Music For Writing

I am one of those people that is rarely without music.  I was raised not in a musical household so much, but my mother was a great lover of music.  By the time I was a pre-teen, I was accompanying my mother to hear the St. Louis Symphony play at least once a month.  She had purchased season tickets, and we’d make the drive from the suburbs to downtown, pay to park, find our seats with the help of nattily-dressed ushers with tiny flashlights, and settle in for the performance.

I enjoyed these trips with my mother, and the love of music just happened alongside it.  I quickly found my favorites – Beethoven, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Dvorak.  I also quickly found the ones that set my teeth on edge – Stravinsky and Shostakovitch. I loved the formalness of the presentation – the women in long black gowns and the men in tuxedos.  I would zero in on a particular performer – the timpani or the oboes – and obsess about their every move.  At about this age, I started to play flute in grade school, so my love of music was reinforced with daily practice.

The love of music has never left me.  I listen to a wide variety of things, from country, bluegrass, dulcimer, folk, 70’s rock, current rock, some 70’s disco and pop, and of course, classical music.  Generally, this is my go-to when I’m trying to be creative, or calm my nerves.  For writing, there is nothing like the drama in classical music.  If I’m writing a dark scene, I might go for the Rhapsody Pathetique for Violin and Orchestra by Richard Nanes, or Barber’s Adagio for Strings Opus 11aIsle of the Dead by Rachmaninoff is also great for dark writing.  If I need happy, outdoors music, I might listen to Beethoven’s Pastoral (Symphony Number 6), or Symphony No. 63 “Loon Lake” by Hovhaness.  If I need angry or powerful, I look for Dvorak and Tchaikovsky, or as I like to call them, “the angry Russians.”

There is such variety out there, I can find whatever I need to fit my mood, and the mood of my writing.  Classical music, the good stuff, has a way of soothing away my stress, helping to focus my mind on my story and the scene I am writing.  I know for some it is boring, and too quiet.  I would posit that they have just not listened to the right kind of classical music! And there is another bonus about classical music – no words (unless you are listening to chorale or opera, and those are not on my list of things I like to listen to).  Classical pieces are also quite long, twenty minutes to an hour.  Talk about keeping you at it!  Without breaks between songs, or words, it is so much easier to concentrate.

If you haven’t listened to classical music lately, you might want to try it again.  You might find that it does just what you need it to do for you.  And if you want a piece with highs, lows, and all the drama that a good classical piece should have, I’m going to recommend Mussorgsky-Ravel’s “Pictures at an Exhibition.”  Ravel, of course, wrote Bolero, great for writing a fight scene.  Mussorgsky wrote pieces you will easily recognize, most notably “Night on Bald Mountain,” which you will hear played at Halloween to bring on a chill.  But by far my favorite of his is “Pictures.”  It covers all the bases, from sweet and slow to crashing and loud, from sleepy thoughts to angry words, and everything in between.

What do you listen to when you write, if you listen to anything at all?  Share it below in the comments!


Fairest of the Faire – available now!

Fairest of the Faire book coverBlurb:

Schoolteacher Connie Meyers is suddenly a young widow, her husband killed in a horrific car accident. Heartbroken to find out he had gambled away everything they had, she moves to her sister-in-law’s Midwest home to rebuild her life. A trip to the local Renaissance Faire with her nieces leads to a summer job as a costumed storyteller.

Avowed bad boy and fair performer Gage Youngblood is infatuated with Connie at first sight. Despite his deliberately commitment-free life, and Connie’s don’t-touch-me attitude, he soon has her in his arms, realizing quickly she is also in his heart.

When she is threatened by her late husband’s bookie, he steps into the role of protector, his fate forever sealed with hers.


“Who said anything about a relationship?” he said, standing up so he could tower over her again. “I’m just trying to have a little fun. You know, fun?”

If he’d been an animal, she was sure he’d have had hair raised on the back of his neck, he seemed so angry, and it struck her painfully. She hadn’t wanted to anger him or hurt him. She turned away from him and closed her eyes to tamp down the tears she knew would come if she let them. She crossed her arms over her chest, to hold in the pain. Being tired made her much too vulnerable.

