For many writers, creating the perfect atmosphere is a part of their habit. Surrounding themselves with decor reminiscent of their genre, lighting candles or incense, sitting down in a comfy chair, and settling at their desk with a steaming coffee or tea are just a few of the ways they might begin their writing session.
Another element of this creative space is sound—or the lack thereof. Quite a few writers prefer working in silence, with only the scratch of their pen or the tapping of their keyboard. But others like myself work better with music playing in the background.
Music has a significant role in my writing process. Each of my WIPs has its own playlist filled with songs relating to characters and specific scenes. Listening to music from the 1800s helps me settle into my historical setting. And of course, taking dance breaks every so often is a must!
The music I listen to while working on my WIPs changes depending on my focus, but I primarily have something instrumental on. These days, I'm favoring Royaltycore and Dark Academia compilations on YouTube for writing, and techno for editing and blogging.
In either case, my reasons for working with background music remain the same.
One reason a writer might prefer to work in silence is to avoid distractions, and this is totally understandable.
I find that when a song has lyrics, it can be harder for me to concentrate on my writing and feel like my brain is trying to keep up with two conversations at once.
However, silence can also result in distraction.
Much of my writing happens during my lunch at the day job, and the break room is typically occupied. You also have coworkers clocking in and out, people being paged over the PA system, phones going off, and so on.
I also don't live alone, meaning background noise is fairly inescapable.
I can, however, drown it out some.
Having instrumental music playing through earbuds helps me remain focused on my writing despite everything going on around me.
Setting The Mood
Music is so closely linked to our emotions. Tone and tempo are ways we identify a song as being happy or sad. There are breakup songs that make us long for loves lost or celebrate the absence of a formerly significant other. Some are for specific occasions, like Christmas carols, and can prompt strange looks if played any other time of the year (take it from someone whose WIP is partially set around the holiday season). Memories can also be tied to music, making us think of good times and bad and bringing forth old emotions with new perspectives.
Listening to music is a way to dive into our emotions, and that can be helpful when you're trying to bring a particular feeling to a scene. It's like an auditory mood board.
Having a sweeping waltz helps envision my characters locking eyes across the assembly rooms. Melancholic pieces help set the tone for writing fallouts and breakups, while more timid pieces that gradually crescendo suit apologies and confessions of feelings. Although a step away from my genre, I find techno is great for writing action sequences like fight scenes because of the beat matching that of a character's pulse in the moment.
Music can help you pin down the emotions you want to weave into a scene—and what you want your readers to feel.
A Step Back In Time
Setting is an element of fiction I've written about several times over the past few months. Creating a world is fun for many writerly folks, but it can also be one of the more challenging aspects of storytelling.
Working with a historical setting for my romances, I'm constantly researching in order to transport my readers to a different century, and one method I rely on involves music.
I have a playlist full of music from the Regency Era ranging from pieces an accomplished lady might have been expected to play, folk songs that could have been belted out over drinks, hymns a congregation might have sung during a church service, and what may have accompanied dances at assemblies and balls.
Music is an integral part of the human experience, and that hasn't changed in the wake of years gone by. Not only that, but it can be the bridge between past and present.
Having these pieces on as I'm working on my WIPs helps me settle into their historical setting. It's also why you might find mention of specific songs woven into the story. Including them is just another way to breathe life into my writing and help readers step back in time.
Having music playing during a writing session doesn't work for everyone. Many writers prefer working in silence because it helps them concentrate better, though having instrumentals on might help others in the same way.
Writing is far from a one-size-fits-all process. The methods that work best for a writing friend may not suit you as well, and there's nothing wrong with that. As long as you are able to find the habits that work for you, that's all that matters.