Jenny Hanniver's picture
Jenny Hanniver from Wyoming is reading everything she can get her hands on as a general rule October 5, 2011 - 6:30pm

I know some folks' need the teevee babbling to write, or a specific playlist, or a psych-up song to attack the page.  What do you guys use?

My up-at-bat track is usually Jay-Z's "Dirt Off Your Shoulder," but to write I need something without lyrics.  Usually.  Miles Davis or John Coltrane works, or Bach.  Vivaldi.  Klezmer music.  All of which makes me sound really pretentious.  Er.  Not my intention.

What works for you?

Daniel Brophy's picture
Daniel Brophy from Taunton, MA is reading The Power of One October 5, 2011 - 6:51pm

Radiohead - OK Computer/In Rainbows, Kid A
Nine Inch Nails - Anything except Pretty Hate Machine
Guided by Voices - Bee Thousand, Alien Lanes, Tonics and Twisted Chasers
Pearl Jam - Binaural, Yield
Pink Floyd - Meddle, Wish You Were Here

Those are the big ones. I mix in some other stuff, but those albums somehow make writing easier,

Nick Wilczynski's picture
Nick Wilczynski from Greensboro, NC is reading A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin October 5, 2011 - 6:59pm

Sometimes I listen to my own album while writing my own stories with my own artwork and dive deep into a world of narcissism and self-reliance.

But, this rarely lasts long, I feel like too much of an ass. I like to have some Immortal Technique or Flobots, I'll hit up some Otis Redding or Billy Joel, move on to Dead Prez or the Beatles, throw in some Pink Floyd and Decemberists, some Sage Francis.

But at this point, as you can tell, any pretentions of having a playlist have been overthrown and I am way into the music. I have now written 2 pages and every 3-4 minutes I am changing the music.

I try to settle on some nice, calm, lyricless techno at this point, and so I go with Daft Punk and Daft Punk sees me off into the story once I've established the scene in those 3-4 minute intervals.

william.c.cathey's picture
william.c.cathey from Georgia is reading What Is The What October 5, 2011 - 8:23pm

im gonna have to say anything Radiohead as well..or D.R.U.G.S.

.'s picture
. October 5, 2011 - 11:11pm




Lou Reed

Pink Floyd

Kate Winters's picture
Kate Winters from Toronto is reading James Rollins' Sigma Force series October 5, 2011 - 11:18pm

I would go through my playlist and pick out an actual list of songs that fit the mood of the story I'm working on...

Oasis makes for a very interesting choice.

Charles's picture
Charles from Portland is reading Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones October 5, 2011 - 11:28pm

i have written to

7mary3 -- (assorted albums) but my two favorite are rock crown and orange avenue

candlebox -- self titled (a while ago, when i was really cooking ideas up, i saw this as a rock opera, got kevin martin's blessing, and then didnt write it)

soul asylum -- grave dancer's union

mad season -- above (please dont confuse the band for the shitty matchbox20 album of the same name)

DominoGalaxy's picture
DominoGalaxy from England is reading American Gods October 6, 2011 - 1:31am

Mostly film soundtracks, such as Aliens, T2, Blade Runner. I prefer instrumental music when writing.  

Ophelia-Crane's picture
Ophelia-Crane from Georgia is reading The Firebird by Mercedes Lackey October 6, 2011 - 4:26am

Movie soundtracks are my absolute favorites for writing.  I think it was because they were written to be atmospheric and that translates well into creating the mood I am going for when writing.  

I am a huge Hans Zimmer fan.  All of his music is lyrical but with such great driving rhythms it inspires me and keeps me going.  Gladiator and King Arthur are two of my favorites.  I also love Series of Unfortunate Events and How to Train Your Dragon.

Sometimes if I really need to space while writing and have something that melts into the background I listen to Arvo Part or Brian Eno.  They are called soundscapes and really just let me relax and zone into my writing.


