Writing Advice: Music to Write By


Are you familiar with the concept of lifehacking? There are plenty of Tumblr posts on the subject and there’s even an entire website devoted to the idea. Basically, life hacks are tips and tricks that will theoretically help you live a more efficient life. Apparently there is a subset of life hacks just for writing. This weekend, a member of my writer’s group sent out a link to this writing hack on Reddit:

Put a song with no lyrics (or foreign lyrics) on repeat.
It seems too simple to be effective, but it has worked for me without fail. The music fades into the background and helps maintain flow, not sure exactly how. But it does.
I use the same song (plus an assortment of similar remixes) every time I work. When it comes on, I pop into the flow and get to work.

I love this writing hack idea and have used it quite frequently myself. In past posts I’ve written about the fervor of a write-in during National Novel Writing Month. To help maintain my momentum at these writing events, I plug my earbuds into my ears and keep them there during our word wars — sustained periods of writing for, usually, 17 minutes. I don’t want to worry about tracks changing or about albums running out, so I usually put just one song on repeat and let it play during the word war. This past year, the soundtrack from the BBC’s Sherlock helped me out a lot.

I like the idea of using the same song or the same playlist of songs each time you sit down to write. Not only would that help to create the flow and rhythm for your work session, but it might also create a connection in your brain between those songs and writing. If that were to happen, those songs might always trigger the desire to write and might help you get more work done.

If you’re looking for a way to gain and keep a momentum during your writing sessions, give this writing hack a try.

— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan

3 thoughts on “Writing Advice: Music to Write By

  1. Paula Cappa March 26, 2013 / 8:13 am

    This post struck me because writing with music on is something I do frequently, and I do have my favorites. Most of it is classical but the idea of using the music from Sherlock sounds great. I may try that. Downton Abbey is one I use a lot and the music from Out of Africa. On the other side of the coin, if you’re working at home, alone (I’m a terribly isolated fiction writer/ copy editor), sometimes the absolute silence can be refreshing and stream in thoughts and images. Some days I’ll spend the entire day without any verbal or musical actions. I just started reading Max Picard’s The World of Silence. Picard says in one of his chapters that “images are silent but they speak in silence … it is the soul that preserves the silent images of things.” Sometimes I get my scariest stories in that silence.

    Your blog is great. I look forward to more.

    • Editor March 26, 2013 / 7:34 pm

      Downton Abbey is another good idea! I should seek out that soundtrack for some writing music. 🙂 But you have a good point about silence, as well. It’s nice, sometimes, to switch everything off and just focus on getting the words down.

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