Writing with a Side of Music

The other day I tweeted a question:  When you write poetry do you listen to music? Or do you find it a distraction? #poetry #music #writing. And by poetry I was thinking “writing.”



Since I have soooooo many twitter followers (huge winky face) I got back exactly, um, one response. This person said he listens to Mozart and Vivaldi for poetry writing.

That made some sense to me because I remember when I wanted to stimulate my first child’s creativity, I sent him to Suzuki class to learn Bach, Mozart, and Vivaldi.

I want to make good citizens. If a child hears fine music from the day of his birth and learns to play it himself, he develops sensitivity, discipline and endurance. He gets a beautiful heart.

But, even with The Four Seasons (Vivaldi) going in the background, I couldn’t write with music playing. Not poetry. Not prose. Nuttin.

Go ahead and try it yourself. Can you write to this version of “Autumn”?

How do people do it? My mind is going off with the music and not going where the poem wants it to go. It’s like patting my head and rubbing my stomach at the same time. Or running a marathon while I’m sleeping (or ever).  It just can’t be done–not by me.

So I tried to figure out what my writing habits are. They have developed over time. I grab whatever 30 minute block of time I can find, a piece of chocolate, and a soda (and you thought it would be tea?), and I start typing on the computer keyboard. Is that a good habit? I don’t know. I feel it was born out of desperation.

What are your writing habits? Do you write to music?

You can make my day if you follow me on Twitter here, by the way.


Filed under Art and Music, Essay, Poetry, Writing, Writing Tips and Habits

45 responses to “Writing with a Side of Music

  1. Vivaldi is too engaging to write poetry to! Try listening to something familiar that just fades away as the words start coming… (Thirty minutes of chocolate and quiet sounds perfect, by the way.) xox, V

  2. When I am writing poetry I must have music. It seems to add to the creative flow of energy. But when I write crime fiction, I require total silence to concentrate.

  3. I like to write in silence.

  4. I love to write with music in the background. When I get stuck, I listen to the lyrics and they always get me going again.
    Is that a good habit you ask? Well the 30 minute blocks and chocolate are good, but the soda…bad, Luanne! xo

    • Thanks, Mom ;). I did switch to sugary soda since diet is so bad for me . . . . I can’t imagine the lyrics getting me going in writing! I would feel like my head was being invaded by alien words! 😉

  5. I keep trying to write with music playing, but I haven’t found a genre yet that can fade far enough into the background that I don’t tap my foot or sing a few bars. I just can’t separate the two.

    • Windy, you and me both. I keep hearing how great it is to listen to music while writing (especially for somebody with ADD like me), but the music just pulls me in. If you figure out a genre, let me know ;).

  6. Luanne, first of all, I don’t Tweet or Twitter or whatever…never have been able to understand how that all works, but I’ll continue to follow you right here on your blog! As for my background music preference during my writing sessions (I don’t write poetry) of short stories and novels, I enjoy soft jazz or the offerings from Beautiful Music radio. (I know, sometimes sappy, but often very good!) For it to be effective and mood enhancing, it must be instrumental and talk-free. (Of course, there are those damned Progressive Insurance spots featuring the annoying Flo every now and then that break the magical spell!) 🙂

    • Hahah, thanks, Mark. That made me laugh about the Twitter. Beautiful Music might be good because isn’t it meant to be more background music? But oh no, NOT Progressive. That is also funny because my husband cannot stand Flo. Every time she comes on TV he has to say something about how he doesn’t like her! But she’s unforgettable.

  7. I guess everyone is different. I love music, so when I hear it playing in the background, I’m tuning in to it and listening. Then I can’t think about other things, much less write about them. If I tune the music out, it becomes filler (noise) and I don’t like noise in the background. Guess I can’t multi-task as well as I thought. With me, writing and listening to music have to be done separately.

  8. I have listened to music when writing fiction…and it may, ultimately, have caused a problem. Writing does affect my sentence rhythms.

    • WJ, your comment gave me pause. I do think that is a very likely scenario–that listening to music while one is writing will affect the writing–and it isn’t necessarily in a good way. After all, we have to be able to hear the sounds of the writing as we writing–and that means sentence rhythms as much as it does the words themselves.

      • Yes. For some parts of the novel, I listened to jazz and for the rest I listened to classical. The result was different rhythms, even though the narrator was the same. Bad idea that needed correcting.

        • I hope people read your comments here because you make such a good point about an aspect of writing prose that is so often ignored–the rhythm of the sentences.

  9. Silence is music to my ears. Absolutely have to have it to write anything. Music is too distracting. If I could have my druthers, I’d like the cone of silence from Get Smart because absolute silence is nearly impossible in a 1400 sq. foot townhouse full of 5 people. Sunday morning, 5:30 a.m., a cup of coffee and sometimes the keyboard, sometimes pen and paper. That’s my writing habit.

