Writing is Music to My Ears - B.T. Polcari

Writing is Music to My Ears

Last week was awesome. Just plain awesome. Monday the 14th kicked off my week of daily giveaways on my social media profiles to celebrate my debut novel’s LAUNCH WEEK and you all did not disappoint. Thank you so much for your reviews, encouragement, and just general support. I had a great time sharing my excitement with you all, and really loved reading all of your comments on the Instagram Giveaways (in case you didn’t see those, I had different requirements to enter).

Speaking of social media, a few weeks ago I posted a question asking if anybody listened to music or themed music while reading. I was curious because when I’m writing or editing, I always listen to music, but while reading – not so much. Apparently, based on the responses, many people not only don’t listen to music while reading, but CAN’T listen to lyrical music as they sing along in their heads. This was especially interesting to me, because while I don’t listen to music while reading, I blast lyrical music while I’m working (and especially editing).

The Process

Everyone writes differently. Most type using Word or Scrivener, some still insist on handwriting (my first completed manuscript years ago was written on legal notepads), and then there are some who dictate their general stories and write them up at a later time. I don’t know where my writing process falls on the artistic spectrum, but when I’m working, I primarily listen to classic rock turned “up to eleven” (Spinal Tap anyone?). Check out the bottom of this post for a list of my favorite artists.

At this point, I’m sure you’re thinking, “That’s not too strange.” And you’re right, listening to loud music while writing isn’t odd. Thing is, it is how I listen to the very loud classic rock music.

Before starting a writing session, I pick out a CD, pop it into the tabletop player on the credenza, and proceed to play that CD into the ground. Each time the music ends, I pick up the player’s remote and hit “play.” Again. And again. And again. I rarely change the CD during a writing or editing session. If I end up working for 8-9 hours on a given day, I play that same CD the entire time. Over and over.

Okay, that doesn’t sound too weird, right? Maybe I’ve graduated from “not too strange” to the “you might be a bit obsessed” zone, but still within the realm of possibility.

But what if I told you that I do the same thing the very next day, with the very same CD?

And then, what if I told you I do the same thing each and every day for the next 3-8 weeks, with the same CD? That’s upwards of 50+ days. Straight. The only time I change a CD is when a particular song begins resonating in my head when I’m sleeping. Then I know it’s time for a change and it is only once I’ve reached this point that I select a new CD. And the process starts over again. For another 2-8 weeks. It’s like a musical Groundhog Day. But for me, there’s a method to my madness, because as soon as I hit “play” the music triggers my brain that it’s time to go to work and I’m instantly into the process. It’s as if everything around me goes black and all I see is the screen in front of me as the words flow.

I believe this is where you would ask me if my office walls are padded. (They are not, for the record).

The Selection

I also have different types of music I listen to depending on if I’m writing new material or I’m in an editing session. If I’m writing new stuff, meaning I’m creating scenes out of my head, I choose music that is more melodic and less amped up. For example, as I have been writing this post, Elton John’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” has been playing. I’m midway through the second iteration. I’ll also be listening to it tomorrow and over the next “few” weeks as I continue to plot out the next book of the Mauzzy and Me Mystery series.

Creative Writing Session Examples: Melodic

  • Three Dog Night’s “The Complete Hit Singles” (don’t judge me, it has some great songs)
  • Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” or “Turnstiles” or “52nd Street” or “The Stranger” (can you tell I like Billy Joel?)
  • Credence Clearwater Revival’s “Chronicle”


Since many developmental editing sessions involve a good amount of creativity as I tear the story apart and put it back together, I use the same musical selections for when I’m writing new stuff. However, all other editing sessions require a more robust musical background. I don’t know why, but I think it has to do with the need to keep jarring my brain in an effort to combat the mind-numbing editing process.

Editing Session Examples: Energetic

  • AC/DC
  • Audioslave
  • George Thorogood
  • Jerry Lee Lewis
  • The B-52's

One last thing, the music I play only depends on if I’m creating or editing. It has nothing to do with the genre. Although I have projects underway in both the YA/NA cozy mystery genre (Mauzzy and Me Mystery) and in the murder mystery genre (my Bill Byrd series), I play the same music for both. Below are some of the artists I play when I write and edit, not in any particular order.

Writing: Elton John, Billy Joel, Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Beatles, Cherry Poppin’ Daddies (not classic rock but awesome), Kathy Tugman and The David Walters Trio’s “Your Sky Swings and Changes” (also not classic rock but great music and she’s a family friend, tennis player, and local fixture on the music scene – check her out at www.kathytugman.com), Credence Clearwater Revival, Bob Seger, Carlos Santana, The Brian Setzer Orchestra, B.B. King, The Eagles, Jackson Browne, Buddy Guy, John Lee Hooker, Joe Jackson, Bob Dylan, The Blues Brothers, and Ray Charles.

Editing: George Thorogood, Audioslave, Jerry Lee Lewis, The B-52’s, The Rolling Stones, AC-DC, Aerosmith, and Jet.

So, whether you write your book pen to paper, voice to recorder, under a tree, on a train, or wrapped up in the same lyrics for weeks on end – all that matters is that you find YOUR process and go write that book!

Until next time, stay healthy, be happy, and turn up the tunes.


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