during critique group meetings. Sometimes I just let the creativity music play in the background as I do daily non-writing tasks. Do they help? I think so. Maybe you won’t see the impact right away but over time you may spot a definite trail.

What about silence?

Despite what you’ve read, I confess I love silence. I am equally at home with both. For me there’s a time and a place for silence as well as music. I use them as tools to achieve my writing goals. Whatever works, right?

As you can see, this is a vast subject. Why not take a little time and visit YouTube or your favorite music spot and find that one piece of music that speaks to your current writing project. You’ll find suggested playlists for writing action, fantasy, romance, and more. How about you? How do you write to music?

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  • Laura Martone

    Wonderful article, Vikk. Thanks for all the terrific links. And thanks, too, for validating my own love of Debussy. I write to him often (no matter the genre)!

  • Vikk Simmons

    Thank you, Laura, for taking the time to read and respond. I embraced writing to music long ago and feel it’s really enhanced my writing life. I’m always happy to share. I think you are among a legion of writers who listen to Debussey. Thanks, again.