  10. Music, sometimes – but when I wrote poetry, my routine was to read five poems, then write my own. Reading poems did the trick better than music did.

  11. I absolutely love Vivaldi and do my housework to that music 🙂 As for writing, there are only a few artists I can listen to while I’m writing. Seal, David Gray and Sade. I have them in the background and they really help with my muse. I can’t listen to anything rocky or new because it takes my concentration.

    Seal, David Gray and Sade – I hope you’re reading this! 😀

    • Dianne, hah, so funny! So you want comfort music in the background (I don’t mean that in a bad way, but what is comfortable to you)? Vivaldi is GREAT for housework!! So is the Broadway Cast recording of the musical The Scarlet Pimpernel. All that waltz music ;).

  12. Silence … I need silence in order to write. Even the low bass from the TV in the other room is enough to distract me. At least until I get into the “groove.” But I write very little poetry and when I do write poetry, I don’t really work at it. It’s spontaneous … something quickly jotted down in my notebook. Maybe reworked later if I think it still has promise, if it still speaks to me. Now, when I’m knitting I love listening to audiobooks. Lately my husband has been playing Elvis Costello when we cook together. So there’s some music, but not with writing. And, frankly, whatever gets you to write, Luanne, is a good thing, even if it is soda 😉

    • Marie, that’s the thing with knitting, it’s possible to do a lot of other things. As a kid I would watch TV, read, and knit at the same time. But music and writing, still a big no for me. I love to hear that you will rework your poetry if you feel it has promise!
      Thanks re the soda ;), Now I feel better!

  13. I find music inspiring when I write. It is usually classical. I especially love Yo-Yo Ma and the cello when writing. However, there are times when I crave absolute silence when I write. It depends on my mood. Interesting question, Luanne.

    • Rudri, so are the answers! It’s amazing to me how split everyone is on this question. For some it seems necessary to have music and for others it is a real distraction. So that you choose depending on your mood places you in the middle, I guess!

  14. I prefer to write in silence, or at least as close as I can here, with the sound of nature being quite loud, but if I had to listen to music while writing, I would choose classical pieces. I love Vivaldi — he is perhaps my favorite.
    When I taught, I played violin-heavy pieces for writing time. Students usually grew to love the music, and many said they felt it helped. My own kids prefer writing to music, especially Moo, who loves that her teacher plays instrumentals throughout the day.

    • Wow, that is fascinating. I can’t imagine that it would help me to hear the music, but maybe in a setting like that where it is part of the class it would develop a part of my writing that lies undeveloped. Does that make sense? Although I don’t feel like I want to try music any more for awhile, I am willing to admit that it does have something offer the writer. I just love the violin so much I feel I would get caught up in the music.

  15. Well, you know what I would say about the tea Luanne…for me it always has to be tea, haha 😉 As for writing to music, I’m with you totally – no way. What I do is when I’m ‘stuck’ or burnt out, I plug in my iPod and go for a walk around the park and listen to music while working out a story line in my head but then when I come home and write, I have to have complete silence. And I grab those blocks whenever I can yet still the distractions invade…no wonder we grab for that caffeine 🙂

    • I knew it would be tea for you, but I will be happy to share tea with you sometime. Maybe you can teach me how to make it properly ;)! Ah, the silence is marvelous. But the caffeine even better ;)!!!!

      • I would love to have tea with you Luanne…anytime you can make it, I’ll put the kettle on right now…and tea has plenty of caffeine thank goodness 😀

  16. Lol, Luanne. I’ve never really written with music, but I’ve heard so many writers say that it helps them. I’m planning to try it for my next novel because I’ll be tackling some heavy stuff and I want to set the mood for myself. I think music will help me get in the right mind frame. It will be set primarily in the ghetto of Los Angeles, with a few scenes in the gentrified areas of Atlanta, so I’m thinking rap/hip hop and classic soul. We’ll see if it helps!

    • You’re intriguing me with the setting of your book and with the music you’re planning on using for writing, Faith! What a great idea, too, to use the right music for the right story and the right mind frame.

  17. I like to write with non-vocalized music, but the music is meant to be calming and not distracting. If there are vocals, I am much more side-tracked. I believe I had a teacher in elementary school who had us listen to “Peter and the Wolf,” before we knew the story behind the music. We were asked to ‘write a story’ to it. I am sure wishing I had that story to reflect back upon it. But the flute makes a great bird, the drums add drama, etc. I could see this being a great idea for creatively writing poetry, Luanne….

    • We did that, too, Robin!!! But I had already heard it at home because I had an album of Peter and the Wolf that was narrated. It was so scary!!! So I already knew the story and couldn’t get around that story to write my own. Vocals definitely sidetrack me, but honestly, so does the music!

  18. I write mostly in silence, but now that I’m editing my novel, I listen to music (no lyrics) playing in the background. Pat Methany’s jazz trio has been a favorite these days.

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