Monday, August 20, 2012

The Rhythm of Writing: 12 Songs That Inspire and Motivate

Brace yourselves; I have a confession to make. Ready? Alright, here goes.

Writing hasn't always been my primary aspiration. Shocking, right? I know, I know. Simply unbelievable! But the truth is, if you'd met me between the ages of fifteen and nineteen and asked me what my future career would be, I'd have told you I wanted to be a successful musician. I fell in love with music at a young age, eventually picking up a guitar and trying my own hand at it. Unfortunately, my rock star dreams never came true. After tasting a couple doses of the cold, hard realities of the music world (and more than a couple frustrating experiences with bandmates), I ultimately decided to cash my chips in and relegate the trusty guitar back to the hobby corner. Such is life, they say.

Of course, they also say that everything happens for a reason. Had I not realized music wasn't for me, I may never have found my true calling. So, as much as I would have loved a life of record deals and rock tours, I'm glad things turned out the way they did. One thing I can say, however, is that music has stayed with me. It's still one of the foremost loves of my life, and it's become a vital part of my creative process. At the very least, every writing session begins and ends with music, and often there will be a tune of some kind accompanying the clacking of my keyboard when I'm in the thick of things, as well.

Since music is still so important to me, today I thought I'd follow the example of a few other writerly blogs I've seen (like this one and that one) and give you a glimpse at the soundtrack to my writing sessions. What follows is just a small sample (about an album's worth) of the songs and artists that inspire and motivate me when it's time to put my nose to the grindstone. Some of them are good, some of them are great, some of them are downright cheesy, but all of them have helped me get words on the slate in some capacity.

One small disclaimer: a couple of these are dripping with foul language, so maybe don't crank them up if the nuns are about.

The Build Up

These are the songs that get my gears turning. I listen to one of these as the coffee's brewing and I'm getting ready to sit down and commence, so I need a song that will get me amped and ready to put hammer to steel.

"A Moment of Silence" by Streetlight Manifesto

"You Alone" by Street Dogs

"Zero" by Yeah Yeah Yeahs

"Never Le Nkemise" by Die Antwoord

The Zone

During this phase, I'm already in the tender grip of the Muse, hammering away and hoping I'll like what's left in the morning. Sometimes I prefer complete silence during this part of the process, but often I'll put some music on to keep the gears lubricated. When that's the case, I usually listen to songs without lyrics of any kind, as I tend to get distracted if someone's singing to me.

"I'm Jim Morrison, I'm Dead" by Mogwai

"Remember Me As a Time of Day" by Explosions in the Sky

"Heart of Courage" by Two Steps From Hell

"In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth" by Vitamin String Quartet (Coheed & Cambria cover)

The Come Down

As I said, my sessions begin and end with music. When the smoke has cleared and I'm recovering from the throes of creativity, I'll usually play a song or two to ease the come down and bring me back to reality. These songs run the gamut depending how the session went, but they're often sharp and celebratory.

"Hijack" by mc chris

"Here's to Life" by Streetlight Manifesto

"Red Hot Moon" by Rancid

"Roll With the Changes" by REO Speedwagon (shut up)

photo credit: Jarod Carruthers via cc


  1. Here's from one music addict to another! :)

    We might not listen to the same type of music, but there's a common truth in finding our writing rhythm while the tunes carry our imagination, and I honestly can't imagine writing for any prolongued period of time without music.

    Thanks for a sweet morning playlist, and for the link. ;)

    1. I couldn't imagine it, either. Even on those days when I want to write in silence, I need music to frame the session. If I don't get that, something's missing.

      You're welcome, and thanks!

  2. Writing and becoming an author was never one of my goals either! Much more into music. (And currently play guitar with a church band.)
    My soundtrack would scare people.

    1. It's funny how we find our path in life, isn't it? I'm ashamed to say that neither of my guitars get as much as use as they should these days, but I still pick them up every now and then.

      Thanks for reading, Alex!

  3. I like writing to yoga music or anything that's therapeutic to the soul. Even relaxing music can make a whole lot of evil stuff come onto the page. LOL

    1. I definitely agree. Some of my darkest work has come out while listening to some serene, mellow stuff!

      Thanks for the comment, Diane.

  4. Great list J.W. It's amazing how music can inspire.

  5. Great musical lineup!
    I played the flute--for many, many years. But then, I realized I would have rather been a guitarist in a band. And even more than that, I wanted to write.

    1. Thanks, Catherine! I went through many musical phases before landing on the guitar--recorder, trumpet, clarinet, viola. Ultimately, like you, I wanted to be in a band, and guitar seemed the way to go. But the muse ended up having other ideas for us, eh?

      Thanks for stopping by!

  6. I am a huge fan of music, *and* of using it as an inspiration. In fact, I sometimes drum down to a single song for s single scene and will play that song on repeat1 until I've finished with what I'm trying to write. Might sound silly, but it works!

    And totally feel you on the music scene! When I was fifteen I was going to be the next Santana ;)

    1. Not silly at all! In fact, I've done that a few times myself. Some songs definitely become more inspirational than others when they catch us at the right time.

      Thanks for the comment, Randi!


Thanks for reading!