The Key of Sea – A Music Playlist to Write By

I’m often asked about the details of my preferred writing environment — the setting, the ambiance. I’m a bare bones writer who enjoys solitude and appreciates nothing more on my desk than a laptop and a tea light — my six-hour “contract” to show up, stay put, and write.

To avoid diversion, I turn off my cell phone and limit my writing screen to two ingredients: a white page and a black background.

My desk is situated by a window that overlooks a well-seasoned, rugged oak tree in our front yard. When there are noise distractions outside, I put on headphones, turn the volume low, and listen to instrumental music.

For me, the essential element for music to write by is that it must transport me to the ocean:

  • I want to hear the seagulls screeching overhead and waves crashing on the shore.
  • I want to taste the salt in the air and dig my toes in the sand.
  • I want to squint from the brilliant shimmer of sun glancing off the waves.
  • I want the sea breeze to ruffle my hair as it carries the briny smell of seaweed.
Encinitas, CA

With this in mind, I created The Key of Sea — a music playlist to write by. Even though I’ve listed specific tracks below, all of the recordings on each album are transportive. Bon voyage!

Nova Scotia

Album – Ocean Dreams

Artist – Dean Evenson

Track – Lightly Salted

Whale Point, Eleuthera Island — Bahamas

Album – Earth Spring

Artists – Frank Smith & Kat Epple

Track – The Open Sea

Bellingham Bay, WA

Album – Ocean Waves

Artist – Deuter

Track – Théoule-Sur-Mer

Coronado Island

Album – The Property of Water

Artist – Paul Adams

Track – The Serene Dance of Thunder

Footsie on the Beach

Album – Simply Beautiful

Artist – Nadama

Track – Whale Song

Aberdeen, Scotland

Where do you want your music to transport you?


73 thoughts on “The Key of Sea – A Music Playlist to Write By

  1. Nice beach/ocean photos! I love your very Amish way of sitting aside the space and time to write, no distractions, none… you white page, and your mind!

    There are some classical pieces I listen to when, writing, or shifting in to a state of being, none of them being ocean sounds, I think they would make me have to go the the bathroom, LOL!

  2. I write best in absolute silence, Laurie, but I use music for meditating – classical, New Age. I use the ocean sounds for centering prayer. I use drumming for shamanic journeying. I like Ray Lynch’s music (Deep Breakfast) for doing my yoga. For driving, give me rock and roll (60’s and 70’s). Okay, this is more like 3 cents worth of stuff . . .

  3. Hum, Laurie I am a bit of an minimalist when it comes to music accompaniment me in my in my creative work. I usually like the silence that comes with the noise of nature. There is an exception and that is road trips. I do not have a specific genre of music but most is chosen to keep me company as I mentally travel to other road trips and other times in my life. Sometimes, I choose music for a difficult-to-find-words moment often containing a big-brush spiritual element. The violin and cello frequently give voice to these moments. I love you collection of ocean images. As you know the ocean is a big part of my daily living experience.

    All the best of the holidays Laurie to you and Len and I look forward to connecting again in the New Year.

    • Terrill – I’m a minimalist when it comes to music when writing, too. I prefer to use it only when there are outside noise distractions (we live on a street with lots of children, so it happens often enough). You’re surrounded by the ocean where you live – aaaaaaaaaaah – heavenly.

  4. Hi Laurie,
    LOVE your choices of music. I usually play similar but not always the sea. Depends what I’m writing. I tend to be eclectic. Goes along with my flexatarian nature I guess.

    • Heather – Neither of the two books I’m currently work on are about the sea, but one of them takes place near the sea (Bellingham Bay, Washington – one of the photos I shared in this post is from there). For me, a flame is a “sacred contract.” When I light a tea light (I’ve discovered that Yankee tea lights burn the longest), it’s a commitment to keep at it until the flame goes out on its own (between 5-6 hours).

    • Kathy M. – My first preference is silence as well. I use music if there are noise distractions that are beyond my control. I’m glad you enjoyed the photographs from our various travels. Happy holidays to you and yours!

  5. When I am focused on something I’m doing, I usually block all sounds and sights around me, so it matters not at all what the music/sounds are. The criteria always is that when I play my music it is to be there, but to be able to be ignored if I choose or listened to when I choose. It must not be too loud, unless at the moment loud is what I want.