Brandon's picture
Brandon from KCMO is reading Made to Break October 6, 2011 - 4:48am

Yeah, also a huge Zimmer fan--a soundtrack fan in general really.  Clint Mansell is good too.

Anything with a good pulsing beat/no lyrics seems to work for me: XPANDER

Laramore Black's picture
Laramore Black from Joplin, Missouri is reading Mario Kart 8 October 6, 2011 - 8:49am

AFI - Sing The Sorrow
Pink Floyd - The Wall
NIN - Pretty Hate Machine
Arcade Fire - The Suburbs
The Horrible Crowes - Elsie
The Gaslight Anthem - The '59 Sound
William Van Ekeran- Bach with Bukowski poems sang over it.

Waterhouse's picture
Waterhouse from Columbus is reading Bullet Park, John Cheever October 6, 2011 - 8:56am

Depends on what I am writing, what fits; sometimes a selection of Mono and Explosions in the Sky and Godspeed you! Black Emperor, sometimes a mix of various SWANS tracks, or old NYC No Wave bands. Sometimes dark ambient music like Lustmord. Occasionally classical, but I tend to listen to that less when writing then when I am doing other things.

CJ Roberts's picture
CJ Roberts from Salem, MA is reading October 6, 2011 - 9:40am

Moonlight Sonata

bryanhowie's picture
bryanhowie from FW, ID is reading East of Eden. Steinbeck is FUCKING AMAZING. October 6, 2011 - 9:41am

Tom Waits all the way.

I think I have every Tom Waits album, so I just load him up, put windows media player on random and repeat, and then hit play.  

A. William's picture
A. William from Minnesota is reading Inherent Vice by Thomas Pynchon October 6, 2011 - 10:14am

I like to listen to a lot of M83, and ambient stuff (Brian Eno)

Spacy synthesizers and hushed vocals coated in reverb always put me in a writing mood.

m1r0k0v's picture
m1r0k0v from Nebraska is reading Complete Collection of Sherlock Holmes October 6, 2011 - 10:25am

Any of the Godspeed You! Black Emperor albums. Radiohead too.

william.c.cathey's picture
william.c.cathey from Georgia is reading What Is The What October 6, 2011 - 11:36am

@Laurance Kitts

wow, nice Sing the Sorrow was an amazing album..need to break that out again sometime, dang.

Laramore Black's picture
Laramore Black from Joplin, Missouri is reading Mario Kart 8 October 6, 2011 - 2:58pm

To william.c.cathey:

Yeah, it's a favorite album from my childhood. The album came out on my birthday actually. Goes well with writing a depressing atmosphere. 

Achillez's picture
Achillez from Long Island, New York is reading The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway October 6, 2011 - 2:44pm

I can't write and listen to music at the same time, even if there are no vocals. I always find myself focusing on the music and it disrupts my flow. The TV is another story though. Sometimes I need that white noise.

william.c.cathey's picture
william.c.cathey from Georgia is reading What Is The What October 6, 2011 - 4:03pm

@Laurance Kitts

definitely, like 8/9th grade for me and certainly an influential album..Davey Havok's lyrics are what got me hooked.

Laramore Black's picture
Laramore Black from Joplin, Missouri is reading Mario Kart 8 October 6, 2011 - 4:07pm


About the same grade level for me. The lyrics are so complex, very poetic, and he uses words that vocalists never use. It was definitely their masterpiece. 

realitycrash's picture
realitycrash from New Jersey is reading Camp Concentration October 6, 2011 - 6:53pm

If you have access to internet radio, I recommend the Limbik Frequencies channel. It is mostly ambient music but it feels like you are watching a movie and writing the scenes, dialogue and characters as you listen in and go along.

There is an embedded shoutcast player right on the site you can start listening today.

fummeltunte's picture
fummeltunte from Seattle is reading The Left Hand of Darkness October 6, 2011 - 6:58pm

Do Think Make Say

Explosions in the Sky

Crystal Castles

The Glitch Mob

Clint Mansell 

Hans Zimmer


Mainly things that don't have lyrics. 

