What music do you listen to when…

As the title suggests, I wanted to explore (and open up potential conversation about) the use of music when writing.  I will say upfront that this post is going to be chock full of links to YouTube so that I can plague your ear-waves with my awful taste in music.  Yes.

Firstly, I try to organize my writing session around a specific goal (which really dictates what kind of music I listen to), and they are the following:

  • Reading
  • Drafting
  • Revising
  • Editing
  • Formatting
  • Blogging

* * *

I know probably sound like a broken record, but I really, really value reading to become a better writer.  When I’m reading writing that was written by someone other than me, I usually don’t listen to music.  Well, that’s great, I’m really sticking to my theme here… What kind of music do you listen to? Oh, hah, NONE!  

When I’m re-reading my own writing, I speak every line out loud, and I like to pick music that can transition song-to-song while keeping up a fast, consistent tempo.  Yup, I essentially listen to dance music when I’m reading my work, because I like to feel that each sentence has rhythm and drive.  Also, I don’t care if there’s lyrics, because I like challenging myself needlessly.  A sample of this kind of music: Pendulum’s “Propane Nightmares”.

* * *

When I’m drafting, I need music that is also very upbeat (so that I can feel the “momentum” of every keystroke and continue typing, even though I’m generating absolute horseshit.  Yass.)  However, when I’m writing I cannot-CANNOT-have lyrics in the background, or else pancake I end up typing the words I’m hearing. One superb example of my drafting music is: Rodrigo Y Gabriela’s “Tamacun”.

When I’m drafting, I also like to listen to music that is very atmospherically similar to the setting of my project.  While writing AVENGARDE, a book set in the frozen north with a people who very closely approximate Scandanavia’s Finest (Vikings, ofc.), I actually tried to listen to viking music, and this is as close as I got: Wardruna’s “Helvegen”. They also have cool album art:


* * *

Revising is for me one of the most time-consuming pieces of the great writing process puzzle, and for this, I need my utmost concentration.  So, I use music that is still good when it’s quiet, that has no major decibel changes, has little discernible beat, and NO LYRICS.  Sometimes, I’ll have my noise-cancelling headphones on and turn the music as low as it can possibly go without treading into complete silence, and that’s where I’ll keep it.  Many times, this music ends up being Enya, the soundtrack from Ori and the Blind Forest, or atmospheric music like the track from Skyrim that is literally called “Atmospheres”.

* * *

When the time comes to edit, and I have to pour over my manuscript with an eye for the minutiae, I need music that keeps me from throwing my keyboard or getting in such a bad mood I start needlessly deleting content.  This music is always Rachmaninoff, because Russians are really good at doing “sad” and hearing Sergei’s “sad” makes me feel a little better about editing.  His second symphony is my go-to editing music.  If you have a spare hour to listen–and I mean really listen, not just hear–you should take the time to enjoy this piece.

* * *

If there’s a task more mind-numbing than editing, it’s formatting.  I mean making sure your chapters are numbered correctly, making sure that you’ve italicized that one word consistently over 400+ pages.  You know, the kind of thing I should probably pay someone else to do for me…  During this stage, I like to picture what the work is going to look like when it’s finished, printed, sold, enjoyed, enjoyed so immensely that it’s optioned as a movie; so, I listen to movie soundtracks.  I am a real lover of soundtracks, and a few of the ones I’ve been listening to recently to get me through my formatting work are: the original soundtrack from Journey (the game, not the band), the soundtrack from Avatar, the soundtrack of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and the How to Train Your Dragon OST.  All are wonderful and should be unabashedly loved.

* * *

For blogging, well, I just listened to all the music above, to make sure the links weren’t awful.

So, what kind of music do you listen to when you write?

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Don’t steal my words.  They’re mine. Zachary Barnes 2016©

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