Every writer has a writing ritual. Well, I say ritual, but that makes it sound like they dance about in dark robes sacrificing something on the back of a leather-bound dictionary. Quirks – that’s a better word. All writers have them. A particular set of things they need to get them in the right head-space to write. This may be writing at a particular time or place, or even in particular clothes (I’ll blog about that another time).

Most writers will try out different quirks to see what works for them. One thing I’ve found works for me is listening to music….but it has to be the right kind of music. The sort of dreamy background noise that hypnotists and snake-charmers probably use.

I like to think that music has an influence. When I write action/fight scenes, I’ll put on some pounding trance or bombastic orchestral piece and then try and ‘play along’ with it, typing frenziedly at my computer whilst pulling faces like a rapt classical pianist

I know…it sounds stupid. But that’s what I end up doing and I can’t explain it. In fact, it’s starting to seem normal, which is a worry. But…the point is, music is my quirk; it helps me achieve my best. And if you want to try writing to music, I’ve found the following artists/albums helpful.

funki Lp 'fast asleep'cover Funki Porcini – Fast Asleep

You might recognise the album sleeve from Shaun of The Dead. This is a Ninja Tune release from 2004 and it’s aptly named, the music is so chilled as to be almost comatose. It’s perfect background noise. There are some garbled vocals and samples in there (you might want to skip the track where a stoned sounding Tony Blair gives an interview) but the vocal/dialogue free tracks are like being wrapped in a fluffy cloud.


Boards of Canada

I expect this is a popular choice amongst writers. For music so etheral and non-commercial they have a surprisingly large following. Their dreamy soundscapes sound like having your brain washed through with 80s film soundtracks, the magnetic tape spooling round your ears. Absolute gold. I’ve been lost listening to these guys for hours.


Trance (Euphoric Trance)

I was surprised that this works so well. Put some on, this mix is particuarly good, and start typing. You’ll be suprised by the results, after a while I found myself trying to ‘surf’ the music, typing faster and nodding my head and the crescendo’s came in.


God Speed You Black Emperor / Silver Mt Zion

I need to be in the right mood, but their depressing post-apcolyptic sound is quite hypnotic and the length of the tracks means you have time to compeltely fall into them. The emotions they conjure up are powerful and you feel that creeping into your prose. You might recognize some of their music from 28 Days Later

Godspeed You! Black Emperor – The Dead Flag Blues

Silver Mt Zion – BlindBlindBlind

I’ve had an idea for a sci-fi novel for over ten years now (I’ve got the plot, I’ve just put it off because I’ve never written anything straight, and I really don’t want to come out sounding like Garth Merenghi, brilliant though he is). Anyway, this sci-fi involves lots of post-apocolyptic landscapes…and in order to get me into that space, I’ve picked the most haunting, tormented music I can find. My theory being, if I’m at my least comfortable whilst typing, I’ll be able to send those feelings straight onto the page.

What? It’s a theory, I didn’t say it will work. But I’m going to give it a try. Whilst writing ‘Pirates of Maryland Point’ I listened to lots of Chas and Dave and think it helped me. ‘Jurassic Pulp’ involved repeated playing of the soundtracks from Jurassic Park and Pulp Fiction. For all I know writing to music might have no impact whatsoever. It might just be my lucky feather (like Dumbo) but for now it works, and I’ll keep doing it.

This post was written listening to this…

Other artists that are on my WRITING playlist include:

Aphex Twin (everything he’s ever done, though not all of it is conducive to writing)
Air (French Band) – this is a good video, going down a San Francisco street in 1905
Amorphous Androgynous
DJ Shadow
DJ Food
Explosions In The Sky
Fuck Buttons
Future Sound of London
God is An Astronaut
Massive Attack



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