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Every January I put together a new “Writing Playlist.” This isn’t always because I have new music, mind you. Most of the time I just enjoy cycling through my rather large collection of movie soundtracks.

This Christmas I did get some new writing music, however–and I spent some time revisiting a few of my old favorites. I’m very picky about my writing music: I need tracks that won’t derail my train of thought by triggering either a Fangirl Attack (which is why “One Shot” from Avengers: Endgame will not be on this playlist) or an Anxiety Attack (no “Flight to the Ford,” thank you very MUCH).

But I also need tracks that stir my imagination and emotions. I want you to care about my characters and what they’re going through, so I need music that reminds me of characters love. I think that’s part of the reason why I love movie soundtracks so much. When I hear “The Real Hero” from the Avengers: Endgame soundtrack, I think of Tony Stark (and occasionally still cry). When I hear “The Force Is With You,” I see Rey standing up to Emperor Palpatine. When I hear “The Shepherd’s Boy,” I see the Twelfth Doctor fighting his way through a diamond wall.

So here are some of the composers and soundtracks I’ll be enjoying as I embark on some new writing adventures in 2020! I hope it’ll give you some ideas for your own playlists 🙂

Photo by Julio Rionaldo on Unsplash

1. The Lord of the Rings soundtracks

I first bought these soundtracks in 2004 as a giddy twelve-year-old completely obsessed with The Lord of the Rings. While a few of the tracks have always had a special place in my heart (“The Black Gate Opens” and “Concerning Hobbits” come to mind), it’s been years since Howard Shore’s magnum opus featured so heavily in my writing playlist.

2. Joel Clarkson

I appreciate Joel Clarkson because he knows how important music is when it comes to concentration. He composed his latest album, Story Book Soundscapes, as a helpful resource for people–whether students, creatives, or both!–who need background music that’s both epic and non-distracting. I also love his album Music for the Lifegiving Home, which features a special theme for each month of the year (“January: A Framework for Home” is my favorite).

3. George Winston

George Winston’s haunting holiday album has been a Christmas staple in our home for as long as I can remember. In fact, it’s the ONLY Christmas CD I listen to year-round, and ONLY because most of the tracks aren’t traditional carols AND because it’s probably the most relaxing music in my entire library. More recently I’ve come to enjoy his Summer album; for some reason it reminds me of Wendell Berry’s novels.

4. John Williams

I’m pretty sure John Williams has a larger presence in my music library than any other composer. When you count everything I own from Far and Away to Star Wars to Indiana Jones to Jurassic Park to War Horse, it sounds and looks about right. I’ve loved Williams’ distinctive, epic style for years, and these three soundtracks are my current favorites:

5. Call the Midwife soundtrack

Let the record show that this is the only soundtrack that made me CRY while listening to it for the first time! I wept for “Barbara’s Last Journey”–unsurprising, since I ugly-cried for That Particular Scene. This beautiful show will be the death of me one day. In all seriousness, though, this soundtrack is full of lilting whimsy and joy beyond the walls of grief. Listen to it and be blessed. 

6. Doctor Who music

Now, unlike Call the Midwife or even The Rise of Skywalker, I cannot actually listen to an entire Doctor Who soundtrack straight through while writing. There are just too many action tracks. It gives me Anxiety. My solution? I cherry-pick tracks out of the albums! In this one instance, I can have my cake and eat it, too: Whovian Feelings are fully activated without sending me and my writing into a tailspin. (I did a whole blog post on Doctor Who music, by the way, which you can read here.)

7. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society soundtrack

Despite my ongoing sorrow over the fact that this movie still isn’t out on DVD (*glares at Netflix*), this album has been a staple of my writing playlists for quite a while now. It’s similar to Call the Midwife: simple and relaxing, yet deeply emotional and even sweeping at times. My favorite tracks are “Juliet and Dawsey” and “Across the Sea,” though again, this is one album I could listen to straight-through.

Three Honorable Mentions:

  1. Avengers: Endgame*: not really a soundtrack I can listen to from beginning to end, but “The Real Hero” is absolutely gorgeous. Great for writing those tear-jerker scenes. I’m just sayin’.
  2. The Intern*: A delightful, whimsical soundtrack from an equally delightful, whimsical film, this soundtrack that would be perfect for writing a contemporary romance. Not that I’ve actually written any contemporary romances, but I just have a strong feeling about this.
  3. Little Women (1994)*: My entire family listens to this soundtrack on a regular basis! The main theme always reminds me of Thanksgiving and Christmas, since we always watch the movie while we do our holiday baking–but it’s wonderful background music for any creative project, as well.

What are some of your favorite musical selections for work and play? I’d love to hear your recommendations!

