Music to Write By

By Lu Anne Stewart

Music may soothe the savage beast, but can it help inspire good writing?

Along with many writers I know, I like to play music while I write. I confess that when I get on a roll, I’m not actually conscious of hearing the music at all. After writing a few pages, I’ll suddenly realize that I’m hearing the first track again the second time through. Where was I when the rest of the CD played? Happily lost in the world of words.

Even though I’m not always aware of the music while writing, I’m convinced that it sets a creative mood and fills the deafening silence that can be more distracting to me than a noisy neighbor.

What kind of music is best for writing? I suppose the answer is as individual as each writer’s voice. One friend I know listens to Kanye to find her creative spark. That doesn’t do it for me, and my choices might not work for you, but here’s a list of the top five CDs I reach for when I settle in to write:

#1: Shepherd Moons, Enya.

This is my go-to music for getting down to business and producing pages. Something about Enya’s new age/pop/Celtic blend transports me on a wave of sound and emotion. There’s nothing jarring, nothing so high-energy as to be distracting, but also enough variety in the tracks so it’s not sleepy either.

#2: Brazilia, John Klemmer.

Klemmer’s languid saxophone sets a great mood for writing, especially scenes that are quiet and dreamlike. As its name implies, this one has a Brazilian vibe that puts a touch of the exotic into the writing environment.

#3: La Luna, Sarah Brightman.

I first heard this album while sitting in an atmospheric coffee shop in a converted brick warehouse on the wharf in seaside Wilmington, NC. I was on a business trip, killing time until my meeting, when suddenly the shop was filled with strange and beautiful sounds. I had to go up to the counter and ask what was playing.  I knew instantly it would make great writing music. Although I usually find music with vocals distracting while writing, Brightman’s ethereal soprano and lush orchestrations create an other-worldly mood that makes the lyrics blend into the tapestry of sound.

#4: Bocelli, Andrea Bocelli.

This was an early album from the Italian tenor and one of my favorites. Since he sings in Italian, I don’t have to worry about the lyrics derailing my train of thought. Bocelli’s warm voice and the emotion-filled melodies inspire visions of great loves lost and won.

#5: The Gentle Side of John Coltrane, John Coltrane.

OK, so clearly, there’s a pattern here. I like the saxophone. This is just a lovely, romantic set of jazzy standards that makes me feel good about life in general, which never hurts the writing production.

What about you, fellow writers, artists and readers? Which music brings out your creative side, or sets the right mood for you to curl up with a good book? Share some of your favorites in the Comments below.










3 thoughts on “Music to Write By

  1. LuAnne, I loved your piece and can’t wait to listen to all the music you listed. They sound great! I have an on-again, off-again relationship with writing to music. Most of the time I find any music distracting; it sends my mind wandering away from the page and my fictional world. But listening to music while I wrote was essential to my novel “Mormor’s Piano” as the heart of the novel was a young girl’s need to express what she couldn’t put into words through her piano playing. I needed to listen and choose pieces for her to play and then listen to them repeatedly to write the scenes with the emotion and authenticity I was looking for–since I don’t play piano myself but have an abiding love of classical music. I had my younger daughter’s piano teacher review the piano playing sections for me and he also suggested music for her to play. And there were other times when I was writing a particular scene where I needed to loosen up my “earnestness” while writing and so I chose a song that could capture a mood my young character was feeling at that moment. It really did work. So thanks for writing this, and reminding me that music can help the creative process.


    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed them! They are like special friends to me now. And great to hear the story of the role music played in helping you write Mormor’s Piano. I do think music and writing have some kind of symbiotic relationship.


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