“Yes,” she finally said. “I know about fun. Life isn’t always fun, though.”

“Princess.” His voice was soft, tender. “I won’t hurt you. It’s not in my plan.”

Despite herself, she felt the shivers of desire race down from her shoulders, down her arms and legs, and back up to that secret, soft place at her core. She bowed her head and gritted her teeth, hoping for the feeling to go away.

“And what is your plan, Gage?”

“It’s a simple plan. I want you to feel good. I want to feel good, too.”

Available NOW!

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10 thoughts on “Music For Writing

  1. Susabelle – I lovelovelove that you enjoy the classics. So many people these days ( read: young’uns) don’t appreciate how marvelous and emotional classical pieces are. My daughter was raised listening to period peices and she’s a fabulous classical pianist now. Brava for you! And although I need absolute quiet when I write, I do enjoy everything from Bach to Beastie Boys when I’m not.

    • I don’t know that I thought there was anything weird about classical music when I was growing up, but to hear others talk, it worse than Rap music for them! So weird. I love the sweeping drama of much of classical music. I have things I don’t like – I’m not fond of most chamber music, and most “modern” music just sets my teeth on edge, but generally, I can find something I like about it. I’ve been listening to a lot of Sibelius lately. He was an interesting character.

  2. I usually write in silence. Most music is too distracting. I love it so much I get lost in the lyrics. Therefore, I agree with you about Classical while writing.

  3. Although I grew up listening to classical music, and played it on the flute for six years, I mostly prefer rock and blues and contemporary music. (My daughter has turned me on to Lana del Rey, Hozier and Londaon Grammar, to name a few.) I also love Celtic music, and listen to a lot of CD’s I’ve brought after hearing the band. And related, I adore Lorenna McKennit. Her music really sets a mystical, magical mood.

    • I have 12 Loreena McKennit albums. TWELVE! haha. I have Medieval Babes, too, which I like, and pirate music from The Pirate Shantyman and Flogging Molly. I have Zeideco music, big band, and smooth singers like Melody Gardot, Anita Baker, Natalie Cole, Michael Buble, and the Dana Owens album by Queen Latifah (if you haven’t heard that one, it is a big surprise!). I also like Pink Martini, the Kazenjammers, and Caro Emerald, all music I can’t even figure out where to classify in a particular genre. And I love love love the Gypsy Kings. I think last time I checked I have more than 10,000 pieces of music in iTunes that I sync to my iPod. I am never at a lack for something to listen to!

  4. Wow, you really know your music, Susabelle! I’m in awe! I like a lot of different kinds of music, but like several people have said here, I need quiet when I’m writing. I get too wrapped up in lyrics. I’ve never actually tried to write to Classical music. Maybe I should give it a try and see if it inspires me!

  5. I wrote a post a long time ago saying “Music is my Muse” in my writing. I love how the creativity flows while I’m listening to Classical, Celtic, Medieval, or a soundtrack from a movie. For the battle scene in my third book, Dragon Knight’s Axe, I played the soundtrack from Robin Hood–the one with Russell Crowe. It got my blood flowing, and the fingers flew across the keyboard. I’m a big fan of Loreena, Susabelle! Loved her voice and music for decades. I knew there was a reason I liked you! 😉 Currently, I’m listening to Michael Flatley’s “Lord of the Dance”. Whenever I start a new book, this is the one I play first. It’s more a tradition than anything else. My books deal with the Celtic paranormal, so this one sparks my creativity and inspires my writing. Great post!

    • Thanks, Mary! Movie soundtracks can be quite good, too. Braveheart, The Last of the Mohicans, the Other Boleyn Girl, Elizabeth (both movies), Lord of the Rings, and even Indiana Jones. Some video game music is quite epic, as well. I have the World of Warcraft music CD. I know nothing about the game (never played any video games), but the music is fantastic.

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