Using Context Cues To Help Writing Moods

Here’s a useful little tip I thought I’d share with you.

I always make playlists to help me with my writing. I find they get me back into the right headspace. And you know what? There’s actually science behind this.


Godden & Baddeley (1975).

These guys tested memory on SCUBA divers, underwater and on land. In a nutshell, their findings were that subjects scored higher on the memory test when the environment was the same (so learning underwater and then recalling on land, for example, scored less than learning underwater and recalling underwater).

And that got me thinking. You know when you’re trying to write and you can’t get yourself into the zone? I’m sure you do. Perhaps you’ve had the initiative to nab yourself a full time job and you don’t want to bleat on about being struggling artist, so you have to write at certain moments during the night or day – stolen moments. Well, this might help.

Make a playlist to help you slip back into the mood. Use its context cues to trigger the emotions you need to write whatever it is you’re writing.

I’ve been doing this since Dot Matrix. Now, Dot Matrix is an angry sort of tale, so, naturally, the playlist is a little heavy. Every time I’d sit down to write it, I’d listen to the same gaggle of songs. I think it helped enormously with getting me back into the right frame of mind. I’ve used the same technique with Property, Twenty-Seven and everything after.

With the world moving faster by the day, one needs these little tricks to maximise creativity.

Anyway, here’s the playlist I listened to when I wrote Dot Matrix.

Enjoy 🙂

If you want to read a little further, Eysenck & Keane write a lot about this kind of stuff.


  1. I don’t like using songs with lyrics when i write as I find them distracting, so I usually go with ambient noise or instrumental music. But yes using the same tracks for certain types of scenes or just getting in to it, is definitely something I do and would recommend.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good point. When putting down the initial draft, I tend to have shouty rock music as loud as it’ll go, although when doing the fiddly parts (editing, for example), I’ll often have to have absolute silence.


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