Tunes for Distraction Free Writing

When I’m writing, I go through phases. Sometimes I need complete silence—every little sound bothers me, and I won’t be able to think. Other times, I need to get out of the house and work where there’s some kind of constant, ambient background noise, like at a café or coffee shop. Often, I’ll end up writing Panera, simply because they don’t play their music very loudly (if at all) and they don’t get annoyed at me for taking up a table for an extra hour after I’ve finished eating.

But sometimes in order to get the words flowing, I need to put myself in another state of mind—that kind of meditative state that only music can achieve. It opens my mind up to new imagery and sensations, and makes it easier to translate certain feelings and emotions onto the page.

Slow, electronic ambiance for mysterious or introspective scenes, frenetic cacophonous music for fight scenes, epic symphonic scores for sweeping adventure or take-charge scenes . . . I pick my background music carefully depending on what I’m trying to accomplish in my story that day. But every song I choose has one thing in common: there can’t be any lyrics. Or if there are, they can’t be in English or it will mess with my ability to string words together and have those words make any sense.

Soundtracks are great for this, though if they’re too iconic (Harry Potter, anyone?) I might find myself reminiscing about scenes from the movie they belong to rather than focusing on the scenes I’m supposed to be writing. So again, I’m picky when it comes to choosing soundtracks. The Jason Bourne movie scores work well for me. Also Tron Legacy, and some (but not all) of the songs from the Pirates of the Caribbean films. But lately I’ve been seeking other sources of lyric-less music as well, and I thought I’d share with you the ones I like best. Most of the following are Spotify links, but if you don’t have an account, you can easily find them on iTunes, Xbox Music, and Amazon.

Nine Inch Nails – Ghosts I-IV – Shout out to Sunil Patel (@ghostwritingcow on Twitter – go say “hi”) for recommending this one to me. I had no idea NIN had an instrumental album and wow, oh wow it is the best. Some piano, some electronic, some slow, some fast and edgy. All with dark undertones. Great for fading into the background while still keeping your mind primed for whatever mood you need to impart in your scene.

Beats Antique – This group does what I guess you would call modern fusion belly dancing music? It’s hard to describe, you just need to listen to it and you’ll see what I mean. I love it, love it, love it. It makes me think of steampunk, and chase scenes through bizarres, and smexy tension. Definitely check this group out.

H.U.V.A. Network – This group’s music makes me feel a sort of crackling background energy like something big and exciting and important is gearing up to happen, but it isn’t happening quite yet. It’s also electronic, but of the calmer, more ambient variety—similar to the Nine Inch Nails album listed above, but not so dark.

The Piano Guys and 2Cellos – I’m listing these two groups together because they have a similar sound. They both take popular hits and put their own acoustic twist on them—most of the time without vocals, though there are a few where they’ve collaborated with a singer. You’ll find covers of songs by U2, Metallica, Adele, Muse, and more—but without their normally awesome, but distracting-while-writing lyrics. The Piano Guys also do some movie score covers.

 Sometimes I don’t want music though. Sometimes I just want ambiance. Sometimes, I just want to write to the sound of a rainstorm. RainyMood.com is the place to go for that. Just click on the website, turn on your speakers, and you have a constant loop of downpour with an occasional distant roll of thunder. It makes me want to curl up in a cozy corner with a quilt and a mug of hot coffee, and write, write, write.

And sometimes I don’t want music, but need something more than rain. Sometimes I want to be on location. Sometimes I want to be at a train station, or on the beach, or drinking mugs of frothy ale in a medieval inn. Sometimes I want to be on the deck of a spaceship, or walking down a city street, or hiking through frozen tundra. Sometimes that’s the only way I can really get the wheels turning in my head to get the right details into a scene. I recently discovered this really cool website that was actually created for tabletop gamers, but is also perfect for stirring up a writer’s creative juices. It’s called TabletopAudio.com, and it has a ton of different auditory landscapes to choose from. There’s something there for practically every genre, and I highly recommend you check it out.

And there you have it, a basic starting list of distraction-free writing backgrounds. Is there anything you would like add to the list? Please share them in the comments. I’d love to check them out! ______________________________________________

When she’s not writing, revising, or banging her head on the keyboard (it’s all the same, right?), Megan Paasch can be found playing her ukulele (badly), knitting (rarely anymore, unfortunately), or herding two amazing, but rowdy little boys (pretty much constantly) with her husband. A native to the Pacific Northwest, Megan earned her B.A. in History from the University of Washington. (Go Huskies!) Her favorite history subjects were, and still are, Women in History, the Tudors, and the Celts. You can read more about her here. 

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