It’s hard to find music to listen to while writing. Sometimes, silence is the best soundtrack to a solid writing session, but not always. Music can put us in the “zone” of writing more easily so we don’t have to fight for focus. Because music has such power over our mood, it can set the tone (literally) of our writing, which can be helpful, especially when writing fiction. And we can use music to block out noises around us — of a crowded coffee shop, or even of the quiet whine of appliances that seem silent until we sit down to concentrate, when they magically become impossible to ignore.
But the wrong music can have the opposite effect. Distracting music draws our focus away from work or sets the wrong tone. Lyrics, especially, can be distracting; it’s difficult to find your own words while listening to someone else’s.
There are a few albums I listen to when I write, but my secret weapon is movie soundtracks. Soundtracks can be incredible because they’re designed to set the mood while not distracting from dialogue; they’re made to be background noise (to some extent), but they’re often wonderful pieces of art in their own right, beautifully written and performed.
My Go-To Writing Soundtracks
- TRON: Legacy Reconfigured (I know, this seems weird, but there’s nothing better when I’m on deadline and really have to concentrate to get a piece done)
- Finding Neverland
- Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
- Spotify Playlist: This Is: John Williams
- Spotify Playlist: Soundtracks for Studying
- Spotify Playlist: Music for Concentration (not actually a soundtrack, but I’m including it anyway because it kind of sounds like one, and it’s my current favorite)
Soundtracks for Setting a Certain Mood
- The Dark Knight (for writing something dark)
- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (for writing something magical but not dark)
- American Beauty I like this for a change, but rarely listen to the whole album
- Interstellar so pretty, but it’s pretty quiet, so if I’m on a noisy train or in a coffee shop, it doesn’t work
- Le Fabuleux Destine d’Amelie Poulain have to be feeling very French
Not all soundtracks are created equal, of course. I’ve gotten a lot of my best recommendations for soundtracks from web developers. Apparently lyrics can be just as distracting when you’re writing code as they are when you’re writing in English. A couple of my very favorite soundtracks came from these guys (Interstellar and The Dark Knight from Jonathan and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close from Stuckey), so I thought it was worth a shout out. Have a favorite soundtrack you love to write or read to? I’d to hear it; I’m @crollwagen on pretty much all social media, so find me and let me know!
Carrie Rollwagen is author of The Localist, a book about buying from locally owned stores. She’s Communications Director at Infomedia, a web development company in Birmingham, Alabama. Find her as @crollwagen on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and most other social media platforms.