Music, Random Writing Rants, Writers on Writing

What do you listen to while you write?

The topic of what to listen to while writing seems to be a popular one on writing blogs. Some writers set up entire play lists designed to get them in the right mood to work on a specific project. Others claim to listen to NPR while they write. I am sometimes embarrassed to tell people what I listen to.

It’s not that I don’t love music. The problem is, I love it a little too much. I have a hard time listening to music and writing at the same time because I often catch myself sitting back in my chair with my eyes closed, singing along to my latest favorite song (which right now is Counting Stars by One Republic.) This is not exactly the most productive way to write!

I don’t mind writing in silence when I’m at the library. If I write at a coffee shop (which I just realized I haven’t done in months,) I write to the background noise of clanking cups and murmured conversations at other tables. At the state park near my house, I write to the music of a breeze rustling through leaves, kids shouting down by the beach, and boats roaring across the lake.

For some reason, I can’t stand silence when writing at home unless I am writing in bed late at night. During my daytime working hours, I usually write with the TV running in the background. That’s right, I write while listening to daytime television. I sit in my office/sunroom with the television running in the next room, a constant drone of daytime drivel filling the vacuous silence that overtakes my home while my kids are at school.

In the morning hours, it’s Good Morning America, followed by ABC’s offering of morning talk shows. I switch to NBC when Bethenny comes on because—well, do I really need to explain why I would switch the TV AWAY from Bethenny Frankel? Seriously. Gag. And we’re supposed to care what she has to say about anything because—???

After an hour of the Today Show with Hoda and Kathie Lee (who is almost annoying as Bethenny,) I listen to the local news, and then it’s time for that daytime soap whose name always escapes me. Like I said, I don’t really watch it. It’s just in the background. I actually do write while all of this is going on in my living room. Nevertheless, I do probably know a bit more than I should about what’s going on with Sammie right now.

The hour between my daily soap opera and my children’s return from school is one full hour of garbage that I haven’t quite reconciled myself to yet. Why can’t my local NBC station pick something for that time slot and stick with it? The constant change in programming drives me crazy. It is harder to tune it out when there are new voices chattering through that hour every few weeks.


I just love this version of Maroon Five’s “Daylight.”

I don’t own a radio or any kind of stereo, other than the one that’s in my car. When I want to listen to music, I just find the song I want on YouTube and play the video. It’s a lot of work though, if you want to just run a constant stream of music. I recently learned that I could listen to my favorite local radio station online via I Heart Radio, so I’ve been listening to that during this hour of irritation that is my basic cable television programming.

I’ve been thinking about attempting to phase the television out completely now that I have this option. The radio station will play all day without me having to tinker with it at all. It may be a struggle for me to tune the music out in the same way that I tune the television out so I’m not singing my days away when I should be writing. But I suppose that can’t be much worse than occasionally stopping what I am doing to look up something online that I just heard the tail-end of on the television.

What do you listen to while you write? Please share in the comments below.

~Amanda L. Webster

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6 thoughts on “What do you listen to while you write?”

  1. Hi Amanda, thanks for linking my little Diary post! Well found. As my post said, I can write to music like Glen Hansard, Swell Season and the softer Tom Waits stuff. Basically unintrusive background acoustic-esque music. Although as i’ve started writing more ‘action packed’ chapters recently, bits of Hip-Hop have been creeping in. Although I usually try to avoid wordy music, sometimes Hip-Hop is so wordy it just becomes a nice noise. I’m an avid podcast and talk radio fanatic, and it’s a constant source of annoyance to me that I cannot listen to a good comedy podcast whilst writing, as that would combine two of my favourite past times simultaneously. Maybe i’ll start training my brain! I’d probably have to sacrifice the use of speech or something to facilitate the brain power though.

    Lovely post, and thanks again for linking me x

  2. I have several long playlists on YouTube – everything from Latin jazz and Celtic rock to ambient music – and I pick the one that matches the mood or the setting of what I need to write. Lately, my Doctor Who soundtrack playlist has been getting a workout. If I’m starting a new piece and want to get its juices flowing, I’ll probably pick the mix that kicks off with Sonny Landreth’s Congo Square, careens through the early Stones and the Foo Fighters, and lands on Frank Zappa’s Waka/Jawaka for the win.

  3. If I’m in a good place on that particular day, I’ll listen to music that puts me in the right mood for what I’m writing, but I too can get distracted by the music sometimes. Total silence can get to me as well, but a fellow writer’s blog turned me on to Coffitivity, a website/app that actually plays coffee shop style background noise. Some days when I can’t focus I put that on and it really does help, believe it or not.

  4. I am falling in love with I Heart Radio. (I guess it’s aptly named!) It’s so much better than Pandora. On Pandora, you search for an artist or a song you want to hear, and they’ll make you listen to 50 different songs you’ve never heard of before they’ll let you hear the one you were looking for to begin with. On I Heart Radio, when you search for an artist, it will immediately play a top hit by that artist first thing.

    I shut the tv off at 9 a.m. today and have already managed to write a full scene and added a bunch of new material to a couple of character sketches, all in just 45 minutes!

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