Musical muses

Music, for me is key

Any of you who’ve followed my twitter feed at all will know that music is a huge part of my creative process, and my life really, sometimes I wish there was a soundtrack to life I could tune into without the need for juggling devices, headphones, speakers and-the-like. That would be great. Especially for writing.

I love music and I love to write and for me they work beautifully together to help me with my creative process because it:

  • Helps me focus
  • Inspires me
  • Drives and shapes the rhythm of my writing
  • Alter my mood
  • Helps me reach a state of flow

I find silence distracting, I have anxiety and I find music a cathartic nuisance to keep me on track especially working to tight deadlines. It’s  great for shaping the mood of my writing and keeping my mind focused on the task, or interaction, in hand.

With my writing I like to use a couple of frameworks; either to choose specific music for a specific mood, character or scene, or to listen to a complication of inspirational or beautiful tracks to underscore my writing process.


Choosing my music for a desired outcome – Mood, focus and inspiration

I guess it’s the actor in me coming through; I’ve always tended to use songs and artists to help me develop my characters and create my perspective on their emotional intelligence through music or on a less intense level I’ve chosen albums or genres to listen to in order to help me learn lines.

Choosing the right music for my playlist if I know I need to write an emotionally wrought or delicate scene can take ages – you could argue procrastinating, and I would be inclined to agree. I find a select few songs which suit or stir a mood or trigger an emotional reaction when listened to, either explicitly through the lyrics or my personal emotional response to the song or music I’ve chosen. Sometimes if I’m trying to really focus on a specific mood or emotion I put a shortlist or one song on loop, again this can help keep my focus and inspire new or better moments within the same vein.

I’m careful not to choose songs which are too raw for me; I want a playlist or a song which will shape not distract. I find it particularly useful for scenes or explosive, impactful dialogue I’m writing for characters far away from myself. I I also find that when I’ve been writing a particularly harrowing scene or raw poem I use music to lift my mood back up.


Just a background noise – MOOD, State of flow and shaping my writing

Music is my favourite tool for getting into the state of flow (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi) it’s my second framework – if you like. I put together a compilation of random tracks that are either just some of my favourite songs, beautiful songs or suggested tracks of inspiration and beauty and just write (or sketch or sketchnote).

I tend to tune out to this list of music because it’s just a background, and I’ll occasionally tune in to different points in different tracks, drifting in and out as I go. Sometimes I get to the end of the playlist and beyond, find I’ve been writing in silence for half an hour, sometimes an hour or more. That’s the beauty of it, it’s the key into that state of flow for me. Sometimes I think it’s a shame I’ve wasted such beautiful music on background, or, not to be listened to. But it works and at other times I use these tracks for focus.

I find this approach helps to shape my writing, especially if I’m free writing – which I tend to do a lot for first drafts – I can free fall through a few scenes, verses or stanzas focussed on the holistic intent of what I’m writing. I then go back to edit, shape and refine what I’ve written.


…So that’s a quick note on music from my perspective.

I hope some of you find it useful, and I’m sure others of you use music too.

I’d welcome and, would love to hear, your thoughts on the use of music or the benefits of silence and other muses.

Josie x

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