Maximize Your Writing Efforts: 5 Hacks to Harness Your Favorite Sounds

author samantha eklund writing favorite sounds

If you’re like me and many other authors, you don’t have as much time for writing as you would like. On top of that already limited time, when you sit down to write, all the cares of the world start going through your mind. You had a long and stressful day at work, bills are coming due, you have a long list of things to do this coming weekend, does your cat have enough food to get through the week, did you water your plants, what's going to happen on the next episode of your favorite show, did you remember to record that new one, what are you going to make for dinner, how are world leaders doing on figuring out world peace...

Dropping our endless worries and stresses about the outside world can be difficult if our only method is to sit down at our desk and try to hammer a story when our heart is only half in it.

If only there was a way to get lost in your story quicker than normal!

But wait, there is. :-) If you’re looking for a way to maximize your writing time, this tip will be invaluable to you. 

We have five senses, right? Why not use all of them to get immersed in your story? For this one, I'm covering hearing (the other four are soon to follow).

Like the other senses, hearing is powerful… one of THE most powerful. Let it work to your benefit!

How to do this?

As you write, listen to your favorite sounds.

For me this is music, but for you it might be sounds from nature or a city, a TV show, movie, or more.

If you pick something that will quickly help you slip into the tone and flow of your book, it will allow you to maximize your writing time. Your time won't be wasted by trying to first get into the feel of your story and then staying there.

Somehow, sound has the ability to magically whisk us away to far off lands almost instantly. When you sit down to write, you probably have a thousand other thoughts whirling through your mind. Similarly, if you’re writing away and someone interrupts you, your focus is yanked from your story and to the real world. In both of instances, your chosen array of sounds can plunk you right back into your tale where you left off.

Music is something that connects and inspires most creative types, so I'll be referencing that as my main example. However, all these tips will help you whether you're listening to music, TV, sounds of nature, or a movie.

So how can you make sure what you're listening to is helping your writing, not hurting it?

1. Pick a matching tone for the music, movie, show, sounds, etc.

This should match the tone of your book, and can vary across genres because the events of your book aren’t static. For example, when I wrote my Kalanna books, my music playlists for those mostly consisted of symphonic rock, which nicely matched the themes of power struggles and war. However, they also included songs from Josh Groban because there are also themes of love and wonder throughout the books. If I were to put on a movie while writing those books, I probably wouldn't choose a comedy because the tone of the stories is serious. Listening to lighthearted and funny material while trying to write a serious and tragic tale would not be an efficient way of working!

2. Control what flows into your head.

I don’t like putting my music app on a station and letting random songs play that I didn’t pick. If a new song comes on, it’s going to pull me out of my writing mode. I like listening to the words of songs, so if I notice one that I haven't before heard, my brain is going to be distracted. Also, stations can stretch pretty far with genres. So while most songs on that station could perfectly fit with your book, I’ve had the experience where completely random and unrelated type of songs will come on. It’s a huge distraction from writing, and I don’t like it. That’s why, for the most part, I only listen to playlists where I’ve picked every single song on there.

3. Have a different playlist or movie for each book, even if they're in the same series.

Overall, series should have a similar tone and feel to them. However, each book should also be distinguishable as its own thing within the whole. For the most part, the first books of a series are about discovery and beginnings, the next few about development of characters and main story, then the last few are charging full steam towards the epic finale. Should each of those have the same playlist? No way.

If you're listening to movies in the background, playing another one in the same series for your next book could be ok, as long as that different movie has a similar tone to what you're trying to accomplish within your book. If it's TV shows you prefer, try playing a different season.

4. Adjust as needed.

Once you make your new playlist and start using it while writing, prune and add as needed. Realize a song doesn’t jibe at all with your story like you thought it would? No problem, just remove it. Found a new song that would go perfectly? Add it!

5. (Bonus tip!) And finally, saving the best for last: have a golden favorite set aside for an instant shot of inspiration!

What does that mean? If you prefer music, have a song that REALLY gets you excited about your book. Any time you play it and crank up the volume, you're instantly dropped into your world. You don't even have to try imagining your world when you hear this song; it just washes over you and you can't stop it. The same might be true for a favorite scene within a movie; you can almost see your own characters within it and it always makes you want to jump up and work on your book.

Keep this treasure on standby for every time you sit down to write! Let it be the first thing you put on during your writing time, so that you're instantly transported to your world. Put it on, #pumpupdavolume, and let it wash over you. You'll find your inspiration raging and imagination chomping at the bit to get started!

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Note: if you don't currently have a favorite, or have no idea what this might be, that's okay. You'll discover it. I've never known what my priceless song is going to be for each book until after I've created my playlist and started writing the book using it. One day I'll be writing and rocking out really hard, then suddenly realize the particular song that's playing is like magic flowing into my brain and out my fingertips. Then BAM, I know I have my special one that will get me through all the hard times of writing this book.

And there you have it! Having a music playlist, particular movie, or TV season for each book, even those within a series, can dramatically help the creative writing process. I don’t think any of us have as much time to write as we’d like, so I’m all for any ways that can help me focus faster. As I’ll talk about in a future episode, having playlists can also catapult you into the writing mood on days when you’re not quite feeling it—and having a tool like that for your off days is priceless!



+ What are your favorite types of music, shows, or sounds to listen to while you write? Join the conversation by leaving a comment below!