Music For My Muse's Diet

Sunday, February 13, 2011

 From time to time I’ve been on discussion boards where writers talk about music they find inspiring.  It fascinates me that people can write and listen to music at the same time.  I keep the television turned on when I’m writing, but inevitably CSI or Law &Order take precedence and soon I’m watching, instead of writing.  

Now I’m not saying there aren’t times when I force myself to write and keep an ear loosely tuned to the telly. It does happen, but not often.  It’s a mystery to me how I can multitask at work, but can’t concentrate on anything else but writing, when I’m writing.

I have music saved to my computer, but when I turn it on, I can kiss any creative endevour goodbye.  I’m swaying from side to side, head-bopping, singing along –doing everything else but tackling the keyboard.  

That’s not to say music doesn’t inspire me. It does.  There’s  a huge collection of songs out there to fit just about any life situation, and I use these to my advantage.
Take my 2008 NaNo project.  That story is about two lovers, both married, who plan a life together.   However, the woman is so riddled with guilt, she doesn’t know whether she’s coming or going.  Eventually, she gives up the affair after a near tragedy, which involves her daughter.  Then she goes through debilitating emotional upheaval. 

In my opinion, you have to hunker down and suffer alongside your characters if you want to write a convincing story.  So naturally, I played the cheating woman in my mind – two of them, in fact.  I did it so well, I began to feel guilty.  To help me along, I had a list of songs I gathered as I wrote the book.  The tracks didn’t all come to me at once.  Some of them came months apart, but they all played their part in helping me write a story that resonated with my readers.  

I couldn’t listen to these selections while I wrote.  Too distracting.  Instead, I sometimes sat down, eyes closed, and absorbed the words of the songs as they played.  Some artistes do a marvelous job of voicing the angst of a distressed lover. 

The months it took me to write this story was a disturbing time, chiefly because I was so wrapped up in the lives of the female characters.  Two of them were married, and cheating on their husbands and the third was going through agony because of a self-absorbed, irresponsible man.  In all honesty, I’ll say that some of my disturbance came from my thoughts about the man on whom I modeled the love interest of the main character.  Enough said.  But to get back on topic, here’s the list of the songs that inspired me while I wrote the novel Distraction. 

Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me – Gladys Knight & The Pips
Cheatin’ Is – Millie Jackson
Have A Nice Weekend – Tom Brock
Hurt – The Manhattans
If Only For One Night – Luther Vandross
If You’re Not Back In Love By Monday – Millie Jackson
Loving Arms – Millie Jackson
My Eyes Adored You – Frankie Valli
Neither One of Us – Gladys Knight & The Pips
No Disturb Sign – Beres Hammond
Oh How I Miss You – Jimmy Cliff
Ruby – Kenny Rogers
Sitting In Limbo – Jimmy Cliff
Sorry Doesn’t Always Make It Right – Gladys Knight & The Pips
Sweet Music Man – Millie Jackson/Kenny Rogers
The Words Get In The Way – Gloria Estefan
Til I See You Again – Gladys Knight & The Pips
Weekend Lover – Odyssey
Years From Now – Dr Hook
You’re My Life – The Manhattans

Hope I haven’t dated myself with my choices. 

Does music influence your writing at all? Do you create a playlist for all your novels?


  1. It has a really big influence on my writing. I have to make sure I have the right songs on because it can change the mood of the chapter.

  2. Interesting. Never thought about music influencing writing in that the wrong track can change things up.

  3. This was a great post! I love that you suffer along side your characters. Those comments alone make me want to read it! I absolutely have to have "inspiration" music but there is no way I can write with music on. I can't have any noise actually. Well, maybe the dishwasher going...or the coffee machine brewing. That gets my creative juices flowing!

  4. Thanks Nicole. I always say the world is such an interesting place because we're all different. I've never been able to write with music going at the same time. Coffee, I can definitely smell and taste even now.

  5. Wow, your music choices take me way back! I'm one of the ones who loves to listen to music before, during, after....

    Nice to meet you!

  6. Good to meet you too. Yep, I like oooold music.

  7. I'm the same way. I can't listen to music or TV while I'm writing... too distracting. I might listen before or after writing, but not during. It has to be quiet for me to write. By the way, this blog is beautiful. Where did you find your template?

