Music and the Writer: My Playlist

Music is my religion. – Jimi Hendrix

(Purple Haze – Jimi Hendrix – )

I derive much of my motivation to write from music. Many authors do. Stephen King talks of listening to hard -classic- rock (AC/DC, among others) while writing. I imagine plenty of authors, those established and starving, do. I just don’t have intimate knowledge of their musical playlists.

When it comes to my writing playlist, however, certain songs or musical styles help me to unleash emotionally into my work.

For example:

In my general every-day writing, or the beginning of nearly every writing session, I listen to this song first.

Counting Bodies Like Sheep to the Rhythm of the War Drums

A Perfect Circle

I can’t begin to describe why this song reaches into me and unlocks my Muse. Perhaps it’s the beat, the lyrics, the overall package…. I couldn’t tell you. Music, while one of my many loves and in many ways my own religion, it’s not exactly my most knowledgeable area, either. (As in, I understand the terms, couldn’t begin to demonstrate them though. I know a quarter note is a quarter of a full note, but could I play it for you? Heck no!)

Either way, this song is how I begin every writing session. I don’t generally listen to this song much in my non-writing activities,  but should it cross the path of washing-dishes/exercising/waiting-in-the-ONLY-checkout-line-at-Walmart-after-midnight/folding-laundry/etc., I am instantly hit with the need to write. Much like when a smoker passes another smoker lighting up, or watches it happen on television and they are hit with the full-force desire to light a cigarette RIGHT NOW!

This song brings out my Muse. It is her Siren call.


When I’m writing a scene that’s particularly sad, say a scene about grief,  loneliness, crushing depression, or whatever reason you can think of to be sad about, I usually turn to blues (what little I have on my mp3 player. I need to get more.)

One of my favorites is taken from the movie, Black Snake Moan. (With Samuel L. Jackson and Christina Ricci. It came out in 2007, if I remember right.)

The Losing Kind

John Doe

Yet again, I couldn’t explain why this song in particular reaches out to me for scenes like this, but it does. If I had a better collection of blues, I’d probably offer up a different song, but alas, I have not entirely wetted my appetite for the blues yet and as such, don’t have much knowledge of that musical genre yet.


This next video is one of my favorite songs to listen to period, but most especially when I am writing a scene or story that is to me surreal, a dream scene or something rather weird/unexplainable.

So Real

Jeff Buckley

I think part of why I love this song is just the strangeness of it. (Again, I am familiar with only a few musical terms. Here, in this arena, I lack all my usual nuances and charm.) I particularly love what sounds to me like a weed whacker. (I know that’s actually the guitar–at least, I think so–but it still sounds like a weed whacker to me. And I love it.)

Ultimately, this song is perfect for scenes about surreality, things that may or may not be real. The artist suffered from schizophrenia and wrote this song specifically about his delusions and hallucinations. For me, this makes it a very personal and beautiful song about insanity. That automatically makes it a favorite.


Let’s talk about love, shall we?

When I’m writing about a good, positive emotion, I look for high spirited music to motivate me emotionally. (Captain Obvious for the Win!)



The one above is for love in general. For unrequited love, or “down” love, I prefer to listen to:



Coldplay, to me personally, is one of the best bands for “love/romantic” music. Again, I can’t really explain why I think this. I just find their music always revolves around a certain timbre, pitch, tone, octave, whatever, that seems to scream “LOVE” in a wonderful soprano. (Or, uh, whatever.)


I love talking about music, even if I don’t know any of the technical aspects of music. I tried to learn an instrument in 5th grade– the violin. I wouldn’t mind trying to learn again, but I’m just not patient enough to learn how to properly play a musical instrument.

Mostly, I love to discuss music because it’s one of few things that everyone has a true opinion on. One song will never sound exactly the same to another person as it does to me. How we perceive music, how we understand the emotional language of music, these are all reflections of who we are underneath the layers of civilization and society that we camouflage ourselves with.

Music reveals everyone for who they truly are.

Which is why music is such a powerful tool when it comes to writing believable, sympathetic and realistic characters. Music helps the writer to peel away the layers of civilization that would cover the character as they do ourselves, allowing us to reveal our characters as they really are, in much the same way music reveals us in our real lives.


I would include more from my playlist, but I think I’ve put enough up for now. The next blog will cover more music, which scenes I use certain songs to help write, etc.



One day while flying paper airplanes with my kids, one plane will fly right by my neck, in such a way that it slices my flesh open to the jugular, killing me by paper cut.


2 responses to “Music and the Writer: My Playlist

  1. I generally don’t listen to music when writing, though I imagine I should start. It might help me get past some things that have been sticking me lately.

    When I carried a gold badge, I found that classical or techno helped focus me. Yeah, techno. Maybe it’s the repetitive beat, I don’t know.

    One of my fav albums to write reports (or play video games) to was the Mortal Kombat soundtrack. “Halycon On and On” by Orbital is especially effective at putting me into chill mode.


    To be perfectly honest though, I haven’t really kept up with music in years. Music always attaches itself to emotions/eras, and I went through a few really rough patches since 2002. Makes it easier to forget if you’re not constantly reminded. Classical doesn’t attach itself to emotions though. Guess that’s why it’s classical.

    That’s not to say I haven’t been trying from time to time. I listen to things ‘the missis’ or the kids bring to my attention. I have Jonas Brothers, Ashley Tisdale, Camp Rock, High School Musical, and, of course, Hannah Montana. A lot of those are actually good.

    I was a bit distraught last night when I learned that iTunes doesn’t carry The Beatles. I listed to Jason Lewis (to supplement Rush Limbaugh) and he does “Beatle-bumper Fridays”. It got to the point where I found I actually like them and went to download some last night……and was hit with reality. Commie bastards!


    I guess it’s no surprise most of what I’m writing is comedy. One of my favorite artists is Weird Al. Or that I found a new (and much better) take for my political fiction, since I listed to talk radio so much.


    You talk about music setting scenes. Lol, I have a few scenes where music is a factor, but I attached it to characters inside the book, not to the general mood of the scene.


    I’ve always wondered what my iPod would say about me. I have everything from Aerosmith to Eazy E to Bach to Rob Zombie to Weird Al to Dethklok to Goo Goo Dolls to the soundtrack to Wicked on there.


    • I took forever to reply, but I’ve wondered the same about my Zune. Mine has just about the exact variation as yours does. (Seriously, from the classic rock to the classical, to the death metal and the heavy metal, the comedy, pop and even the show tunes. Just. Wow. We definitely would make awesome friends!)

      Anyway, thanks for commenting! Sorry it took so long for me to reply!!


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