Music, Moods, and Writing

A comment that a friend of mine made about music got me wondering: How does music influence your thought processes and your mood?

For me, I absolutely cannot listen to sad music or it’ll immediately change my mood.  Likewise for happy music.  My mood depends on my surroundings.  Music, food, people, animals, sounds, movies, and TV all impact how I feel.  This is probably why I prefer to write lighter pieces and humor.  Anything too serious and I’m left feeling drained (which with some books/movies/TV shows that can be a good thing!).  Books, movies, TV shows, and video games are the media forms that most influence my mood, and music is the least.  I generally do not listen to music; if I do, it’s in the car and that’s it.  I can’t focus on anything if there is music playing in the background.  But having background noise like people talking or the TV playing (the Weather Channel is my favorite) actually helps me to focus.  I like hearing life around me, but music draws too much of my attention.

When I’m writing, I find that whatever mood I’m in is the one mood I can’t write.  When I’m feeling down, I write some of my best humor and happy pieces.  Hm, I guess this could be an argument for listening to sad music from time to time?

If I “indulge” in the emotion by writing it, the writing is beyond melodramatic, way out of character for my characters, and generally embarrassing.  There’s a folder hidden on my computer for all those pathetically melodramatic pieces that appeared when I was feeling low.  Hm, I guess this could be an argument for listening to sad music from time to time?

What influences your moods and your writing?  Are the two linked at all, and if so, in what way?


11 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. poetofmidnight
    Jul 19, 2011 @ 13:18:33

    My emotions and writing seem to be opposite. At times when I’m feeling happy, I can write the darkest and saddest poems. It’s funny how things work like that. Interesting post, I like it.


  2. wolfraven80
    Jul 22, 2011 @ 11:19:45

    My moods, too, are heavily influenced by my environment, but I’m the opposite in terms of what constitutes white noise. I cannot concentrate with the TV. It drives me batty. In fact one of the things I love about writing at night is that it’s so quiet.

    I listen to music a lot, for hours on end at work, and it’s an essential part of storytelling for me. I get ideas from songs all the time and they help me get into the mood of key emotional scenes.

    That said, I’m not sure that what I write has much to do with my mood anymore, though it might have when I was a lot younger. I always have a scene in mind when I sit down to write and I do sit down every Saturday night no matter what my mood is. Not to mention, my mood while I’m writing is heavily dependent on how well the writing is going. 😉


    • nerdywordyjana
      Jul 24, 2011 @ 11:04:59

      Hearing life around me is helpful, but music gets under my skin. We’re opposites!

      And I hear ya there! I’ve been head-desking because my character is not cooperating with me. Haha.


  3. minnesotatransplant
    Jul 23, 2011 @ 09:45:34

    I listen to NPR when I’m writing. Go figure. Sometimes, though, when concentration on an old memory is essential, I listen to nothing at all. What influences my writing most is other writing. If I am reading something sarcastic, I tend toward sarcastic. Melodramatic book? That’s where I wander.

    Your writing reminds me a little of Anne Lamott’s in “Bird by Bird.” Have you read it? Wonderful book about writing. And funny. Like you.


    • nerdywordyjana
      Jul 24, 2011 @ 11:06:28

      That’s how I am; I tend to absorb what’s around me with everything but music. The language of my writing changes depending on what I read/watch.

      Thank you! I’ll be sure to check out that book! 😀


  4. laurastanfill
    Jul 24, 2011 @ 02:06:10

    Fascinating post, nerdyjana! I used to think I needed music to write. But I realized eventually that I was only listening to music while revising, not writing first-draft material. I often returned to the same few albums because they sparked some sort of emotional reaction in me–oh yes, this song again, that means I’m writing about my newspaper world. One of the albums I favored was one my old editor played often on deadline. It moved me out of whatever headspace I was in and into the newsroom. I suppose, through repetition, I allowed the music to take me into the proper emotional state to write what I was working on, rather than my emotions being affected by the music’s actual content.

    Now that I’m on a first draft, it’s quiet. No music. Although I’ve thought about listening to French music–part of my novel is set in France and I wouldn’t get distracted by the lyrics.


    • nerdywordyjana
      Jul 24, 2011 @ 11:09:19

      Thank you! I’m not sure if I listen to music while I revise/edit actually. I know I need to do it on paper though, and generally with an assortment of colors! Color helps me to focus on what I’m doing.

      I had a writing mix at one point, but now I’ve found that even that distracts me. Maybe I’ve become more ADD? Who knows, haha!

      The French music might help if your environment influences you while you write. It can’t hurt to try it! Lemme know how it goes. 🙂


      • laurastanfill
        Jul 25, 2011 @ 15:40:13

        It’s so interesting how we all have different techniques to get in the writing (or editing) zone. I’ll let you know about the French music in a few weeks. I’ll be going on my annual writing retreat, and in the past, I’ve listened to music throughout the day to keep me focused and motivated. I’m sure I’ll write to French music while I’m there! And probably some other music too, unless it gets too distracting.

  5. writersquarry
    Jul 25, 2011 @ 03:03:32

    Jana, this is a great blog! Have you ever heard of Solfeggio Frequencies? Its less than music but so much more…


  6. nerdywordyjana
    Jul 25, 2011 @ 12:58:38

    Thank you! And no I haven’t, I’ll have to look it up!


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