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Music & Writing, Very Very Frightening

By Meagan Jones

The “Writer’s Workshop” blog posts are meant to be a collage of writer’s tips, tricks, and strategies, including the first steps to publishing, writing prompts, strategies for writer’s block, and a general jumble of ideas to help you in your quest to create and publish.


The notes dance around my ears, filling the room. I don’t usually like to put my music on speakers, but my ears have been hurting from having headphones on all the time. In my tiny dorm room, the sound echoes. The volume is only at a measly amount, yet the music seems to be twice that magnitude, bouncing off all corners.

Piano music. Music where I don’t know the words. Music sung in another language. The melody reminds me of my story.


Music is an interesting thing; it is another art form, and it’s something humans have been making since the beginning of civilization (probably even before that). I’ve heard of actors listening to set playlists to get into their characters, The Pussycat Dolls changing the moods of people in diners (John Mulaney, everyone), and writers listening to music to get into their own work. Heck, I do it. I listen to music all the time when I write.

Most of the time, the song I listen to reminds me of a certain character, and how they’re feeling. I imagine the song playing in the background, and I tend to go with a lot of chaotic-sounding music, with lots of electric guitar and a strong beat – especially if the character is going through a traumatic time. And I think of different things for every song – Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen, for example, brings up the image of something dramatic happening in a really funny way (and, of course, now it reminds me of internet culture).

It’s rather weird how the human mind works. I read an article in Psychology Today about how music causes people to daydream – how it is the ultimate slide into daydreams.

Music ends up being a tool we can use to help us get into the mood to write. Of course, this doesn’t work for everyone – I know that my younger sister requires complete silence to work – but it’s an option.

Most people hear music everywhere. Through their phones, in movies, even on the bus. There have been talks, and a bazillion articles online about how music is good for your brain (unlike what your parents have always told you when you’re doing your homework). Music is everywhere and so intrinsically human that you cannot escape it. The beat. That piano. Those bagpipes you hear at five o’clock in the afternoon playing the same exact tune they always do (how many songs are there for bagpipes? I swear I have only heard one).

It gets to the point where you have to stop and think.

Music, without lyrics, mind you, is a lot like writing. It is writing without words. It gets you to feel something, though not in the form of a story (most of the time, lyrics add concrete stories to music). But music, at its core, holds a base feeling.

That, I think, is something we can learn from.

It’s something we need to be able to put into our writing. Sure, our main concern should be telling the story, but we also must think about what we want our reader to be feeling. Music changes people’s feelings amazingly well.

But instead of sound, writing relies on images – images the reader imagines. That makes it incredibly difficult, because there’s a barrier there. There’s the time it takes for a word to get to a reader’s brain. For music, it goes a lot quicker, a lot smoother. For writing, there is that extra step for the reader, of trying to imagine a character, a place, an object, all while unconsciously searching for the underlying meaning, or rather, something to take away from it. While some people read most things at face value, I can guarantee you, you take some small lesson from everything you see, touch, taste, smell, and hear.

It is the writer’s job to make that barrier a lot easier to break through. Many times, I’ve struggled, and I’ve seen other people struggle, with adding enough details to writing. Trust me: most of the time, you can never have enough details. Help the reader see what you see. Help the reader hear the music you heard while writing it.

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