Music, Creative Writing, and Coffee

An IMSA student attempting to find creative inspiration for their Digital Literary Studies essay. Source: Grace Yue.

Those of us who’ve struggled in Literary Explorations and AmStud don’t need research to tell us that noise — the right kind of noise — can create the perfect writing environment for cranking out a hard-to-write essay. A nice instrumental piece can help you write a particularly emotional scene for Creative Writing. Or a loud, upbeat song can supply the right ambiance at 2 AM when you need to just finish this paragraph before you fall asleep.

As an Acronym reporter, a literary magazine editor, a blogger, and a college applicant, I basically depend on music (and also sugar and caffeine, but never mind) to help me write.

Below are a few of my favorite websites that make for great writing environments.

Frost Writer. Created by a 17-year-old high school graduate, Mansidak Singh, Frost is a minimalistic word processor with a variety of instrumental soundtracks to help you write. Themes include Calm, Dark, Mild Dark, Summer, Cold (Winter), Love, Rage, and Inspirational. The website is named after famous poet Robert Frost and runs best on Google Chrome.

Note that if you open Frost in an incognito window on Chrome, the background music doesn’t play. So if you plan on using Frost for creative writing, I suggest opening a separate incognito session for the express purpose of Googling deadly poisons to kill off your characters, and all that.

Ambient Mixer. I only recently discovered this, and it’s awesome. They offer nature sounds — including thunderstorms, underwater, and desert settings in addition to the classic raindrop sounds, various coffee shop ambiances, and an entire section of ambiances dedicated to fictional universes. The wide variety of ambiances available is mainly due to the fact that the site is comprised of user-created content.

Each audio consists of 6-8 sound channels — for example, the TARDIS library ambiance includes the sounds of the TARDIS in flight, a fountain pen scratching, pages turning, an old typewriter clicking, a fireplace, a clock ticking, and a chair creaking. The site offers the option to control how much of each sound channel plays — for instance, you can shut off the ticking clock entirely, or lower the volume and/or frequency of the typewriter sounds.

I like to use the Ravenclaw common room for writing and the Robotics Lab for Web Technologies/Object-Oriented programming assignments. Though, after a while, all the ambiances start to sound the same, so don’t put too much thought into finding the “right” one.

Finally, I love working at Starbucks. But if I go to a Starbucks, I feel obligated to buy a drink there, and that doesn’t work for a high-schooler budget. (For more advice on economical coffee options, see here). So the solution is to bring the Starbucks ambiance to my dorm room. While Coffitivity doesn’t have the customization options that Ambient Mixer does, it’s worth checking out if cafe background noises are your thing. My personal favorite is the Morning Murmur, which is great for writing college essays. Also, they have a pretty great blog for freelance (or any) writers.

About the Author

Grace Yue
Grace Yue is a senior from Des Plaines. She's the Opinions section editor for the second year running, a resident of 03A-wing for the third year running, and an honorary resident of 06 for the third year running. Outside of Acronym, she participates in a research project at Fermilab, serves as 03 Head Tutor, and writes for the Korea Daily Chicago's Student Reporters Club.

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