What do listen to when you write?


Being quiet

I am guessing not everyone will share my sentiments, but for me, there is great comfort in being quiet. I write best when I am sitting in my little pod office, with the lovely view of trees, and…absolute quiet.

My husband is incredibly noisy, so this does present some problems on occasion! But on the whole, when I am writing, I am left alone in this noiseless state. I do deviate occasionally, but more on that below…

E.B. White “I never listen to music when I’m working.”

Background chatter

I am a self aware introvert. I accept this is what I am. That said, this desire for silence is a little extreme even amongst the introvert brigade. I was recently reading a book on introverts. The aptly named ‘Quiet’ by Susan Cain, a great read btw. In it, she talks about her writing routine, and she actually found it productive to sit in a coffee shop to work on her book. The background chatter, and the unobtrusive presece of people helped her to focus. For her, too much isolation was actually a bad thing.

Block-rocking beats

The concept of writing anything of worth while listening to pop music is beyond my comprehension. But, E.L. James found Will.I.Am blasting in the background an inspiration when tackling her ‘naughty’ scenes!

Classics anyone?

Classic music can create a powerful mood in a movie, but what about when we write? I do have a few pieces that I enjoy occasionally, when I want to create a pull in a particular emotional direction. I am definitely not alone in this one.

In an interview Edmund White, the writer of award-winning fiction, biographies and memoirs, said he liked to write to chamber music by Debussy, especially the cello sonata.

Non classical music without words 

This is probably one of my favourite deviations from silence. I love things with a good beat if I am writing an action scene. It’s a great tool for visualisation! I picture the scene unfolding as the track plays, and repeat until I get it right.

And playing fast music when writing can definitely speed up your word count! Those fingers can’t help but try to keep up!

So, what do you write to?

Thoughts, suggestions? Have I missed any obvious ones? What do you like to write to?



27 thoughts on “What do listen to when you write?

  1. I now have a mental image of Edmund White writing in a comfortable office with a string quartet sitting around him and playing quietly. 🙂

    I can write to anything as long as know it really well. I used to be a musician, so unfamiliar music triggers my analytical brain and I start to really listen, with pleasure or not — but this is not about to get me writing.

    Familiar music includes rock and roll (various types), some folk, a little country, Les Miserables, jazz (mostly Ornette Coleman), and did I mention Les Miserables?

    I also listen to a lot of audio drama, both contemporary and old-time (mystery/adventure shows from the 1940s).

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Sometimes in quiet (on lunch break at my job, for example), sometimes on the train (no music, but not really quiet).

        Sometimes listening to my own writing. A big part of my process these days is listening to my current draft read to me, by my Kindle or by an app. I find it’s invaluable for finding errors, catching awkward phrasing, and other things like that.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yes, I have just started the play back on my work. I have been using it on my pitch a lot, it’s very effective. And I often edit work on the train, but not so good at doing new writing there 🙂


  2. I can’t write to silence!

    Music with lyrics can inspire, but instrumental helps too. I use Spotify playlists such as ‘deep focus’, or ‘electronic concerntration’

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I like to write with melodic instrumental music in the background…..flutes, harp, dulcimer, that sort of thing. I generally put “Soundscapes” on my TV in my den while I write, or jump to Pandora and New Age Instrumentals on the computer. BTW, “QUIET” is on my TRB list. I’ve been meaning to read that one for some time.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I will listen to a lot of different music, depending on my mood. Lately, it has been Motley Crue, Lady Antebellum, Foreigner, Expose, and (like Anthony Lee Collins) Les Mis. Also, since I am a huge baseball fan, I have been listening to the Spring Training games.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah, well, I can follow a baseball game in my sleep. My wife even witnessed that once. Right now, I am writing while Bar Rescue is on in the background.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m trying.
    I’m trying to find some kind of background noise to write to because I think it’s not good to sit in absolute silence for writing all the time. I may be trying to train myself to write anywhere or maybe to just not be such a delicate flower when it comes to noise in my surroundings. mynoise.net has great ambient sounds of rain that I really like.

    There are some collections on 8tracks with videogame music and I find most of them quite good to write to. They are usually instrumental and not too distracting. Only problem is if a piece that I know comes up, I may occasionally start crying because I know what happened in the game at that point.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ambient can be a good alternative to silence. Don’t use it so much for creative writing, but it can help at work for blocking out bustle around me. They are good for mood setting though, and particularly like rain.
      Sometime you can read a whole book and they never once mention the weather! I guess it never rains in book land.


  6. For the most part: silence. At times I will put on something like James Taylor, Van Morrison, or R.E.M. I’ve listened to classical at a low level and will admit to pounding rock for action. When I am lucky enough I enjoy the natural sounds weather might bring like rain or a storm. Then there are the sounds of the creek behind my house and birds too numerous to decipher. Great topic!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I can NOT write with music playing in the background either! It seems absolutely impossible to pay attention to the words when you’re singing along to lyrics -_-
    So to what do I write. Hmm.. Well when I’m sitting in my window seat, near my lawn, and I can hear the birds chirping. I sometimes they’re trying to have a conversation with me 😛 This is the only setting in which I can pay attention to writing.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I have a film scores station on Pandora that I like to turn on when I’m writing. It doesn’t distract me with lyrics, but there’s still plenty of feeling that emotes to help me get pumped up to write.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I’m exactly the same. My mum is a loud talker (I moved back home) and not even closing the door can close it out. But I must admit, as someone who lived in London for 22 years, the sound of the road outside my window, in this village in the north of England, soothes me. Next to that, I can tolerate classical music without words, but only just. thanks for a great blog!

    Liked by 1 person

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