Listen to Music?

R104d asks: when you write do you listen to music? or do you find it a distraction? and if you do listen, what kind is the best?

Music is extremely important to my writing process in three ways.

1) It’s motivation to stay writing. Sometimes I find it unbearable to sit in front of a blank screen and force the words out. Music helps me stay in the chair and at my computer (now, at least entertained) and keep working.

It IS a distraction. My greatest writing output occurs when I can focus solely on the writing (or when I can entirely tune out the music as I write (more on that Zen-like state in a later article)). But listening to music is often a compromise: lowered efficiency, but I’m there writing—not doing the dishes or flossing my teeth.

2. Music provides emotional stimulus. I have playlists for different characters–songs I know can generate specific emotional states when I need to get to those places at 4 AM (when the only emotion I feel is the instinct to hibernate).

3. Inspiration. So many ideas for stories have come to me by listening to music, wondering about the lyrics (for some reason this invariably happens while I am driving, too). Okay this is a little artsy. I’m always beating the writing-is-hard-work-plain-and-simple drum, and it is, but sometimes inspired strikes. What can you do?

NOTE: some writers cannot stand to listen to music while they write; they find it too distracting. My wife, Syne, cannot listen to music with lyrics when she writes.

What kind of music do I listen to? My taste and emotional needs (see point 2) run all over the spectrum: medieval chants, classical, heavy metal, pop—you name it.

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