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Inspiring Songs That Make Writers Salivate

Most writers will tell you that you just can't be too picky about the conditions under which you write. If your creative juices are only flowing when you're alone in your private home office, with a blue spiral college-ruled notebook and felt-tip pen (ballpoint will not suffice), a cup of Colombian roast, and your Ella Sings Gershwin CD playing softly in the background...well, it's no surprise you haven't written a thing.

The truth is, most writers cram in writing whenever they can, from waiting in the car while picking the kids up at school to setting the alarm extra early to get in that hour of scribbling before all hell breaks loose. When I taught kindergarten, I wrote an 8,000 word short story solely during the kiddos' daily playtime. Working on this particular story only fifteen minutes a day, I finished in a little over a month.

But that's not to say that some things can't inspire us to write. I always come up with better ideas when coffee is involved. And while many writers prefer silence while they work, I find that the appropriate music is sometimes just what I need to motivate me.

For Social Upgrades, which is a thriller/sci-fi, I'd have to say my favorite "writing soundtrack" would have to be Björk, especially songs from Post and Debut. But when I work on my historical fiction, I tend to go back and forth between jazz albums (Ella, Louis, and Thelonious Monk being my favorites) and classical piano like DeBussy and Chopin.

But I don't believe what you listen to needs to be related to what you write. Sometimes, if you're feeling stuck or uninspired, putting on your latest favorite song can cheer your spirits and get your pencil moving again. My fellow bloggers weighed in on their thoughts about music and writing:


For me it’s a 50/50 endeavor. Half of the time I need peace and quiet around me in order to get my writing done. The rest of the time I benefit from listening to music. The lyrics and the music both are tools that inspire me to write my scenes: fast guitars or hard beats are perfect for high-tension and action scenes while mellow alterna-rock or gentle acoustic songs swirl through my tender scenes. If I’m thinking kicka$$ girl character, I’m gonna reach for Pink, Heart or Kelly Clarkston. Love scenes are all about Lifehouse, Snow Patrol, The Format. 30 Seconds to Mars, The Raconteurs and Flyleaf help me out with action. And those moving-on scenes benefit from a bit of The All-American Rejects, Leona Lewis, and The Indigo Girls.


I listen to everything from Sarah McLachlan to Blue October; whatever song fits the tone of what I'm writing. But I can't have the volume up loud. It has to be a soft hum in the background or I can't focus on the writing. Sometimes I'll even load the ipod with songs specifically for the book I'm working on and go for a walk or drive and listen to the music before I sit down to write.


I create an ever-expanding playlist for every novel I write. The first few songs are the most critical. When I'm working through a tough spot, sometimes I play them on loop. Listening to music only works works when I write -- when I revise, there's much more reading involved, and it's necessary to press pause.


Usually I listen to nothing, because music tends to distract me. I get too caught up in enjoying the music and forget that I'm writing. But if I'm having trouble getting into the right mindset, I usually listen to Breaking Benjamin, Shinedown, or something similar because rock music makes me feel inspired and happy.

Having a specific soundtrack to listen to while writing might be a neat trick to motivate sluggish writers; the first track starts, triggering a Pavlovian effect whereby the writer is groping for his laptop, wiping the drool from his chin.

So, what about you? We'd love to hear what our readers are listening to while they work on those soon-to-be bestsellers!
Michelle Schusterman

Michelle writes books for kids, screenplays for a tv/film production company, and music for anyone who'd buy a "groove matters" bumper sticker. She lives in New York City with her husband (and band mate) and their chocolate lab (who is more of a vocalist). She is the author of middle grade series I Heart Band - 2014, and The Kat Sinclair Files - 2015 (both from Grosset).

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  1. I never realized how much writers rely on music to evoke certain emotions, until I started making friends with so many of them. Nice post, Michelle!

  2. *is rockin' out to Michelle's post*


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Item Reviewed: Inspiring Songs That Make Writers Salivate Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Michelle Schusterman