An old grammophone on a table in front of some other flea market items.

Some writers like to write with as little audible distraction as possible, preferably in total silence. Others like the ambient sound of a café, or even the noise of their children playing around them. I swear by music. I start pretty much every project by generating a playlist. That might seem a bit of an odd place to begin, but I find it extremely helpful. I start by identifying which music emotionally fits the story I’m writing. That can be anything from classical masterpieces to modern pop or rock songs, from movie soundtracks to country music.

I combine those songs to playlists of different lengths. One hour is my standard, because I like to write in one hour intervals, but I also have 25 min lists in case I feel like doing a pomodoro sprint, or longer ones which I use for editing or when doing research. The one hour playlist is the most important one, though. I start it every single time I sit down to write and because of that, my synapses form a very strong connection between the music and the emotional world of my story. Switching on the music instantly throws me into my storyverse, even after a longer time away from the project. I still have playlists for books I wrote 5 or even 10 years ago, and the connection is still there. It only takes a few bars of music to deeply immerse me into the story.

Switching on the music is also a kind of commitment. Once the music is playing, there are no excuses, no more checking of email, no twitter etc. Once the music starts, my fingers belong on the keyboard, my eyes on my document.

For the Serving Veronica series I used mostly rock and pop music, basically from some rock classics all the way up to current tracks. It starts with “Believer” by Imagine Dragons and stops with Meat Loaf’s “I would do anything for love”. Because this is a series and takes a lot of time to write, I made a second one hour list to allow for some variety. That second one starts with “Woman King” by Iron & Wine and ends with “Set you free” by Reyko. Other titles on the lists are by the Doors, Bon Jovi, Bonnie Tyler, Depeche Mode and many more. (And yes, I was a teenager in the 1980s … just in case you wondered).

Most of the time the music totally fades to the background of my consciousness once I start writing. If everything goes well, I completely forget it is even there until it stops. Then I know it is time to take a break, fetch another cup of tea (because the one I set on the coffee table when I started writing is now cold), go for a little walk or do whatever. I hardly ever check the time while I am writing, because I know the music is going to take care of that for me.

Interestingly, I don’t like to listen to music while editing. When I edit, I like to read out passages of my text aloud, and even if I don’t, I need to hear it in my head. For editing, the text itself becomes my music.

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