As I’m sure most (if not all) of the world is aware, music can be a great source of inspiration.
Personally, I find more inspiration in music with lyrics. I love lyrics that paint a picture of a character or tell a story, even if it’s an incomplete one. Even if it’s a vague story with very few specifics (sometimes that’s actually better—I can fill in the blanks with my own story).
Now, a lot of people will tell you writing & listening to music with lyrics is not a good mix. That’s because your brain is going to want to process both your words and the song’s words at the same time. Why invite the distraction?
I can tell you firsthand that this is true. Which is why I use my writing playlists, oddly enough, when I’m not actually writing. I listen to get pumped up before I sit down to write. I turn on the music when I’m feeling stuck. I listen when I’m getting ready in the morning, in the car, sometimes I even sneak the really good songs onto the playlist at work.
For me, the music isn’t about serving as a soundtrack to maintain the flow of my writing, but as a link to keep me thinking about the story when I can’t actually write about it.
So what are the songs at the top of my charts?
“Headfirst” by The Royal
This song just gets me pumped up to write. “I’m gonna fight my way to happy ever after/Win my chance to start another chapter”—It’s a pretty perfect anthem for a writer, made even better if you’re writing anything fairy-tale related.
“Superheroes” by The Script
This song already tells a great story by itself, one that I would gladly read. Multiple characters overcoming painful backstory to claim their power and aspire to greatness. Bonus points if you’re writing anything super-power related.
“Monster” by Imagine Dragons OR “Monster” by Skillet
Besides sharing a name, these songs can also both help you channel characters that have a dark/troubled side they’re trying to hide or fight. In my mind, the Imagine Dragons song is *slightly* more introspective and for when the character is struggling with that dark side, while the Skillet song is for when that dark side is more actively destructive.
“Enchanted” by Taylor Swift
Make fun of me all you want, this is a perfect Cinderella-esque song & you will not convince me otherwise.
“distance” by Christina Perri feat. Jason Mraz
For your angsty characters who just can’t tell each other how they feel. This song will help get you in the mindset for some of those more sensitive scenes.
“The Mess I Made” by Parachute
More angst! This time it’s for the characters who’ve messed up big time. While the song is more about a broken romantic relationship, I think it can still work to get you in the mindset for almost any type of damaged character relationships.
“Fight Song” by Rachel Platten, “Castle” by Halsey, “Radioactive” by Imagine Dragons, “Unbreakable” by Fireflight, “Hero” by Skillet, “Legends” by The Afters
All great songs to get amped up about your fight/action scenes, ranging in mood from “inspirational” to “explosions in the background”.
I can’t pick just one song. Owl City has a very whimsical, kind of dreamy sound that makes me feel very imaginative when I listen. Which I do, a lot.
So what about everyone else out there? What kind of role does music play in your writing process, and what songs get you inspired to write?