Someone asked me once what kind of music I listen to while I write. I was rather at a loss for words. It’s not that I don’t know what kind of music I find in my earbuds on a consistent basis. It’s that I didn’t know how this person would react when I said that Panic! at the Disco has been my go-to for some time.
I’ve just returned from a poetry and fiction reading organized by the folks from my graduate program, and on the way home, I (of course) plugged my iPhone into the car. As I drove, I listened, and it got me thinking about music—about the way we listen to it, about the way it affects us.
My initial reluctance to tell this person what, exactly, I listen to while I write may stem from a number of things. There’s the stigma that great writing should be done to orchestral masterpieces. And there’s the fact that Panic! may not be the first thing people thing of when they think of literary genius (I, however, beg to differ, but that is another post for another day).
Looking back on it now, I say all of the worrying that I did in developing my answer is bullshit. Because here’s the thing: it doesn’t matter what kind of music you listen to. It could be showtunes or techno remixes. It just has to make you feel something while the notes are in your ears and reverberating in your chest.
I know people who listen to orchestral soundtracks. I know people who listen to soothing ballads. I for a fact know a very talented poet that (I’m pretty sure) listens to dirty rap music while he writes.
I listen to Fall Out Boy and Panic! at the Disco when I write, because some of their songs make me want to crawl inside the song and just live and breathe it until the end of days. Namely, “Time to Dance,”(Panic!) “Sugar, We’re Going Down” (FOB), and “From Now On We’re Enemies” (FOB). There was a short period where the only song I listened to when I had a pencil in hand was Breaking Benjamin’s “Diary of Jane.”
So if you asked me what my writing sounds like, I would probably just laugh. Because some of these songs—the words, the beats, the singer’s voice—make my chest ache. That ache is integral to me, to my words, to my own voice that comes out as I put pencil to paper or fingers to keyboard.
And if you asked me what I would recommend that you listen to while you write, I would say find a song, an artist, a genre that you can feel in the pit of your stomach. When you find it and you don’t want to turn it off, that’s when you know.
What do you listen to while you write? Let me know in the comments! Maybe we can share artists and make new writing playlists. :)