Your pulse in the pages: music to inspire your writing


Do you find it helpful to listen to music whilst writing? I know some people do I tend not to as it doesn’t always help me concentrate, unless I’m doing something particularly monotonous that only requires half my brain. Particularly if the song has lyrics, I find myself listening to them rather than focussing all my mental energy on trying to squeeze something creative from my reluctant brain.

However I’ve recently come across a track with very interesting lyrics. It’s called Poet, from CD2 of Bastille’s double album All This Bad Blood. (I’ve got into Bastille big time recently and am in grave danger of wearing out the CD.) The song is about a slightly obsessive writer and the object of his affections. Take a look at the excerpt below:

I have written you down Now you will live forever And all the world will read you And you will live forever In eyes not yet created On tongues that are not born I have written you down Now you will live forever … Your body lies upon the sheet, Of paper and words so sweet. I can’t say the words, so I wrote you into my verse. Now you’ll live through the ages, I can feel your pulse in the pages.

OK, on one level it’s a bit creepy (the first lines of the song, not reproduced above, are: Obsession it takes control / Obsession it eats me whole … I prefer to believe this is a sweet shy guy. It would spoil the poetic ambience somewhat if he turned out to be a serial killer.

But as a hymn to the power of the written word, it’s pretty good: In eyes not yet created / On tongues that are not born / I have written you down /  Now you will live forever …  a reflection on the fact that good fiction can confer of kind of immortality upon its subjects.

And, even better: Now you’ll live through the ages / I can feel your pulse in the pages … as a writer I want my characters to live and breathe, to be real. To ‘jump off the page’ as the saying goes. Can you feel their pulse in the pages? If you can write a character like that, you‘ve created something truly special.


    • Hi – thanks for dropping by. Yes I think I agree – in my experience music without lyrics is better at focussing concentration, for setting a mood with less distraction. I just liked the lyrics of this particular song.

  1. I think you’re right about the effect of vocal music on creativity. The stuff writers work with is words, and it’s hard to hear the Little Voice Inside One’s Head, when someone else is yodeling in your ears.

    When I wrote my first novel, I never listened to anything with lyrics. But there’s a great deal of power in instrumental music, to unlock the primarily emotional creative parts of the brain. There were times when I would listen to only one instrumental number all day: it provided exactly the right kind of inspiration for what I was writing.

    This time around, working on my second novel, I’ve added some vocal tracks, but they’re only Wagnerian opera! That’s because there’s a character who likes it. When I write for a different point-of-view character, I listen to something else, and it’s only instrumental. For me, it’s the music that helps my characters come alive.

    • That’s a really cool idea – listening to different music depending on exactly what you’re trying to write and for which character. And you’re right about the power of music. Maybe I should experiment with it a bit more.

  2. I LOVE the song “Bad Blood” by Bastille. It’s basically the theme song for one of my books. I’m not a total Bastille convert, as I am not musically enamored with all their songs, but those boys can write some great lyrics. Whenever I want to take my characters to a dark place, I put on some of their stuff.

      • It’s actually the sequel to the book I’m writing now (Paradisa). It’s still in the outline stages, but I know I want a darker, tenser feel for that book. All my characters are settled in together, they’re starting to butt heads, their morals are clashing against each other. “Bad Blood” was just a perfect song to encapsulate that.

    • I was tempted to write ‘doesn’t he play right-back for Chelsea?’ in response but that would be a very poor joke and would only emphasise my cultural ignorance. I’ll look them up …

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