I almost always write to music.
This habit began as more of a personality quirk; I could never study in school unless I had absolute silence (difficult to procure) or music to drown out other sounds. This translated well to writing, especially when I used to write while I worked (during downtime!) as the surrounding noise often pulled me out of my writing head-space and made staying in the flow of the story difficult.
Several artists I know hate listening to music while they create, even if they aren’t working with words or language. Yet several noted authors talk about listening to popular songs on repeat during their writing process. My thoughts on this are not an attempt to delve into the why of music-as-inspiration, but a surface skimming of what I enjoy and what you might experiment with in your own process.
First off, there are only two kinds of music I listen to while I write: 1) instrumental music, primarily soundtracks, and 2) foreign vocal music.* Both serve different functions for me. Soundtracks are great for filling in the details of a world. My mind’s eye might discover the geography of a story by what music “the story” prefers, or cultural details might become clear depending on what and how instruments are used. Character and plot and emotion also flow from hearing certain pieces, as well as the pace of a battle, or the rocking of a ship at sea, or the tempo of an argument.
Foreign music plays a similar but separate role. At times vocal pieces are needed, to bring the human element back to mind during a story, but without distracting from the story coming out in your fingers. Several foreign languages bring otherworldly aspects into their music, whether through unique or unfamiliar instruments, or through the singer’s voice. Even if the words are gibberish to you, the emotion of the song still comes through, which lends itself well to those times when you need the highs of emotion music can inspire in us, without getting caught up in the lyrics.
I’ll end with a few composers† who I’d recommend regardless of genre, and leave you to tell me: what do you, writer, prefer to listen to?
Katie signing off.
*I am not arguing against vocal songs in your own language, merely giving my own preference. If you can write without being distracted by someone else’s words, more power to you!
†If you don’t have any idea who to start with regarding composers: Harry Gregson-Williams, Thomas Newman, Alan Silvestri, Joe Hisaishi, Yoko Kanno, and Sawano Hiroyuki. I love Japanese composers…