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NaNoWriMo Day 20 - Soundtracks: The Role of Music

Wednesday 20th November - Am I on the Wrong Track?

My Twitter bio tells all interested parties that I'm a lover of opera. I am. But I can't listen to it when I'm writing. I also enjoy folk music. But I can't listen to that either. In fact, I can't listen to anything with words. The words distract me. Even words delivered in a language I don't understand, distract me. There is someone's story there and it isn't my story so, while I'm writing my story, I focus on that alone. What DO I listen to when I'm writing? I listen to my favourite classical pieces - no words - the ones I have always loved. Chopin's piano sonata no.2 in B flat minor is a treasure and is always able to inspire me. It's known as the funeral march but the part everyone recognises as such is empty on its own. When you take it as part of the whole it is priceless. His nocturnes are capable of great things for me too. Music which trips along the sinews and twists and turns within you triggers big thoughts and bright ideas. It's the same with The Swan from Carnival of the Animals by Saint-Saens - when I listen to it in solitude I have sometimes found myself dipping my head and having the sense of gliding along a clean, calm river. The power of the composer. The cello can speak without words.

Apart from voice - which is a no-go for me when writing - the piano and the cello, I am fond of the violin. One of the pieces I enjoy the most is Bruch's violin concerto no. 1 in G minor. It is another very popular piece but that doesn't take anything away from it in terms of the power to inspire. Brahms' Hungarian violin pieces take risks and thereby bring to my paper an element of chance. Who knows where they can take me? I don't. They are dancing about in my head as I write this and I'm not sure where it will end. Well of course it must end where it began for me. Another popular piece. When I was a little girl and my parents had just bought a splendid radiogram, one of the first long playing records we obtained was of Schubert's Trout Quintet. I loved it then and I love it still. I also loved it when I played it to inspire primary school children on my first teaching practice in Guisborough. When my lecturer came in to look at my lesson plans, he saw the Schubert there and said that it always made him think of old ladies in tea shops. It makes me think of tagging along with my brother and his friends when they went fishing in the River Torne. They rarely caught anything but weeds. Now I catch the memories. This old lady would gladly listen to The Trout in a tea shop. Now there's an idea. I'm just going to pop the kettle on.


  1. This is a lovely post, and beautifully explained too! I too cannot listen to any vocal music whilst writing, as it's just too distracting. I quite like listening to 'alpha waves' calming music - the idea of the waves calming my brain is very appealing 😊

    1. Thank you Nicola. The idea of calming waves ahead of writing is good. I can imagine the tension lifting from the shoulders. Great to hear from you.


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