Using Music For Inspiration

Music! Hans Christian Anderson famously said, “Where words fail, music speaks.” I agree, in some respects, but disagree wildly in others.

Music has been a source of inspiration for me for, well, as long as I can remember. I have songs downloaded onto my iPod which were used to inspire some of my earliest works. I still use music now, to accompany my writing, set the tone, inspire me, give me a time scale to stick to when I’m getting my stories from brain to paper.

Have you ever tried using music as you write? Some find it distracting, but that’s probably to do with the lyrics. Why not find a sound you like – white noise, 3 hours of jazz music (actually very relaxing), dolphin sounds – and listen to that as you write? It can block out other sounds as well.

If you’re stuck for what to write about, why not listen to a song? Lyrics alone are usually enough to inspire something, but set against the melody of the song can make them mean something else entirely. Perhaps it stirs a memory you can harness and put into words.

Now this point deviates away from “music” and goes to “why Hannah shouldn’t have YouTube”. If you need a sound effect of something you have never heard before in your life, it can be quite hard to write about… so search it. Search “machine gun fire sound effect” or “knitting needles” or “sound of a tattoo” (yes this is actually a thing and it made my brain hurt). Then put what you hear… into your writing! Simples! – well, simpler than making it up and it turning out you think getting a tattoo sounds like a lawn mower instead. Which, I think we can all agree, would be much more terrifying as it came into contact with your skin.

Perhaps it has never occurred to you to use music, or perhaps you didn’t like it. If you’re either of the two, I urge you to just try it once more. If you get distracted by lyrics, try an instrumental. If you’re still distracted, try listening to it before writing and then writing after. Music will probably relax you, so you might even find writing easier!

Music is a great source of just about everything: love, sex, hate, death, war, life, soul, animals. There’s something out there for everyone, and according to this website, around 2,100,000 songs have been released since 1940. That’s a lot to choose from – and that’s released. You may find your new favourite song from a teen artist who just stuck it up on YouTube to see what would happen. And perhaps that’ll be the story of how you’re next best seller was born: a musical prodigy.

Using Images For Inspiration
Using Words For Inspiration

Music and Writing

Music is fantastic. It can give you chills and inspire you; not to mention be a great thing to bring people together. Listening to music can be a great way to help you write as well, or even before you write as inspiration.

However, some people get distracted by listening to music whilst writing. Perhaps it’s the lyrics or maybe you just need complete silence. It doesn’t mean you have to be in the no-music club though!

If you find yourself getting distracted by the lyrics, an obvious answer would be instrumental songs. But that makes it really hard, right? They’re generally from musicals (although Coldplay does some instrumental songs) and then they’re made for the musicals, so can be difficult. But can I recommend the Doctor Who soundtrack. Sure, some of it is a bit ‘Who-y’, but some of it is really great, and there is plenty to choose from.

Another thing you can try is making a playlist of every story you write. If it’s a short story, I guess you could listen to one song on repeat (sorry to distract, but I think I’ve got deja vu. Have I written about this before?). But it’s fun to make playlists for your stories too, as well as being helpful! I don’t know about other phones/music players, but on the iPod Nano that I have, you can’t name playlists (so I have about 10 that are just ‘Playlist 1’, ‘Playlist 2’ etc. And yet I still know which each one is!) so I’d suggest trying to plugging it into the computer to name the playlist. However, make it on your music player. Then you can scroll through, see each one in a small group or even individually, and it’ll make you think about it more.

Finally, if you get distracted whilst writing, do what I mentioned before and listen before you write. If you know there’s a certain scene you’ve got to write today, try and think of a song to fit it and listen to it just before you write. Sit back and truly listen to it. That way it won’t distract you when you’re actually writing, but you’ll be in the mind set for the scene.

Music can be a great help to you when you’re writing, so use it! There’s no point in overlooking tools that are right on your doorstep.

But, if music doesn’t help you, that’s okay too. There are, of course, many other things out there that can aid your writing. You just have to find them!

Hope that helped! Comments, questions? Shoot! 😀 

Some of my favourite albums for writing are Doctor Who (Instrumental) for Doctor Who fanfiction and general tone setting, Up All Night by One Direction for upbeat and happily romantic stories, Mamma Mia! (musical) for upbeat stories and ones with a positive message and In My Dreams by the Military Wives for ‘slow’, romantic and sad stories. If those help then that’s great! I also listen to a mixture of songs by different albums and different artists and stuff too.