Beating Writer’s Block: Listen to Music

Listen to Music

If you find yourself struggling to write in silence, one option is to turn on some music. If you work with music on in the background, you’ll need to step away from the keyboard. For this to work, you can’t be.

You have a couple of options to work with here.

One is to listen to music you’re familiar with, and the other is to listen to something completely random, risking not knowing any of the songs.

The main purpose of this exercise is to get you thinking in terms of words, while catching the rhyme and rhythm of the songs. The less familiar with the songs, the better. You’ll be more likely to sing along or anticipate a line if you know the song well enough. While familiarity works while you’re writing, in this instance it helps if the songs catch you off-guard.

The lyrics, with music accompanying them, allow for your brain to think on a more creative level. They can also help relax you, or excite you, depending on the genre you’re listening to. At the same time, the lyrics might offer you a line to think about.

Finding new music is a simple task. You have the option of asking friends for a loan of an album by a band you’re not familiar with, or, if you have Internet access, use a website like Spotify or Last.fm. Spotify can choose music for you at random if you let it, whereas Last.fm can recommend music for you based on what you listen to through it, and based on the artists you tell them you like.

Action time: The important thing is to listen only to the music.

Do nothing else for a few songs. After about ten minutes – three or four songs, depending on their length – decide whether to use any lines from the songs in a quick writing exercise, or get back to writing your work in progress.

I have found that using a line from a song as a title of a story, or as a line of dialogue in a short scene, is a helpful way of getting the creative juices flowing again. You might write a poem using the same title as the song you just listened to, or describe the people in the lyrics – if there are any.

Alternatively, you could write about how you felt listening to the different songs. Did any of them make you think about a specific person? Did you remember something painful, or something pleasant? Do you remember the first time you heard a particular song? Writing down everything that comes to mind when you think of a particular song you’ve just listened to is a great way to get words down on a page, and from there you can turn your attention back to your work in progress.

If you’re still stuck for words or ideas, try a different genre, a different service, or ask a friend for an album from a different artist. Try listening to music that fits the genre and the setting you’re writing in.

Metal and some rock go well with action scenes, often fitting well with science fiction and fantasy, too. Pop can help with a romance, particularly if you’re writing about a break-up. If you’re really stuck for choices, think of a movie that fits the genre of your book and see if it has a soundtrack you can listen to – a lot of the time, the songs are already online in one form or another, either through the sites mentioned above, or posted on YouTube.

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About Paul Carroll

Paul Carroll is a writer, born, raised and still living in Dublin. By day he's a student and bookseller, by night he writes fiction and uses social media.
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3 Responses to Beating Writer’s Block: Listen to Music

  1. aubreyleaman says:

    I love this! Great ideas for how to use music with words to spark ideas. I also like to imagine stories while listening to classical music (I imagine that the music is like the movie soundtrack to a book I’ve read or use it as writing inspiration).

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