How to Tune Up Your Writing Creativity

Carol Tice

A songwriter gets in tuneWell, here we are. The year ends tonight. For many of us, that’s a time for reflection. For resolutions. For moving in new directions.

If you’ve been struggling to make the leap into freelance writing, or unhappy with how much you’re earning from freelancing, it may be time to move to a new tune.

A lot of writers seem to have negative tapes playing in their heads. I want to suggest you pop that tape out and install a new one for 2014.

Listening to my iPod Shuffle on my morning walk recently, I realized that besides choosing mostly upbeat tunes that are good for briskly walking to, the songs I’ve chosen have some common themes.

Here’s a sampling of the lyrics to some of the rock/alternative style songs I often listen to to get my head ready to write (with links to the videos if you want to check them out):

“Today is the greatest day I’ve ever known.” (Today – Smashing Pumpkins)

“Tonight, we are young, so let’s set the world on fire, we can burn brighter than the sun.” (We are Young – Fun)

“Won’t let you bury it, won’t let you smother it, won’t let you murder it…our time is running out.” (Time is Running Out – Muse)

“I’m useless, but not for long, the future is comin’ on.” (Clint Eastwood – Gorillaz)

“Time flies by, they all sang along, time flies by, bye bye.” (Come a Little Closer – Cage the Elephant)

“It’s a beautiful day…don’t let it slip away.” (Beautiful Day – U2)

“Yesterday’s history, and tomorrow’s a mystery…Reach for the sky ’cause tomorrow may never come.” (Reach for the Sky – Social Distortion)

“I’ve been waiting…I’ve been waiting for this moment all my life.” (Lazy Eye – Silversun Pickups)

In the morning, when I’m getting ready to write, my head is going a million places. Scattered. I’m plotting, planning, thinking, dreaming.

And I need to get focused. For me, what does that is bringing it back to this day and this moment.

Which is all we really have for sure.

Maybe because I came out of songwriting into prose, I respond strongly to musical messages. But it works for me.

Usually, after an hour out with these tunes, I have the answer, and I’m ready to sit down to whatever has risen out of the babble in my head to be today’s priority — that one thing I’ve just got to write today.

What’s the soundtrack for your writing? Leave a comment and share the tunes that get you inspired.

P.S. — Enjoy the holiday and come back Friday with your best blog post link about writing, blogging, productivity, work/life balance, or marketing — the First Friday Link Party returns!


  1. Gary

    I tend to listen to instrumental tunes, ones with an upbeat tempo…Andy McKee and Antoine Dufour lately…and find that gets my monkey mind settled and the mind juices flowing nicely. I can listen to that music as either pre- or during-writing elixir. Not foolproof, but often helps. Just discovered your blog and look forward to future inspiration from it and you!

  2. Marcie

    I listen to gospel songs. My favorite jam right now is “They That Wait” by Fred Hammond.

  3. Lori Ferguson

    Writing=Windham Hill for me. Anything ‘New Age-y,” quiet, instrumental. William Ackerman is a favorite.

    Happy New Year to all!

  4. Rita

    Thanks Carol,
    I love movie soundtracks. Some of my faves right now are Hans Zimmer–Man of Steel, Steve Jablonsky–Enders Game, and James Newton Howard–Centurion and The Village. None of these are upbeat per se, but they’re sure gorgeous.

    Also like Cold Play’s new release.

    I’m going to bookmark your suggestions.

    Happy New Year.

    • Carol Tice

      For years, when I was a secretary, we used to listen to the soundtrack to North by Northwest while we worked. Bernard Herrmann was one of the greats.

      And I noticed my 12 yr old son is doing homework to soundtracks to Dark Knight and other superhero movies. 😉

  5. Rob Schneider

    I don’t listen to music when I write. It’s either distracting or I don’t listen to it.

    I love world music because it takes me out of my cultural bias. When I do listen to Western music, it’s usually old favorites, starting from the sixties and ending around the time of Smashing Pumpkins.

    • Carol Tice

      I don’t usually listen WHEN I write…but before I write, when I’m walking, and then I’m ready to go.

      Sometimes if I’m really jittery about writing something music helps me tune that out, but usually I’m with you — music off while I write.

      • R. Klempner

        I’m also big into music while thinking, but not while writing. Usually, what I listen to varies by genre. If I’m writing a personal essay, usually it’s classical music on my favorite station (available online!), KUSC, or something I listened to during the period of my life I’m reliving. Occasionally, I listen to a Jewish band like Moshav or Shtar. A feature: usually requires classical.

        If I’m writing sci-fi or fantasy, or fiction in general, I often listen to something techno or contemporary that picks up the emotional themes of the story. Once I wrote a story with a lot of nostalgia, and I listened to parts of The XX’s most recent album.

        And–embarrassing to admit–if I’m stuck, it’s always the “clean” version of Gwen Stefani’s “What You Waiting For?”

        • Carol Tice

          KUSC…you’re giving me flashbacks to when I lived in L.A. Though think I usually listened to KCRW — Morning Becomes Eclectic was a big fave.

          Lately I’ve been listening to Vocalot, on the Jewish band front — I go to a song circle where we listen to a lot of different versions of songs and have been checking them out.

  6. Daryl

    First Friday Link Party is back? YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!

    • Carol Tice

      Can’t wait to see your post, Daryl!

  7. Katherine Swarts

    I love inspirational music and in fact have written many poems of my own to the rhythm of favorite songs. Most of my favorites are traditional-style pieces–hymn or country/ballad/folk–“Count Your Blessings” is a good classic and a spur to positive thinking, see clip at

  8. Craig

    Interesting topic, Carol.

    I think my mood decides the sort of tracks that makes me productive.

    However, overtime, I’ve found that slow rock tunes up my productivity.

    My Favs:

    A Comet Appears-The Shins

    Ungodly Hour-The Fray

    Never Say Never-The Fray

    Kiss me-Ed Sheeran

    Autumn Leaves- ”

    Give Me Love- ”

    So Far Away-Staind

    Iris-Goo Goo Dolls

    His Glory Appears-Hillsong

    With Everything-Hillsong

    Lost-Coldplay (The remix)

    Life After You-Chris Daughtry

    Home-Chris Daughtry… Just a few from my Fav playlist.

    In my most productive week of the year, A Comet Appears by The Shins was the track I plugged to my ear all through.

  9. Peter Mallett

    Sometimes I write with music in the backgroud, most of the time though, I like it quiet. Glad to hear that First Fridays is returning.

  10. Williesha

    I can’t listen to music while writing but I looooooove it so much. I think because I have a faulty memory, listening to positive music helps me memorize inspirational music.

    My current “theme” song is a contemporary Christian song by Out of Eden – Mighty Mighty Good.

    Love you’ve got Gorillaz on iTunes Carol!!

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