  8. Hey, Doralynn,

    Like you, I keep distractions to a minimum. I got the template off

  9. Nice can give me a push when I'm having a tough time with a chapter, but I try to keep it to a minimum once I have a good flow going...funny I thought I was the only one who "soundtracked" my stories. I have a song in mind for almost every chapter...again, this was great.

  10. Thanks, Yves. Cool way to work, having a sound track per chapter.

  11. I'm with you J.L.! I can listen to music when I'm in between manuscripts and going through the idea/brainstorming phase. It does inspire my creativity, but once I'm actually writing or hunkering down to dig into the characters and story that I've come up with, there's no way I can listen to music...even if it's just instrumental. I daydream easily so music takes me off on a tangent...the wrong one if I'm writing! I blogged about this a while back, thinking that I was alone in this (like you said, everyone blogs about manuscript playlists) and found, surprisingly that I wasn't!

  12. I so admire the folks who can listen to music and write at the same time. I have a one-track mind, I guess.

  13. My play list runs from one writing project to another. It's all over the place!

  14. music has a big impact on my writing. I'll often change the list according to what I'm writing.

  15. Hey there Crusader! I can't write without music and a play list. I do make a new play list for each novel I write. Now I can do a first draft with tons of noise around. Often times I'm writing in the living room with kids talking, and I'm holding conversations. Now when it comes to editing that's a different story I have to have it quiet except for my play list.

  16. I do listen to music for inspiration and I love TV but when I'm writing it has to be very quiet for me to concentrate.

  17. Lynda, that makes sense.

    Alyssa, I definitely understand that way of working. Editing is crucial business.

    Catherine - boy do I understand that! :D

  18. I really enjoyed reading your entry. Yes, music inspires me, celtic music, classical... I really don't think too much about it but it does inspire me in amazing ways, and sometimes it squeezes into my own plot, theme and characters...

  19. Julia,

    Cool! I didn't even think about any other forms of music other than contemporary and yes, some songs do have a way of creeping in to fit the theme

  20. I can't have any music or TV or anything playing when I'm writing. I might be able to write if my husband's watching a football game or something, but even then I might look up at the commericals and get annoyed at losing my train of thought. Some music does inspire me to write, but I've never made a play list or anything.

  21. I can't have any music at all, if it's something I like. I've finally learned how to write while my kids are watching one of their movies, though. Even then, it takes so much more thought process to think about what I really want to write...and I'm pretty good at multitasking too. Crazy.

  22. Susan,

    I don't do playlists most of the time. Only for the projects that seem to call for them.

    Michelle, I guess all of us wives/mothers have to learn how to write amidst the things going on around us at home. Otherwise, we'd never get anything written.

  23. Great post. I look forward to coming back. I love old stuff. Thanks for the follow and the visit to my site today. I'm your newest follower. :)

  24. Hello, fellow Crusader! I am your 69th follower, which seems like a prize all on its own... I am totally with you on music. I get ideas or can tap emotion with music, but if it is going while I am writing, for the most part, I am not paying enough attention... yes, I can 'tune out' (have to with kids) but that's not when the music that goes with the story works...

  25. Thanks, Diana! Do come back!

    Hart, thanks for the follow. Yes, music is such that it can be a distraction all on its own.

  26. I dropped over from Alanna's blog and I'm instantly drawn in by your 2008 NaNo project. Did you publish it?

    I, too can't listen to music while I'm doing anything else. I'm a musician and I listen intently, but, like you, I can have background musical suggestions going on in my head while I write.

    What is the name of that great-sounding novel?

  27. No, I'm still tweaking it and will be sending out queries soon. I've named it Distraction. That's pretty cool the fact that you're a musician! Musicians are fascinating people in my book.

  28. Great post! Like you, I sometimes find listening to music as I write a little distracting, but I'm one of those weirdos who likes to picture what's going on in the songs. :P

    I never do a playlist for stuff I'm writing, but I will crank up the music to help me visualized a scene while I write, if the music is a important to it. Like at a concert or a casino. Other than that, I'm more likely to listen to songs I know will put me in whatever the MC's mood is, but shortly before sitting down to write instead of while I'm clacking away at it.

  29. Who knew so many of us used music to set the tone for the stuff we need to write?

  30. Hi, music usually distracts me. I wish it didn't. Anyhow, I'm your newest crusade follower. You can visit me at:


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