Discuss: Music and Writing


Sometimes it seems that people these days are creating soundtracks for their lives. Wherever you look — in cafes, on the bus, in the library — people have earbuds couched in their ears. Whether it’s to block out the noise of others while studying, or to listen to their favorite songs while waiting for a friend, music seems to drive people’s lives. It only makes sense, then, that music bleeds into the craft of writing.

Some people listen only to instrumental music while writing so that they aren’t distracted by lyrics. Others need the emotions brought out by lyrics to drive forward their story. Still others prefer silence while they’re writing. Some writers even create elaborate soundtracks for the story they’re working on. Where do you stand on this spectrum?

Personally, I love listening to music while writing. It helps to block out my surroundings and cocoon me in a special sort of writing environment where I’m only thinking about what I’m working on. Sometimes instrumental music can be beneficial, but I’m usually listening to music with lyrics while I write. That might just come from being a bigger fan of music with lyrics, so I happen to have more of that in my music library, but I also like the way the lyrics fade away and almost become white noise as I get more and more into I’m writing. And, as an added benefit, if I get stuck and just need to stop writing for a moment, I can listen to whatever is in my ears at the moment.

I understand where the anti-music writers are coming from, certainly. Sometimes it can be best to have a clear, quiet headspace while working on a piece of writing. But I have a very busy, cluttered mind that likes to multi-task. Having something to listen to must shut off an internal editor that just lets me push forward with the actual act of writing.

So how do you feel about listening to music while writing? Do you do it, or not? Why? Do you prefer to listen to something other than music while you’re writing, such as rain sounds? Share in the comments!

— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan


6 thoughts on “Discuss: Music and Writing

  1. Let's CUT the Crap! October 22, 2013 / 5:06 pm

    Up until a little over a year ago, I loved having music on, music with or without lyrics (classical mostly). I can’t stand anything on now. I need total silence and have no idea what changed. I find anything but a tomb-like environment because anything else is a distraction and I can’t think. Huh.

    • Editor October 22, 2013 / 8:14 pm

      Strange! But I guess our tastes change, and the way we work changes over time. At least you know what works for you! 🙂

  2. Paula Cappa October 23, 2013 / 7:10 am

    I often listen to classical music while writing. Especially if I’m stuck and need a creative boost to get the wheels turning. Mozart is very good for this. There is something to be said about silence though when I need to really hear the fictional voice. Writing outside on a windy day can be very inspiring!

    • Editor October 23, 2013 / 5:06 pm

      Wow, I admire you for writing outside on a windy day! I can’t stand to be disturbed by wind or — for instance — by sunlight on my laptop screen. But I guess that’s just me!

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