I am often asked what I listen to when I write.

I write a lot, both for this blog and professionally for clients. I usually write blog posts early in the morning and finish before 7:00 AM. There are little to no distractions and I often write to the sound of absolute silence. But I do often write to music, especially during the day when distractions abound.

My writing playlist

I never write to music with words (with the exception of Gregorian chants and other non-English singing). I get too caught up in the lyrics to focus. When I am not writing, I listen to these songs that mean so much to me.

Here’s my writing playlist. I’ve included links to iTunes, since that is where I get all my music, but you can search for them anywhere. It’s a fairly eclectic mix.

  1. The score to Braveheart. If you’ve seen the movie more than twenty times as I have, the music is especially emotional. Victory, defeat, joy and sorrow. With a lot of bagpipes. And in the end…freedom! I love the mix of instruments and tempo as I write.
  2. Anything by Explosions in the Sky. Explosions in the Sky is considered a post-rock band. That means they use instruments typically associated with rock to produce music that rarely sounds like rock. Their music typically has no words and varies in tempo and intensity. They seem to inspire a lot of creativity in me.
  3. The score of THE BIBLE series. An epic score for an epic story. The Bible, like any good piece of literature, has ups and downs, and the soundtrack reflects that.
  4. Pure as Snow by Mono. I’m not typically a huge fan of Mono, another post-rock band, but this song is incredible. I’ve often put it on repeat when I am looking for inspiration to a particularly difficult post or piece of content.
  5. The scores to all of the Lord of the Rings movies and the Hobbit. The only danger for me in listening to this is I remember when in the movie the music takes place and I start thinking about the movie. The music has so much variety from frolicking in the Shire to the darkness of battle. Put together, it’s more than 10 hours of awesomeness.
  6. The score to Gladiator. Some of the most beautiful and inspiring music I’ve ever heard, ranging from soft and relaxing to passionate and triumphant. I’ve written numerous blog posts to this score.
  7. Age of the Fifth Sun (album) by God is an Astronaut (another post-rock band). The entire album is awesome. It’s generally a bit more uptempo than I prefer but I enjoy the change of pace.
  8. The score to Saving Private Ryan. In a word…legendary.
  9. The Overture of 1812 by Tchaikovsky. First off, I just typed Tchaikovsky without looking at iTunes or Googling it. So that is a win. This is my go-to, pick-me-up, get-me-started writing piece. How can you not love the cannons at the end?
  10. Departure Songs (album) by Hammock. You guessed it…post-rock.

Three purposes of music in writing

For me there are three purposes of the music.

  1. Focus. It drowns out the noise around me.
  2. Inspiration. I do often choose a piece of music based on what I am writing. If I am writing a how-to guide, I stick with a more even and mellow piece. If I am writing to encourage, I want something more upbeat and loud.
  3. Time limits. I usually create a playlist of choose an album somewhere in the neighborhood of the time limit I set for writing and completing a post. Usually that is 45 minutes to an hour. I finish most of my posts before 7:00 AM and start shortly before or after 6:00. When I get to a certain part of a song, I know it’s time to wrap up.

Bonus music

And one bonus score that I am almost ashamed to admit that I love as of yesterday…The Hunger Games.

What music to you listen to when you write or need to focus?


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0 thoughts on “My Writing Playlist | Music to Write to. Soundtracks and more.

  1. Mark Sieverkropp says:

    Great Post Matt. Now I’ve got some more to listen to!
    My favorite to listen to is a Pandora station I created around the group “The Piano Guys” It’s upbeat instrumental. The Piano Guys are a group that includes a piano player (go figure…) and a cellist. They have rearranged popular songs and they are great. It also pulls in a lot of other upbeat instrumental.
    I do have to say though, there is nothing quite like the Braveheart soundtrack!
    I actually have to listen to music when I write. As a matter of fact, I don’t do much of anything without some sort of music in the background. I feel like I focus better with it in the background, but you’re right, too many words do cause a distraction!

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Good stuff. I will have to check that out.

      Words = me singing, not writing.

      1. Mark Sieverkropp says:

        If you use pandora just find me and listen to the station 🙂

  2. Joshua Garrett says:

    Great post Matt. I never really thought about how much lyrics can distract me when I am writing. I really enjoy all kinds of music but don’t like the message in a lot of music so this is a great way for me to listen to different styles. I checked out a few of these and really liked the score to Gladiator. I also found one for Tron Legacy that I liked (though I think it was annoying my wife after a few minutes so I switched to headphones!)

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Haha. There are a lot of great soundtracks out there. Anything by John Williams or Hans Zimmerman is a winner.

  3. Dan Black says:

    Great post, music has the power to nourish and motivate us. I listen to upbeat music when writing or outlining a post.

  4. Jon Stolpe says:

    Honestly, I don’t write to music very often. I’ll have to give it a try more often.

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