.'s picture
. October 6, 2011 - 7:04pm

^ Crystal Castles has lyrics but I wouldn't classify them as lyrics either haha.

Danny grant's picture
Danny grant October 6, 2011 - 7:08pm

@Fummeltunte, you named just about everyone I was gonna put! I've listened to Hans Zimmer's scores on "The Thin Red Line" and "Inception" ALOT!!

I also listen to Chopin and Rishloo as well.

.'s picture
. October 6, 2011 - 7:09pm

I liked Zimmer's score for True Romance.

william.c.cathey's picture
william.c.cathey from Georgia is reading What Is The What October 6, 2011 - 8:47pm

@Laurance Kitts

yeah he uses "asphyxiate" in the bonus track and my middle school vocabulary couldnt take it is though, beautiful writing i would read sometimes without the music

Liana's picture
Liana from Romania and Texas is reading Naked Lunch October 6, 2011 - 9:54pm

Can't write with music...

Raelyn's picture
Raelyn from California is reading The Liars' Club October 7, 2011 - 1:53am

Even listening to music withought lyrics distracts me.  I need complete silence or I'm doomed to wonder off onto the internet.  There are a few songs, however, that I'll listen too before settling down to write; my favorite is To Zanarkand: the intro to Final Fantasy X.

Dave McCary's picture
Dave McCary from Santa Barbara, CA is reading A Dance of Dragons (A Song of Ice and Fire series) October 7, 2011 - 10:09am

It all depends on the mood and what I am working on, but I do have a few fallback standards that I really enjoy writing to.


TV on the Radio

Einsturzende Neubaten 


The Cardiacs

Critters Buggin

Deep Forest

Sigur Ros



Mike Mckay's picture
Mike Mckay is reading God's Ashtray October 7, 2011 - 10:10am

Music distracts me significantly while writing. I get so much into the writing that I space out and start typing whatever I hear (lyrics) then later on I see my writing and shocked to see how good ''I written" then catch on to see I stole the lyrics.


I know it's sad. Don't judge.

D Michael Hardy's picture
D Michael Hardy from Tampa, FL October 7, 2011 - 10:22am

I prefer to listen to music my characters would be listening to, whether they are overhearing a pop song at the mall, club music, or hip hop blasting from the car beside them in traffic. Helps put me into their world a little further. So my playlist can go from Britney Spears to Combichrist to Eminem, whether I like it or not.

Scott Williams's picture
Scott Williams from Brooklyn, NY is reading 11/23/63 October 7, 2011 - 10:46am

I love music way too much to listen while writing.  I have massive ADD (primarily inattentive) which means that, whatever I do, I tend to overdo.  If I'm listening to music, I'm listening to music, and if I'm writing (anything more concentrated than a blog post or the like), then I'm writing.  "When I makes tea I makes tea."

Andre Braga's picture
Andre Braga from Sao Paulo, Brazil is reading Duma Key October 7, 2011 - 5:37pm

I used to do a lot of writing listening to jazz. Usually happens when I'm reading Beat shit, so yeah. But I prefer trip-hop and dreampop, but it depends on what I'm writing. 

.'s picture
. October 7, 2011 - 6:56pm

I like to write to whale sounds.

Renfield's picture
Renfield from Hell is reading 20th Century Ghosts October 8, 2011 - 6:38pm

I only really listened to music when thinking up ideas or during the editing mode until recently, I wouldn't notice that there wasn't any music when the story was talking to me (until I'd hit a lag, and then put on an album to force me to sit there longer.) I've been pulling more concepts from songs recently though, in a more storytelling theory way basically, and listen to a couple tracks or album that has a clear influence over something I'm writing. Before that, I used the same method as Mr. Hardy, used it beforehand to get into the the character's headspace. In that sense it is usually blues or heavy metal because it works good for me thematically.

