Every writer is different. We need different environments to elicit a productive writing space. I'm a writer who needs music. Instrumental or vocal – it doesn't matter. Since Astrid becomes a mechanic in the course of my book, I'll borrow from Auto Repair for Dummies for an apt metaphor for the role music plays in my writing: “Oil constantly circulates through your engine to keep its moving parts...lubricated to move freely and to reduce the friction that causes your engine to heat up.”
Music is the oil of my mental engine. My mood determines which music I listen to, but I need music to sink into the writing groove. For a short time, I hear the singer and the lyrics and then the writing takes over and I don't pay any attention to it. I just know I'm writing and thinking more smoothly because of it. (I've tested this—I've tried writing without music and it does not go well.)
Over the winter, a number of artists met me on the page every day. I listened primarily to Sia's 1000 Forms of Fear and Colour the Small One albums. 1000 Forms of Fear was intense and had a great beat. It was “pump me up” music. Colour the Small One was quieter, more contemplative and soothing. In the deep of winter, these albums ushered me into a cozy mental space for meeting myself and Astrid and whoever else appeared on the page. I also listened to Erin McCarley's Love, Save the Empty, Coldplay's Mylo Xyloto, Ingrid Michalson's Lights Out, Greg Laswell's Landline, Avett Brothers' Mignonette, Imagine Dragons' Night Visions, Fine Frenzy's Bomb in a Birdcage, Florence and the Machine's Ceremonials and Lungs, the Little Miss Sunshine soundtrack, and Sting's The Last Ship.
While I was establishing a writing habit, I was also training for my first 5K to satisfy one of the items on my 40/40 list. I discovered that the music I wrote to was the same music I was drawn to when I trained. I hadn't expected this. I assumed the two activities would require different music. But for me, writing and running were different expressions of the same things: setting goals, showing up, and doing the hard work. Both require determination, tenacity, belief.