Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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June 26, 2023

The Best Music to Appease Your Nagging Muse

by Kris Maze

Writing and music can go hand in hand just like comfort food and hot cocoa. If your writing muse has left you agitated, unsettled, or discombobulated, perhaps you can appease it by selecting music appropriate for your creative process.

Research shows that music can increase a person’s focus when working on complex projects such as writing a story. Listening to music is also known to boost one's mood and to give one’s perception of the work as easy. A study in California State University at Fullerton showed that athletes performing squat jumps had more explosive force and speed then those who worked without music. Let’s look at how music can impact our work of writing.

Music can change your outlook on a difficult project

Get yourself over a hump and conquer a tough scene by switching up your music. Listen to songs that get your pulse racing and your mood improved. Before you know it, the words will be flowing and you won't be thinking about how burdensome this project is, but rather how happy you are getting closer to finishing it.

For me a difficult project is something that involves formatting. For some writers, the detail-oriented work of creating a clickable table of contents, creating an index, crafting a bibliography, or anything format related at all, is a challenge they will gladly accept.

But these types of work tend to shut down my creativity and spin me through a wash cycle of anxiety that keeps me from finishing my work. I understand the importance of these tasks and can force myself to be disciplined enough to hit my deadlines, but it's not without pain and potential hives. Music is the balm that takes my mind off the difficult parts and helps me focus enough to finish my work.

Music can keep you and your muse motivated

Play some of your favorite tunes and give in to your groove. Playing the same music at the start of a project can help you get into the mindset of your work in progress. Keep track of the songs you play and see whether listening to your favorite song helps you become a more consistent writer.

Create a specific playlist that represents the project you're working on. Find music that gets you in the mood of your main character, or the tone of your writing, Or the pace of your plot actions.

For example, if you are writing a historical period piece, perhaps your playlist contains Bach minuets or orchestral pastoral romps that remind you of a Bridgerton-esque setting of high tea. Perhaps you're writing a sci-fi epic saga and need long techno flowing music. Or perhaps you write about the underground cultures of post punk rock and listen to a little Sid vicious to get into the rebel mindset.

Music can boost your mood and keep your muse happy

Listening to music you like can make writing feel easier. The feeling of enjoyment you get from listening to your favorite songs will carry over into the writing and you will enjoy the writing process more. Pick music that speaks to you and is that a pace that you want to work at. Faster or slow your satisfaction while working will improve.

Music will make you write easier

Our brains are smart and are always at wits against our muse. Our brains recognize how difficult writing is and it has the natural tendency to make you think about it. With physical exercises perceived rate of exertion can make our brains put on the brakes. How can this relate to writing?

One article states that our brains also have limited attention or upload speeds and a way to trick our brains into working anyway, is to give our mind something pleasant to focus on. Listening to motivating uplifting music can distract you in a positive way from the difficult parts I'm staying butt-in-seat.

Try music to increase your word count in less time

I'd like to propose the idea that listening to music at certain beats per minute can correlate to the number of words a writer can produce over time. Who would like to join in on this study?

Beats per minute – a writerly experiment

These are not story beats, nor beets-you-eats, what I am referring to here are our music beats. Want to try something fun? And non scientific? Join me in reflecting on how music works in your writing process.

  1. Pick out a song that last inspired one of your works. Maybe it was a song you had on repeat while working on a short story or a playlist that just gets you into the writing mood.
  2. Go to Song BPM | songbpm.com and type in your favorite writing mood tune.
  3. Post the song, genre, and beats per minute in a comment below.  Tell us why it helps you write.  Let’s see what we find out!


Astrud Gilberto &Stan Getz – The Girl from Ipanema – 130 BPM – I enjoy this walking-paces song because it is chill and cheerful. It gets me in the mood to write a spunky scene with a sassy heroine.

Journey – Don’t Stop Believin’ – 113 BPM – Who knew that this power ballad would roll along at a slower pace than Getz?  I believe the feel-good factor of this song can help the most stuck writer complete a page or paragraph

Paperback Writer – The Beatles – 78 BPM – This tune is described as happy and high energy.  And the lyrics align with my writerly goals.

Anti-hero – Taylor Swift – 97 BPM – Any Swify’s out there?  This smart and snarky tune conjures up delightful characters for me. And a little research for my YA novels, lots of teens (and their adults) really dig this music.

Feeling Good - Nina Simone - 79 BPM – Good and gritty. And at a pace that encourages me to stay in my seat and write.

Tell us your below!  Maybe we can add some inspiration and music to our own playlists.

About Kris

Kris Maze

Kris Maze is an author, writing coach, and teacher. She has worked in education for many years and writes for various publications, including Practical Advice for Teachers of Heritage Learners of Spanish and the award-winning blog Writers in the Storm where she is also a host. You can find her horror stories and young adult writing on her website. Keep up with future projects and events by subscribing to her newsletter.

A recovering grammarian and hopeless wanderer, Kris enjoys reading, playing violin and piano, and spending time outdoors.

And occasionally, she creates a kick-*ss playlist for her muse.

Join her newsletter for a Free Audiobook!

24 comments on “The Best Music to Appease Your Nagging Muse”

  1. I've rediscovered music - though I still can't write with any sound on - since I found an interesting pair - Cascade - Mark White and Steffi Barthel on two Chapman sticks: it's instrumental music that my brain can handle, when I wasn't able to listen to anything for the longest time.

    Try listening to one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XrcVdISQCBY

    The Chapman sticks were a revelation, too - and have a wide variety of sounds, depending on how they're played.

      1. What?? *Throws up hands
        That's just a wonderful rendition. Much more chill for sure but satisfying.
        *Searches for more. 🙂

        Can anyone tell I'm taking a little procrastination break and having a musical snack here?

