Some songs you add to a playlist so that you have music to listen to while you write. Just like you have songs to pump you up for your writing session or celebrate what you accomplished after your writing session.
Then there’s the playlist of songs that honor your story as a writer. That’s what you’ll find in this music list.
No, you won’t find the Beatles’ Paperback Writer on this list—because it’s on every list. And you won’t find an endless scroll of songs with titles highlighting famous novels or famous writers—because that list retells stories you didn’t write and commemorates writers that aren’t you.
Instead, my list of 10 songs for writers about writing puts the focus on you. These songs portray emotions and experiences where commonality can be reached.
So turn up the volume and get ready for some strong feels with my list of 10 songs about writing for writers.
“Unwritten” by Natasha Bedingfield
You may need to play the song once and dance first before you start your writing session. This song about open possibilities will get both your blood and your creative juices flowing.
Like Natasha sings, “no one else / can speak the words on your lips,” so grab a pen and start writing after singing along to these words:
“Staring at the blank page before you
Open up the dirty window
Let the sun illuminate the words that you could not find
Reaching for something in the distance
So close you can almost taste it
Release your inhibitions”
Play This Song When you have a blank page ready to fill with words.
“Everyday I Write The Book” by Elvis Costello
Like other songs on this list, Elvis Costello claims in this interview that it only took 10 minutes to write this song. At first, this song was supposed to be played as a rock ballad, but Elvis didn’t like that arrangement and decided to go with a more lighthearted beat.
The song’s words tell a love story that plays out like a romance novel. What’s great about this song is that it follows the chapter structure of a book within its lyrics:
“Chapter One: We didn’t really get along.
Chapter Two: I think I fell in love with you.
You said you’d stand by me in the middle of Chapter Three
But you were up to your old tricks
In Chapters Four, Five and Six.”
Play This Song When you’re trying to find a parallel between your life and the story you want to write.
“I’m Writing a Novel” by Father John Misty
Josh Tillman—now known as Father John Misty—was the drummer for the Fleet Foxes. He wrote this tongue-in-cheek song in ten minutes and, according to this interview, has 10–15 extra verses. Alongside the humorous story conveyed, here are just some of the lyrics that elevated this song to this playlist:
“And I’m Writing a Novel
Because it’s never been done before”
“I’ll never leave this canyon ’cause I’m surrounded on all sides
By people writing novels and living on amusement rides”
Play This Song When you’re taking yourself too seriously as a writer.
“Open Book” by Cake
After some grungy 90s-esque beats, this song delves into the story of a woman so mysterious and captivating that it consumes the life of the infamous “you.” Mixed between dissonant chords and trumpet solos, you start thinking less about the love story in this song and more about your writing with lyrics like:
“She’s writing, she’s writing
She’s writing a novel
She’s writing, she’s weaving
Conceiving a plot
It quickens, it thickens
You can’t put it down now”
“You think she’s an open book
But you don’t know which page to turn to, do you?”
Play This Song When you can’t figure out that hard-to-read character in your story.
“Losing It” by Rush
When it comes to ballads about writer’s block, this song pulls the electric heartstrings. Amidst 80s synthesizers and a live-sounding drum beat, Rush’s song captures the tragedy of experiencing the downward fall of artistic success (“Sadder still to watch it die/Than never to have known it”).
No matter what age or stage of your writing career, I think we can all relate to lyrics like this:
“The writer stares with glassy eyes
Defies the empty page
His beard is white, his face is lined
And streaked with tears of rage.
Thirty years ago, how the words would flow
With passion and precision
But now his mind is dark and dulled
By sickness and indecision”
Play This Song When you want to feel super depressed about your writing career.
“Mr. Writer” by Stereophonics
Again, this is another song written in 10 minutes—but has taken the band 10 years to explain. This song, as explained in this interview, targets a journalist who gave them a bad review, but every journalist came to think that the song was targeting them.
Nevermind that. Aside from the personal issues, this song metaphorically paints animosity, be it between characters or between character and author, with lyrics such as:
“Mr. Writer, why don’t you tell it like it is?
Why don’t you tell it like it really is?
Before you go on home”
Play This Song When your character feels slighted by their portrayal in your story.
“If You Could Read My Mind” by Gordon Lightfoot
You’re probably already singing this song inside your head. It took a broken marriage, an empty Toronto home and an afternoon with nothing else to do for Gordon to write this song (as stated in this interview). This song compares a love story gone wrong to a variety of storytelling, from “a paperback novel” to “an old time movie.”
What’s so inspiring about this song is how real and honest the feelings are conveyed, even though the lyrics are a metaphoric comparison between the art of writing and the art of love:
“If I could read your mind love
What a tale your thoughts could tell
Just like a paperback novel
The kind the drugstore sells
When you reach the part where the heartaches come
The hero would be me
Heroes often fail
And you won’t read that book again
Because the ending’s just to hard to take”
Play This Song When you’re struggling to express raw emotions in your story.
“I Typed For Miles” by Jets To Brazil
I believe every writer can, at least at one point, related to the opening lines of this song: “I live in a hotel, I must keep writing / If I’m to be better than everyone else.” A writer’s life, usually at the rocky beginnings of something great, feels like a cramped room that isn’t your own in order to hide behind walls and write words you claim to be your own.
Very poetic of me, don’t you think?
This song captures the desperation of getting the words—nay, the right words!—down on paper at this very moment but we “can’t think with all this noise.” For example:
“Leave me here to my devices
I need a word to change my life
I’ve tied my ankles to the table legs with wire
He can’t write so much as type”
Play This Song When you are on the verge of literary greatness.
“Oxford Comma” by Vampire Weekend
The idea for this song, as revealed in this interview, accidentally came about when lead singer Ezra Koenig first discovered the concept of the Oxford comma while perusing the Facebook group (remember, this is 2008) Students for the Preservation of the Oxford Comma. Month later while writing a song at the piano, the first words out of the singer’s mouth was “who gives a [bleep] about the Oxford comma?”
While this song is more about not giving a hoot rather than the obsession of grammar, the music video does play out in chapter form. The lyrics still rings true for writers who need to let loose a little during a writing session.
Play This Song When you’re lingering on a self-debate about whether or not to use a specific word or punctuation mark instead of continuing to write.
“Rewrite” by Paul Simon
Paul Simon strays away from his famous acoustic guitar sound to experiment with African blues. As he explains in this interview, this song describes a Vietnam war vet wanting to rewrite his life.
But that doesn’t mean these lyrics don’t apply to our writing journey. These lyrics can be sung like a mantra when it’s time to grab that red pen and rework your to-be masterpiece:
“I’m working on my rewrite, that’s right
Gonna change the ending
Throw away the title
And toss it in the trash
Every minute after midnight
All the time I’m spending
Is just for working on my rewrite, that’s right
Gonna turn it into cash”
Play This Song When you need motivation to edit and revise your story.
Did your favorite song for writers about writing not make this list? Share your go-to tune in the comments section below.