Music for Writing

My relationship to aural input whilst writing has changed dramatically over time.

I used to need complete peace and quiet in order to write, and I certainly wouldn’t be able to listen to music at the same time.

Then, I started using instrumental music as a way to focus and block out distracting background noise. I think that was probably when I first discovered the joys of writing on long train journeys, and needed something to drown out my annoying fellow passengers. But I couldn’t listen to music that had words, as I would find it too difficult to concentrate on the words I was trying to produce myself.

More recently, my preference for listening to music while writing has changed again. I can now pretty much focus on my writing anywhere, at any time, and am actually composing this post in a very noisy cafe in central London, without any of my own music in my ears. I can just about make out the Red Hot Chilli Peppers playing overhead, and that’s fine. However, my optimal musical input for writing is now angry rock music - Linkin Park, Seether, Fireflight, Skillet - you get the idea.

But there is one album that is guaranteed to get me in the writing mood, and that’s The Pale Emperor by Marilyn Manson. Now, I’ve never been a Manson fan, and I don’t like any of the other albums of his that I’ve tried. But the first few bars of the first song on that album (Killing Strangers) instantly locks me into creative mode and has me itching to get my fingers on a keyboard.

I first came across this song on the soundtrack of John Wick, a film that came out in 2014. I absolutely loved it, saw it in the cinema twice, and obtained my own copy as soon as it became available. Then, Easter weekend last year, I booked myself a little holiday cottage and went away for three days to write on my own, and hit a road block. I decided to rewatch John Wick just as relaxation and the song, Killing Strangers, really stood out to me. So, I found the album it was from, and put it on to listen to as I got back to writing. I ended up having it on loop for the rest of the weekend, and got tons of great writing done.

So, now, that whole album, and the opening song in particular, are forever associated in my mind with really getting down to some writing work, and I rely on it to help me out whenever I’m stuck or just not really feeling it. And, because of the way in which our brains function, it works wonders!

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