        Thanks for all your input on this.

        1. I think I've listened to everything they've put out - and love having the video as well as the audio - and have purchased all their joint albums and am working on Mark's from his previous duo, and his solo pieces.

          Something about them. So sweet.

          I wrote a little post - https://liebjabberings.wordpress.com/2022/08/28/cascade-is-mark-and-steffi-and-chapman-sticks/

          But they're on FB and Youtube and probably other places; they travel - and busk.

    1. wow! I have never seen that instrument. And the music is very soothing. Thanks for sharing this video.

  2. Kris, I truly never thought about using the tempo of a song to motivate my writing. I won't be able to participate in the experiment in a timely manner, but I'm definitely bookmarking this to try later!

    1. Hi Karen,
      I really don't need any more distractions, like this BPM fun that I'm trying here, but it does work for me to find music at a good relaxed pace to get my writing mind in the groove.

      Thanks for the save!

  3. Kris, I feel this post so much! I always have used music and created a playlist for books. But I my decisions as to what to play was instinctual, not based on beats per minute. Right now, drafting my third book in this series, I'm loving Two Steps from Hell's "Strength of a Thousand Men" at 140 bpm. It's soaring score that keeps me writing. And for the scenes that are less intense, I'll play Escala's "Kashmir." And thanks to your post, I'll be more deliberate about choosing the music for each chapter. Thanks!

    1. Oh, I took a listen to that. It sure gets the heart pounding!
      I enjoy instrumental forward music for my more intense scenes as well.
      (and I may just might add your suggestion to my playlist for later.)
      Thanks, Lynette!


  4. Excellent post. The pic at the top looks like a shot of Jesse Cook. His flamenco jazz is on most of my play lists. Some of my favorites are Bombay Diner (arrival in a new place scenes), Steampunk Rickshaw (exploring scenes), Rain Day (for sad scenes) and La Rumba d'el Jefe for romance... I haven't done beats per minute but it sounds like fun!

    1. Hi Dover,
      I definitely appreciate a good Latin influenced playlist. I will throw a little Carmen(opera) or Carlos Santana, depending on the mood and project.

      Your first suggestion reminds me of Midival Punditz a little as well.
      Here's a little taste of their music:

      Great suggestions!

  5. Here is more info on the basis of this post:
    "According to the data, songs with an average BPM of 112 were most popular among those trying to study. That works out at about one beat every half a second, and in musical terminology, would fall in between andante (at a walking pace) and moderato (at a moderate pace)."

    Found at this article (it includes what the current most popular songs for studying are too!)

  6. I had a writing playlist I used for some time. Most songs were "mood" oriented. All instrumentals. Lyrics get in the way. Also, the playlist ran for one hour, which let me know how long I'd been writing, and that I could take a break.
    One thing I discovered: You can't type to Scott Joplin.

    1. Hi Terry,
      A regular playlist can signal the brain that it's time to settle-in-and-write, for sure.
      It's a good idea to also have your playlist timed to a one-hour time frame. This sounds like a useful tool to try!

    1. Hi Denise,

      The radio can be useful for me as well. I have a station that plays a pretty wide variety, but it's a lot of older stuff that I don't mind hearing time and time again. This does put me in a good writing mindset.

      I suppose if my writing task is more technical, or something I am creating from scratch, I prefer no music or radio at all. 🙂

      It can depend on the writing project for me.

      Thanks for the comment, Denise!

  7. Hey Kris,
    Nice post!

    Music is really important to my writing life. For each book I write, I create a soundtrack that fits the tone and theme of the book. I rely on the soundtrack to motivate, reset my brain, and keep focus on the current writing project. My soundtracks are usually a blend of acoustic and rock music (Mumford and Sons, Springsteen, Tom Petty).

    However, when I'm doing marketing( which I don't really like and struggle to find motivation) I listen to hard rock ( AC/DC, Rage Against the Machine) to keep me going.

    1. Hi Jay,
      I can appreciate the change of style for the writing task. I tend to use more edgy and upbeat music to get me motivated for tougher tasks too.

      I'm pretty sure I have some Mumford and Sons and Thunderstruck on one of my playlists. Nice suggestions!

  8. Lately I tend to play Kelsea Ballerini, _The First Time_ or _Kelsea!_ or Maddy & Tae's _Start Here_ and the Band Perry's self-titled album. I go through phases, but it's usually country music from the past 30-odd years, as long as the lyrics rub me the right way or at least don't distract me (which is why I tend to write better with CD's and will, I hope, in the near future with digital play lists than with radio or TV music stations where I don't choose the songs and find myself repeatedly changing the station). Some classical works for me, too, Offenbach, for example, for energy or Beethoven or Chopin for various emotions.

    1. Oh, and yes, Taylor Swift gives me good writing energy too, from the older songs to the more recent.

      1. I am a little late to the Swifty Party, but her older songs are powerful too. She has had an amazing career and I believe she writes her own songs. Impressive!

    2. So many interesting choices here, Varina!
      The Kelsea Ballerini, _The First Time_ song is a good walking pace, which is what studies say puts the mind into concentration mode.

      I see you also mentioned classical pieces. Two composers stand out and that are very effective for me are Bach - so repetitive and engaging - as he loops around the circles of chords - and Mozart gets the prize for being good for studying.

      So, look into his walking-pace music pieces, or andante speed music if you are interested in trying something new. 🙂

      But, it if works, there is no need to fix it, right? Thanks for the music share!

  9. I always write and edit with music playing in the background. Some mellow Chet Baker or a classical piece. It both depends on my mood and helps set my mood. I don't put a great deal of thought into it—it's just something natural to me like the mouse or the cup of coffee next to the computer.

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