A big influence on my current writing mode is Mark Kozelek's songwriting, specifically the Sun Kil Moon record Ghosts of the Great Highway. It has a lot of ideas storytelling wise that add a lot to the stuff I'm writing.

D J Hearn's picture
D J Hearn from Merritt Island Florida is reading American Psycho, Blood Meridian, Classical Guitar Building October 9, 2011 - 4:29am

I don't listen to much electronic music but drone sounds really help me stay focused. Top 3 bands: Liars, Radiohead, Lustmord. Others I listen to are Enrique Morente the Lorca album, Segovia, Wojciech Kilar, Mozart

lynx_child's picture
lynx_child from Seattle is reading The Dresden Files series October 9, 2011 - 12:48am

I just made a soundtrack for one of my characters as part of a character development thing.  I don't normally do that.  Usually if I listen to music while I'm writing, it's something without lyrics.  I particularly like Nox Arcana and soundtracks from The Lord of the Rings for this.  Also, I recommend folks check out Two Steps From Hell. They make music for movie trailers and have released a cd of it.  Movie trailer music is great for really epic scenes.

Jenny Hanniver's picture
Jenny Hanniver from Wyoming is reading everything she can get her hands on as a general rule October 9, 2011 - 8:44am

I am stealing so many things from this thread.  Thanks for all the suggestions.

Danny grant's picture
Danny grant October 9, 2011 - 11:45am

I also love listening to Jóhann Jóhannsson's music. Mostly his instrumentals like "The Rocket Builder" or "How We Left Florlandia"

Other great bands I enjoy listening to while writing are, Explosions in the Sky, God is an Astronaut, Mogwai, Caspian, Katatonia, Opeth, Riverside, Max Richter and so many others. 


misskokamon's picture
misskokamon from San Francisco is reading The Moonlit Mind October 17, 2011 - 9:17pm

When it comes to playlists, I'm a bit obsessive. I love making playlists. And, being a writer, I love making playlists for my characters and stories.

What sort of music I listen to depends on the story I'm wroodling. If I'm writing a dark horror type tale, I listen to quieter NIN tracks, the angsty Stabbing Westward bits and lots and lots of Silent Hill music. When I'm writing something fast paced and rough, I go for louder rock. The story I'm writing now is a bit scifi and fun, so my playlist (dubbed Milky Way) consists of Doctor Who music, some of the Persona 4 OST, a dash of Trance and a sprinkle of Anamanaguchi. I've also got some Korean pop music in there because it's so damn fun to listen to and I can't understand a thing, so the lyrics don't distract me much. Tron's OST is in there somewhere, along with some less distracting Daft Punk beats. A weird mix, yes, but it works for me.

I can't write with the television on, and I certainly can't write when someone is trying to talk at me. But I find I get a ton of stuff done with chatter going on around me (as long as it isn't directed at me in any way.) Total silence makes for a difficult writing companion, so noise is very much needed.

Side note, if you guys like trance music, I'd give Kaskade a whirl. Kaskade puts me in the mood to write without being overbearing in mood or presence. very pleasant to the ears and quite relaxing, too.

I keep a messy version of my playlist on Grooveshark, too, in case I'm not working on my home computer. That way I'm never without my beats!

Renfield's picture
Renfield from Hell is reading 20th Century Ghosts October 17, 2011 - 10:15pm

My current writing playlist:

Modest Mouse - Heart Cooks Brain

The Black Angels - River of Blood

Junior Kimbrough - Old Black Mattie

Compulsive Gamblers - My Love is a Monster

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Where the Wild Roses Grow

The Walker Brothers - Shut Out

Tom Waits - Town with No Cheer

Come - Yr Reign

Thin White Rope - They're Hanging Me Tonight (Marty Robbins cover)

Cat Power - Good Clean Fun

Jay.SJ's picture
Jay.SJ from London is reading Warmed and Bound October 18, 2011 - 1:38am

I always enjoy The Social Network's soundtrack, that or I just find instrumental rock songs on spotify.

