@m_pallante guests: Should you really play #music while you write?

I have always listened to music when I write; over the last three novels, I’ve carefully selected a sound track to write to that reflected themes, character, or tone of the piece/scene/novel I was working on. When i commented on twitter about this, M. pallante replied back very quickly with an interesting comment. I asked him for a blog post on music and writing and he obliged. As always, feel free to comment at the end. Do YOU write to music?

Michael Pallante

brings us:

The Writer’s Playlist

There’s one dimension that both music and writing intrinsically share. Music is necessarily about conflict and resolution.
Its no wonder then that so many writers choose to listen to music when they work. I know if I was alone with nothing but my thoughts and a blank sheet of paper I’d go stark and or raving mad.
A lot of writers like to set their playlist like a soundtrack to their novel, and imagine the songs as the score to the film version. This has its benefits, writing a tense scene with the psycho music playing will have the obvious effects. But, in general writing is as much of a craft as it is an art so music can perform a different function.
When I write I choose music which stimulates or calms me- so my mind is either focused enough or free to work the intricacies of plot or the unique problems of dialog. For this reason I tend to avoid heavy rock or anthemic type stuff- anything which draws my mind away from the story is bad.
For that reason I find songs with a mantra quality, lots of repetition, or of a character which centers my mood work best for writing. In the past this has included everything from new age music like Shantala, to modern rock like A Perfect Circle or Tom Wait’s unique brand of blues and jazz.
The thing which all these varied “soundtracks” have in common is their transcendental quality. I’d have a hard time writing to Velvet Revolver because I’d be singing along, and don’t even try to get me to work while listening to the Beatles! They are fantastic and stimulating acts- but they engage me on a whole other level.
Any song that puts you in a mental ‘place’ that is easy to write from is a good song to listen to. Think about changing your soundtrack up and seeing how it affects your focus and voice.
-30-
 Michael Pallante is the community director for Questional.com and author of thrillers.

My professional site is located at: www.michaelpallante.com and my writing blog is kept at http://palehorsenovel.wordpress.com

Thea Atkinson is a writer of character driven fiction.

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7 comments on “@m_pallante guests: Should you really play #music while you write?
  1. When I write, I’ll tune into a classical station online and have that playing in the background. It tends to relax me and get me in the zone. Of course, when I’m not writing, I’m usually listening to 80’s rock.🙂

  2. I’m the type of writer to consider the purpose of writing when I sit down. If I’m in a good mood but need to write an angry scene then I will get a song that has that feeling. One chapter I wrote in my book was written entirely to Josh Groban’s, “Remember when it rained” because I wanted to have that feeling on a sunny day. If I’m revising or editing then I want silence.
    I’ve been known to set my itunes shuffle to repeat one song and I’ve been so caught up in writing the story that it’s been an hour of one song. Maybe you are on to something about repetition.

  3. […] This was fun to write and flex a little music history. I have always listened to music when I write; over the last three novels, I’ve carefully selected a sound track to write to that reflected themes, character, or tone of the piece/scene/novel I was working on. When i commented on twitter about this, M. pallante replied back very quickly with an interesting comment. I asked him for a blog post on music and writing and he obliged. As always, feel free to comment at the end. Do YOU write to music? Mi … Read More […]

  4. Michael Pallante says:

    Mark- I need absolute silence when I pre-write! For some reason working out the mechanics of a story requires absolute isolation. The actual writing tho- I like to have something going on. A pond for the mind to play in, if you will!

  5. I take quite the opposite approach. I love absolute silence to work in (sadly not much chance of that) and while there’s often background noise of some sort beyond my control I long ago learned never to play music when writing.

    When I’m writing I like to be so emersed in the work that an earthquake could be taking place around me and I’d not notice. If you can hear the music playing then you’re not 100% focussed on writing, surely?.

    Same with visual stimulation. I used to love to take my laptop to the beach and watch the waves break on golden sands, palm trees waving gently, savouring the sun and the sea breeze (Yeah, life in West Africa is a dream).

    But once I started actually writing I never noticed the scenery anyway, so what was the point?

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