So Fresh and So Clean: Maddie N’s Brainstorming Playlist

By October 17, 2014Writing about Writing

When I write, I like to start with brainstorming ideas and then to turn those ideas into an outline. After rounding up a copious supply of writing utensils, reference materials, and clutch snacks, I often find that I need an extra push to actually start brainstorming and to write an outline.My mind seems to aimlessly wander. I find myself on the verge of scrolling through Tumblr or watching another episode of Parks and Recreation. I need an extra aid to commit to my writing process, helping all of my ideas to flow. This Uncle Jesse of a tool is one that is so fresh and so clean that it can wash away all of the anxious thoughts of deadlines and writing imperfections. So this is how I do it and keep it real: the brainstorming playlist!

Starting Off

The first few tracks need to be fire, and not in a chemical equation kind of way, but in a way that will grab my attention, enabling me to block out my current setting. This is why I blare something atonal, polyphonic, or just loud in general. In Death Grips’ “Takyon”, rapper MC Ride provides a slap that pushes your face to the grindstone.

Settling In

After this, I find that I need to listen to a few songs that pack a heavy punch, but are also encouraging. “Hypnotize” by The White Stripes not only presents a tantalizing beat, but also provides a sense of comfort through the lyrics, helping me to concentrate and focus. What’s better than Jack White proclaiming  his assistance, specifically through the act of holding your hand? Awww, Jack!

Getting to Work

As these intense songs run through the playlist, I am drawn to my work. I “word salad” my ideas and write down my thoughts in a manner that matches the tempo of these songs, in a fast and meaningful way. Once I have gone through the process of jotting all of my hypotheses and thoughts down, I am left with a mess to organize. The songs that I find accompany the process of revision the best are 90’s alternative tracks from the beginnings of indie rock. “Cut Your Hair” by Pavement provides an upbeat tempo and encouragement: I “mean a lot,” just like “when songs are bought.”  Sebedoh’s “Magnets Coil,” aids me in loosening my mind and focusing on what matters—in this case, a strong argument and claims!

Nearing the End

The last few songs on the playlist provide me encouragement, helping me to keep on keeping on in my organizational process.  Kansas’s “Carry on my Wayward Son”…  Just kidding! Who would ever listen to or visit Kansas, probably Mackenzie C’s dad!

But for real, the playlist ends with mellow songs. “Doing Fine,” by Beck and “Just Make it Stop” by help me to unwind and finish my writing process. These songs include a soothing melancholy sound, helping me to hone in on any any weak points in my outline. A soft timbre and airy character aids in my concentration. Loud and energetic pieces grab my attention and prepare me for the beginning of my writing process.


Once I near the end of my work, I need emotive noise that guides me through the polishing of these points. As soon as I finish reworking my outline and organizing it to the best of my ability, I usually hit the last song of my playlist,  “No Scrubs” by TLC. I have washed myself clean of this assignment and am proud to have no scrub ideas left in my outline.

Enjoy the tunes, Doods!

Join the discussion One Comment

  • Rachel P. says:

    I really enjoyed reading about your writing process in this post, Maddie! I like to write to music as well, but I can only write to instrumentals – and I’d never thought of having a specific playlist to suit my writing process. I’m gonna try your playlist sometime and see how it works for me! =]