Headphones are a writer’s best friend. They’re portable. They’re comfortable. They’re a wonderful way to communicate to the rest of the world that we’re busy and not to bother us. And best of all, they’re sonically designed to pump our favorite music into our ears over a long period of time.
It’s that last part that’s especially important to us. Music is a fantastic tool for any writer. If you’re having trouble getting going, music can help you to perk up. If you’re full of self-doubt, music can help distract you so that you don’t get in your own way as you deliver something great for your clients. If you want to mellow out and get focused, music can help you do that too.
However, in today’s world, we’re almost too overloaded with options for music. Streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music offer virtually every song ever recorded, and they’re all a click away. On one level, this is a good thing. But when you finally sit down to write, it’s very easy to become overwhelmed by the choices available to you — thus creating the very paralysis-by-analysis problem you’re trying to distance yourself from. So how can you enjoy the benefits of music in a way that helps you to improve your writing?
What Works For You?
We’re all different, and we all respond to different things. Many people find modern top-40 music energizing and inspiring; others would sooner hear an endless loop of the guy yelling into his phone one table over at Starbucks.
Understanding what works for you will help you to craft your perfect writing playlist. If you find lyrics distracting, go with instrumentals. If you’ve had good experiences with chill music in the past, then that’s the way you should go. Conversely, if you prefer something more driving to motivate you, crank up the heavy stuff and rock out!
However, the only way to understand how music impacts your writing is to try writing with that music playing in the background. Start with simply listening to what you like, or whatever’s stuck in your head. If you find yourself getting distracted from your work, that’s a sign to go in a different direction next time. But if you discover that you barely even notice the music, you’re getting lost in the music and letting your subconscious take over your writing — and that’s exactly where you want to be.
If you’re a playlist curator, focus on songs in this latter group. If you prefer albums, cultivate a list of go-to albums that you know will work for you every time. And if you make a bad choice, don’t worry about it — at least you know to avoid that selection next time.
Set it and Forget It
Music is supposed to keep you going, right? That’s why there’s nothing worse than an album or a playlist ending right while you’re in the middle of a groove. The silence is distracting. Or, worse yet, trying to choose what gets played next will totally take you out of your zone and put you back at square one.
Your best bet is to put something on that will carry you well past the end of your shift. If you’re planning on writing for an hour, choose something that lasts for around 90 minutes. Or if you prefer listening to albums in their entirety, add a few albums to your queue before starting. This will cover you in case you take longer than you expected to finish your piece, or if you end up procrastinating and don’t get going right away (something no self-respecting writer would ever do, of course). That elusive groove is sacred; do whatever you can to keep it going.
Change it Up
Having constant access to music whenever we want it means songs get played out faster than ever. This means virtually all of your song choices have a shelf life, and there will come a day in which listening to Lady Gaga on an endless loop will lose its effectiveness. Hard to believe, but it’s true.
That’s the good thing about modern technology — something new is just a click away. YouTube and all major streaming sites provide lengthy lists of recommendations for songs your preferred medium believes you’d like. Spotify, for instance, automatically creates several playlists based on your preferences. So if you’re feeling in a rut while trying to write, give one of these recommendations a chance. You may like it; you may not. But you’ll at least provide a material change in your writing environment, which may take your writing in a new and exciting direction. It’s a lot better than sitting there feeling frustrated about not coming up with anything good.
A Playlist for Every Situation
The beautiful thing about writing is that every piece you write calls for something a little different. But just as your writing style varies, your music shouldn’t be a one-size-fits-all motivational device. If you have 20 minutes to bang out a piece, artsy New Age music might not be the best choice. And if you want to explore the characters in the novel you’re working on, aggressive rock might not suit your needs.
Having multiple playlists isn’t just a good idea — it’s a virtual necessity. Again, even the most exciting music becomes boring, which can have a negative effect on your writing. A varied approach not only helps to keep your music fresh, but it’ll also spice up your writing a bit. More importantly, having these extra tools in your arsenal will help you to tackle any assignment, no matter how challenging or how little you’re looking forward to writing it.
Whether or not they use music to get to their happy place, WriterAccess writers are well-versed in handling any writing situation — from health to marketing to everything in between. Find your perfect writer today!
Bryan B. is a freelance writer who specializes in marketing and marketing-related topics. He writes both marketing materials and articles about marketing, consistently pleasing his loyal clients. His success in these areas has led him to consistently rank among the top WriterAccess marketing writers.
In addition to writing about marketing, Bryan also writes about personal finance, parenting, sports and business topics. His status as a full-time working professional gives him unique insight into the corporate world and how his articles translate into reality.