  6. I love this post, Laurie! I want my music to transport me to the sea, too, and for all the same reasons… The seagull looking at you on Coronado Island is very handsome. I have to admit that I’m a little sea-green with envy that you’ve been to so many more seashores than I have. 🙂

  7. Hi Laurie

    Living where I do, I do not need to be transported anywhere.

    Like you, sometimes there are noises that music can mask, sometimes just the sound of the waves on the beach, and the birds or the wind is sufficient in itself.

    I think that perhaps the time is rapidly approaching for the discipline of time you write of.

    Certainly the views of the ocean and the mountains needs nothing more.

    • Ted – You don’t need any music at all! Between Ailsa’s exquisite piano playing, and living in perpetual “seashore surround sound” – you’ve got it made in the shade 🙂 [Please keep me posted when you carve out time and start writing a book – I’ll be one of many on your cheerleading squad]…

  8. Water, be it a lake, stream, ocean or even just the sound, is so powerful. Our bodies are mostly made of water. And the ocean is from where mankind first evolved. It seems to make sense that the presence of water would somehow touch our souls, in the deepest of ways. I feel both humbled yet empowered, when experiencing water. It is where I feel the most in touch with myself. The flow of the water encourages my creativity to also flow. Of course, I live in the middle of “hotter than hades” Texas. Most days,
    my water comes from sweat,, but hey, I’ll take what I can get. Really enjoy your blog!

  9. What a great post Laurie.
    I need to write in quiet but I often do creative meditation before I write by walking or listening to music which stimulates the creative part of the brain. On Wise Ears I have been sharing the book Healing At The Speed Of Sound ( they have a facebook page) and the author breaks down music and recommends music and sounds for different activities one is involved with….Mozart for Math work and tonight I am using Samuel Barber’s Adagio for my Epiphany preparation workshop I am teaching ( Epiphany is the day the Wise Men arrived in Bethlehem bringing gifts – January 6th, I believe this year. What the song the 12 days of Christmas is really about!) My book group wanted to use Advent, the season of preparation, to design their Christmas Celebrations, Solstice experiences, Meditations, and New Years adventures. None of them had ever celebrated Epiphany except as a day of bonfires to burn your Christmas trees.

    For 6 of the 9 women this is a year they will have no children coming home for the holidays and none of them are traveling to see children except one who has a new grandie just 2 hours away and 2 weeks old. A great deal of empty nest that wants for some memorable moments to be brought to light.

    I have a lovely giveaway on Patricias Wisdom for the next couple of weeks that I see you have already discovered. Thank you for your good words.

    I will have a dozen guests at my table next week so I am taking a couple of weeks off of writing, but I will be checking in along the way as time permits. I am so excited to meet all of these new people and find out all about them.

    I know the picture of Bellingham Bay so well…Beautiful sharing.

    • Patricia – First and foremost, let me put a link here to your blog so others can find it and partake in your lovely giveaway opportunity:

      Don’t you just love Bellingham Bay? It’s very close to the setting (and plays a part in) a fiction book I’m currently working on (slower than a herd of turtles in a jar of peanut butter). Once upon a time (or as my son would say, “in the olden days”) I lived up in that neck of the woods for five years. It’s an extraordinarily beautiful part of the country.

      Your Epiphany workshop sounds like delicious food for the soul! Have a wonderful time off with your company. As a subscriber to your blog I’ll look for email notification that you’re back up and running once you return.

      • One of my daughters went to Western Washington University in Bellingham and My brother in law lives in Lyndon and has a lovely home on Birch Bay. Just a stunning spot on earth, though they got more snow then we did last night!

        Thank you for the link. I think many of your readers would love a chance at a copy of the book giveaway.

        In the windstorm proceeding the snow we could hear the waves crashing into the docks downtown – it was very high tide. Was not very restful, but stirred other creative thinking

      • Patricia – So you’re a very familiar Washingtonian. It’s quite possibly the greenest state I’ve been in; offering a rugged coastline as well as beautiful mountains. And while not the tallest, the Cascades are among my favorites 🙂

  10. Hi,
    What a beautiful way to write, listening to the sounds of the sea. I have always found the sounds of water very relaxing, soothing I suppose. Growing up in a tropical climate, we are usually somewhere near water on our hot days if possible, the beach is always great, but I also love the sound of mountain streams as well, very nice.

