How does music move you?

After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.

Aldous Huxley


So most of you know that I love music. A lot. A lot a lot. As in, I was a sobbing mess when I lost my playlists in my hard drive crash. (“But honey, we saved all the music!” “But…but…my playlists! How will I ever remember the exact order of my Lyle Lovett collection?”) As in, I still travel hundred of miles and drag my six-year-old along to go to music festivals.  (He likes the contact high. Kidding! Mostly…) And music really inspires me in my writing.  But I wanted to write a little here about how I actually use it as a writing tool and not just for fun.

While some people have set hours of the day that they write or a particular room that seems to make that creative energy flow, I do not. Nope. Most of the over half a million words I’ve written in the past couple of years have been written at my kitchen table.

Sometimes it’s quiet, most times I’m surrounded by the cacophony of an active household. Since my husband works from home, that means that at any time, I can have one small boy, one large man, and three loud dogs running around and barking. (They all bark, or at least it feels that way sometimes.)

The reason that music has become so essential to my writing isn’t just that it sounds cool, but because it allows me to focus.  Before I sit down to start writing, I put together a playlist for a book.  I listen to it while I brainstorm.  I listen to it while I plot or time-line.  Sometimes there are songs for each individual chapter, sometimes it’s a set for a character, but there is always a playlist, and I don’t change it much once I start writing.  When that playlist starts, it immediately puts me in “writing mode,” no matter where I am.  I might be at the kitchen table with one earphone in so I can make sure no one starts crying or bleeding, it might be at the library while my son is at judo, or at a coffee shop late at night, but whenever I hear that music, it allows me to focus my mind and brings me back into my characters’ universe.

This might not work for everyone, but it’s pretty effective for me, and it’s something that you might try in your own writing if writers’ block is an issue for you.  Sometimes, all I need is the first few bars of a song to throw me into my character’s mind or body and then away I can go.

So if you don’t have a crystal cocoon to write in (and frankly, who does?) try a dedicated playlist! I save them all and go back to them when I’m editing, or just need to remind myself why I loved that book or piece of writing in the first place.

What do you think? How does music move or inspire you?

Thanks for reading,


Below is the music video for one song that was instrumental (ha! I’m punny.) in the development of Giovanni Vecchio, the main character in A Hidden Fire, which will be out on Tuesday!

Damien Rice—”Volcano”


Posted in Kids, Life, Music, Writing and tagged , , , .


  1. Something to think about. I’m a promiscuous music lover but I hadn’t given much thought to how it inspires me.

    Gregorian Chants and Carlos Nakai Navajo flute get played here daily and I suppose they inspire me to gratitude, trigger it if I’m not already there.

    Most of the music I listed a few days ago on my blog, The Best Love Songs of All Time also get played almost daily, and they certainly inspire me to something. Maybe memories, or whatever emotions were riding along with the memories.

    Civil War songs definitely inspire me, almost as a time warp, similarly to WWI songs. Beethoven’s 9th is a powerful and moving inspiration, but I actually can’t nail down precisely what it inspires.

    As I consider it, that’s mostly true of them all, whether bluegrass, blues, old rock and roll or country, or broadway musicals.

    I’d hate to be without them, but I’d have to if it were required of me to explain what each inspires.

  2. I like to listen to music too when I’m writing, but I usually just listen to same song over and over until I know every beat and word. My music teacher once told me that the reason why we believe music speaks to us is because it physically sounds like a heart beat to us and the closer the song sounds like our own individual heart beats (since every one has a different heart rate at specific times of the day…etc.) the more we’ll like the song. on an unconscious living, we think it’s another human living thing. but i found that I prefer music in languages I don’t understand so that the words of the song won’t somehow end up in my writing and I can interpret the meaning without knowing the real meaning based on just tone and the actual composition.

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