Nighty Nite's picture
Nighty Nite from NJ is reading Grimscribe: His Lives and Works October 18, 2011 - 1:47am

Any of the following albums work for me:


the pAper chAse - Someday This Could All Be Yours, Vol. 1

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Murder Ballads

Boards of Canada - Geogaddi

The Flashbulb - Arboreal

Tom Waits - Blood Money

The Cure - Pornography

Nine Inch Nails - Ghosts I-IV

Dr. Gonzo's picture
Dr. Gonzo from Manchester, UK is reading Blood Meridian October 18, 2011 - 6:16am

I don't write to music a lot, but when I do I put the Blade Runner soundtrack on by Vangelis.

Uland K.'s picture
Uland K. from Deep in the crumbling West End of Saint Paul, MN is reading The Outlaw Album October 18, 2011 - 7:57am

Lots of good stuff listed here. I'm with the anti-wordists:

The last thing I need when I'm writing is more words bouncing around my transum.

Instrumental writing-session soundtracks:


Lustmord— The Dark Places of the Earth

The Necks— any/all

Bill Frisell— Floratone

Brad Mehldau— Highway Rider

Earth— The Bees Made Honey in the Lion's Skull

On the other end I've been inspired, word-wise, by a band called Timber Timbre*. Somber and dark without the faux-subversiveness that mars so much "dark" music.


*Discovered via an episode of Breaking Bad, in which one of their songs is used pretty prominently.

D J Hearn's picture
D J Hearn from Merritt Island Florida is reading American Psycho, Blood Meridian, Classical Guitar Building October 18, 2011 - 6:23pm

@Dr. Gonzo, I'm glad you mentioned that soundtrack it is really great writing collection of sounds.

Snarkastrix's picture
Snarkastrix from Portland is reading Worldbuilding; Chronology of Water; Art of Character October 19, 2011 - 8:48am

Portishead and Curve. Both are very sexy without being calculated. Easy to lose myself in the music and my writing simultaneously.

Typewriter Demigod's picture
Typewriter Demigod from London is reading "White Noise" by DeLilo, "Moby-Dick" by Hermann Mellivile and "Uylsses" by Joyce October 19, 2011 - 4:19pm

I listen to albums rather than songs, but here are a list of the ones I write to.


The Cure- Kiss me kiss me kiss me

The Libertines- Up the bracket

The Pretty Reckless- Light me up <- this one especially

Vega 4- You and others

MCR- Three Cheers for sweet revenge OR The black parade

Plus assorted Bon Jovi, Sid Vicious, Black Veil Brides and the film track of Amelie

writingasgjjensen's picture
writingasgjjensen from Don't Ask is reading A lot. I try to read as much as I can. November 8, 2011 - 9:46am

I love writing to music.  It helps block out the rest of the world so I can get deep in ImaginationLand.

My main charachter has a lot of stuff that happens in the 1950's, so I looked up the top 10 songs of that particular year, and that really helped put me in the mood of the time.

But to generally write to, it depends on the mood.  I've gone Mozart, Chopin, Bach.

I need action or violence, I listen to metal or techno.  Marilyn Manson is one of my go-to writing artists.  Daft Punk is pretty reliable.

Ultimatly, the song has to help me tap whatever I need to channel from the charachter.  It's like their megaphone, so I can clearly hear what they are saying with no interference from the outside world.

chickie's picture
chickie from Memphis, TN is reading subterranean kerouac November 8, 2011 - 12:46pm

I can't imagine trying to write to music or TV.  The quieter the better.

But, music definitely feeds the writing.  The artists that most inspire my writing would be Tom Waits, the group Alabama3, and Mark Knopfler (particularly post Dire Straits). 

Not surprisingly, all three tend to write and record songs that tell stories.