18 Comments on “My 7 Writing Music Recommendations!

  1. I’m weird, in that I NEED music with lyrics to write, so for the most part, I don’t listen to movie soundtracks . . . These all sound like great choices, though! And it’s so nice to know a fellow music-loving writer!! 😉 I love how music conveys emotion and helps me to infuse emotion into the scenes I write ❤

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    • I don’t think that’s weird at all! I know so many other people (my sisters included) who prefer to listen to music with lyrics while they work…whereas the only lyric-filled music I can listen to while writing are those Russian Orthodox hymns I mentioned in my previous post. I’ve always been that way–not sure why–but I think it’s fascinating that everyone’s brain works in different ways!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. These are all great picks! I find for me, I need quiet when I write in order to concentrate and get them out the way I want them to…but I LOVE music! These are great suggestions you’ve put here for us. 🙂 For me, I enjoy listening to classical/orchestral music when I’m doing other activities – it helps them become much more monotonous.

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    • I’m so glad you enjoyed the suggestions–that tickles me pink! Such a great word about listening to those beautiful pieces while doing some of the more monotonous activities, too. There’s nothing like listening to a majestic fanfare whilst vacuuming or scrubbing a toilet 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      • I agree – musical scores add so much oomph to even the most mundane situations; there’s no reason they can’t help us out when we’re having to clean the house one day! 🤗

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  3. This is so helpful! Thanks so much for sharing. The Storybook Soundscapes sound especially good.
    I actually never thought of using music to help create emotion as I write. But since I really connect with music, then it’s something I should try. I often find it distracting, but I guess if you choose the right song (that doesn’t have words playing to it!) then it can really help set the mood.

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    • You’re so welcome!! I find the Storybook Soundscapes a particularly lovely collection; Joel Clarkson conveys lots of different “moods” with those pieces.

      I remember when I was writing a birth scene in my Doctor Who fan fiction, and the entire time I was writing it I did nothing but replay “Shelagh Gives Birth” from the Call the Midwife soundtrack, over and over and over again. I was able to pour out all of the joy and suspense I was hearing into that particular scene–and it worked wonderfully well, if I do say so myself! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. These all sound lovely! Ahh, yes, Lord of the Rings soundtracks are some of the best EVER. 🙂 And John Williams’ music is always great, too! Ooh, Joel Clarkson’s Story Book Soundscapes sounds fantastic! I haven’t heard his music before, but I’ve heard many places that it’s good!
    I’ve recently become a Marvel fangirl, and I absolutely LOVE the soundtracks!!! (I haven’t seen Endgame yet, but so far I’m loving the soundtracks from Thor and The Avengers 🙂 )

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    • OH OH OH, the Thor soundtrack is another of my favorites!!! Patrick Doyle is an incredibly talented composer; he did the music for the live action Cinderella as well–gorgeous album!

      Liked by 1 person

      • He is definitely amazingly talented!! Oh, really?! I didn’t know that he did the live-action Cinderella, too! That’s so cool!
        Yes, I am loving that soundtrack so much!!

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  5. Such lovely recommendations! And YAY! So glad to find someone else who likes Joel Clarkson and George Winston! No one seems to know who either of them are in my little corner of the world, and it was almost refreshing to find them on someone’s recommendations list.

    And AH. The Lord of the Rings soundtracks are my absolute favorite. I’ve been listening to them for as long as I can remember. Doctor Who is a treat, too! I think I mentioned in a previous post that I’ve been obsessed with the delightful little song that is “The Mad Man with the Box.” Makes my heart sing 😉

    Also, may I recommend Ludovico Einaudi? He’s an Italian pianist, and he’s one of my favorites to listen to while I write. His music is full of emotion, reverie, and just pensive vibes. I’m quite in love with his compositions, and I’m sure you’d enjoy him as well!

    Emily 😉

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    • Oooh, thank you for the recommendation!! I’ll have to look him up. Another primarily piano soundtrack that I’ve always enjoyed is the Pride & Prejudice soundtrack–the one with Keira Knightley. I prefer the 1995 BBC version of the story, but the music for the newer one is absolutely lovely.

      “The Mad Man With the Box” is one of my favorite Doctor Who tracks as well!! “Amy’s Theme” is another great one–didn’t mention it in this post, but I do love it.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m always looking for new soundtracks to listen to, so I’ll definitely be checking out some of these, especially Joel Clarkson! I follow his sister Joy on Twitter, but didn’t really know what he did. His music looks really good, and I’ll definitely be listening to some of it!

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    • Oh yes, I follow Joy on Twitter as well! Her podcast is wonderful, by the way, in case you’re looking for something new to listen to. I hope you get a chance to listen to Joel’s music. He and Joy have their own “band” as well: The Two Benedictions. They have beautiful voices and the songs are so meaningful and rich!

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