On Musical Influence

I have a little ritual when I write. It’s one I’ve done for a while and it helps me focus on what I’m doing. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll write anywhere but I definitely do my best work sat at my desk and when I sit there, the ritual comes into play. First comes the laptop, plugged in and set up centre-stage (wifi disabled of course); a mug of coffee on the right, my notes from the day on the left. Then, there’s the music: loud, random playlists blaring though noise cancelling headphones.

I’m a big fan of music. I know that’s a very vague statement but it’s for a good reason: I have no musical preference. Most people have some favourite genre, be it pop, R&B, or hardcore trance with floor-shaking bass. But for me, a typical playlist can include anything from heavy metal and punk to acoustic classical and Opera (as I’m writing this, I’m listening to Irish folk music) and it’s got me thinking about how much music influences writing.

I can account for hundreds of times when music lyrics, and even music videos, have sparked story ideas. Fast-paced, action-packed scenes are certainly easier to write when listening to songs with a heavier beat; ditto with romantic scenes when love songs are playing. When I struggle with pacing, sometimes changing the track I have playing, to one with a more appropriate beat, significantly assists and the words flow smoother.

Part of my novel involves a scene between my main character and his wife. It’s important to the narrative and is intended to be very moving. I must have written nearly twenty drafts; none of which I was happy with. In the end, a coincidental track change led to a redraft that not only captured what I wanted from the scene but perfectly summed up his feelings.

What are your thoughts on this? Does music have influence what you’re writing?

Incidentally, the coincidental track I was referring to was ‘How long will I Love you’ by Elle Goulding and I’ve attached it below for those interested.


6 thoughts on “On Musical Influence

  1. Music can definitely influence my thinking, writing, emotions and actions (yeah, sometimes you just have to bust a move). Music is poetry. I wish I was talented in this area, but I am so not. Instead, I like to use music as my muse. Music can reach those parts of your soul that may be difficult to reach at times.

    1. I’m often amazed at the sheer range of emotions that music invokes. It really helps me focus on mood when I write. As for ‘bust[ing] a move’, I wouldn’t put my family through that kind of torture; however, I have been known to sing when no-one’s around.

  2. I have always written to music, and I find that my writing projects tend to each have certain albums or types of music that they respond to. I also have certain songs that remind me of characters or elements in my stories, but that’s not usually the same as “writing music.” I’m not sure I’ve ever had the kind of experience you did with your scene, but I think it’s interesting how the music interacts with your writing.

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