A Cello for Your Thoughts

Writing doesn’t come easily to me.

Thinking about writing is a piece of pie, but when it comes to sitting down in front of the computer and trying to hash out my thoughts, I have a hard time. I get distracted first, and then I have trouble staying focus, and then I lose my direction and drive.

My writing gets interrupted time and time again by sporadic thoughts, passing whims, and trivial observations – like that guy walking past the window wearing oversized jeans and eating pretzel chips – that beckon me the way that children at a park beckon ducks with pieces of stale bread. And, like a duck, I follow them until I get lost in my own head and forget what it was I wanted to write about in the first place.

The first time I listened to Two Days in Tokyo by Martin Jacoby, though, I wrote for three hours straight. That’s super duper rare for me. I remember thinking, I’ve been writing for three hours?? How did I do that?

I’d listened to music while writing before, but music had never improved my focus to that extent. But when Two Days in Tokyo was playing in the background, I discovered that I was able to write for a much, much longer period of time – it helped me stay focused, it replaced the thoughts that usually run rampant in my head. It kept my mind clear.

I knew I couldn’t listen to that song alone forever, though, so I set out to find songs that had the same effect on my focus. Gradually, I noticed the similarities between the songs that I found.

I began to construct a list of “criteria” that the song needs to fulfill. To name a few, the song has to be instrumental, it has to be gradual and have a moderate pace, and – most importantly – it has to tell a story of its own.

Here’s an example: listen to Mirror Maru by Cashmere Cat. It’s repetitive, so it’s easy to listen to and doesn’t demand your attention. It’s not aggressive, overwhelming, or distracting. It gives your mind space to think. But it’s not dull either, not too slow or too subtle. There’s something about it that feels alive, like you can feel the ebb and flow of its rhythm, the pulse of its heartbeat. It’s just the right amount of captivating, without being distracting.

Not many songs can do that, but I’ve found a few that can. And if they have a positive effect on me, then I’m sure they could have a similar effect on other writers too. Though every person’s creative tendencies are spurred by different stimuli – whether it be music or people watching or whatever else – I think the following songs that I’ve found over the past few months are especially conducive to the writing process. It’d be selfish of me to NOT share them, right?

Here’s the list:

  • Mirror Maru by Cashmere Cat
  • Two Days in Tokyo by Martin Jacoby
  • Dalur by Olafur Arnolds
  • A Snowflake by Peter Broderick
  • Prelude for Time Feelers by Eluvium
  • Greenland by Emancipator
  • Starlights by Tracey Chattaway
  • Remember Me as a Time of Day by Explosions in the Sky
  • As the Lights Fade Away by The Echelon Effect
  • Twentytwofourteen by The Album Leaf
  • Written on the Sky by Max Richter
  • We Move Lightly by Dustin O’Halloran
  • Bowsprit by Balmorhea
  • Cancan de los pajaros by Melodia
  • Vladimir’s Blues by Max Richter
  • An Ending, a Beginning by Dustin O’Halloran
  • Rainfall by Michael Jones
  • Small Memory by Jon Hopkins
  • Nostos by Jean-Michel Blais
  • On the Nature of Daylight Max Richter
  • Sway Dmitry Evgrafov
  • One Summer’s Day by Joe Hisaishi

And here’s the link to the songs compiled into a nifty Spotify playlist.

If you have any recommendations of your own, please feel free to leave a comment!

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