  11. Laurie, it is a great post again.
    Since I haven’t open an account in the word press, and before I was able to get your post on my mail every Tuesday. But already been a month, I must wait until every Wednesay. I love to wait for it even there is a change of the transmssion.
    It is nice to arrange the environment for writing. I have used to be live near to the beach and face to the sea. Everyday and night, it gave good spirit for our life to my family, I thought that was the music from the sea to reflect onto the light to our life too. It was the melody to each season and for the yield of good year.
    Thank you so much to recall my memory for all those golden time I had been spent to raise up my boy along the beach.
    Bless you and wish you have a Merry Christmas.

  12. Love your photos! Oh, beach music, I love beach music althogh mine tends to run to the Beach Boys, Jan and Dean, and that crowd. Well, some Southern Outlaw like the Allman Bros. But when I write, I want nothing but the wind and bird song, I have to listen to the voice in my head. That phot of Aberdeen reminded me of the Newfoundland coast!

    • Sandi –

      The music you listed is among my favorite driving music. I can roll down the window and holler along, while every now and then adding to the beat with my dashboard drums. And you’re absolutely right in that the coastline in Aberdeen, Scotland quickly brings to mind the Newfoundland coast.

  13. “My desk is situated by a window that overlooks a well-seasoned, rugged oak tree in our front yard.”

    Yes, I have gazed on at that location, and nature is there for the taking Laurie! Yes, the tranquility and minimalist trappings are always the way to go when you are negotiating creativity. The ravishing photos made me think of Terrill and Mayne Island, where some waterfront tapestries have been most transformative. I’d love to vist the U.K., and have tentitive plans to do so. As far as music, it is usyally classical with me. Ralp Vaugn Williams would go great with your sensory photos here!

    • Sam – I’m dying to get my eyes on some of Terrill’s Mayne Island coastline. Gosh, but the photos she’s shared with us have been breathtaking! Tentative plans for a visit to the UK? Ohhhhhh, you’ll have to keep us posted!

  14. As a person who doesn’t regularly listen to music, your words and photos have suddenly made me wish for a playlist like yours from whence to write. (Have been listening to Christmas music, though. Happy holy-days to you, Ms. Laurie!)

  15. I LOVE reading about other writers’ habits. Like you, I ned silence and lack of distraction to do my best writing, but I find that even music distracts too much. However, I know lots of writers who prefer it – and I think you sound track idea is fabulous — so fabulous, I’m going to share it with the Twittersphere! Happy holidays, Laurie.

  16. Wow!
    I have never really given such detailed thoughts to where I want my music to transprt me to, but your own idea seems so beautiful.
    I feel like borrowing yours.
    Lovely post, lovely pick, lovely perspective!

  17. I’ve thought about this post for two days now–and am trying to figure out what it is really asking. Is it asking what writing environments are acceptable (I can write in a wide range of settings) or what is my preferred environment with the emphasis on the word “preferred.” My preferred writing environment is a quiet room, a comfortable chair, a cup of coffee, and a cozy sweater.

  18. And, now that I’ve posted my comment, I went back and read your original question–and realized that I hadn’t answered it at all, but was rather responding to what some of the other commenters had said.

    To answer the question–I want music to transport me to a peaceful farm scene.

  19. Pingback: Zero Dark Thirty, Amour, The Impossible, Barbara, Perks/Wallflower, Comedy Countdown and Newtown Tragedy on Monday Morning Diary (December 24) « Wonders in the Dark

  20. Have no idea how I’m going to retire to Monterrey, Ca. but, somehow, I’ll do just that because, that’s where I want to be…..listening to the magic of the ocean as it waves friendly. music to my ears…So, i have a quiet music of nature’s ocean’s waves, with gulls, and seals. Nature’s sound effects keep me company, very much in the background, as I write.

  21. Laurie, I’m totally with you on the beach. Right now I have a lot of things to accomplish in the city (Milwaukee), but I will retire on the beach… and visit plenty more times before then. I can’t wait to try out some of your tunes. Thanks for sharing all the beautiful pictures!

    🙂 KMC

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  23. I, too, am a beach fan. It definitely connects me with a flow of soulful creativity. So glad I found your blog. I love your line, “Whatever you are not changing, you are choosing.” So true. And a great reminder!

  24. Hi Laurie! I have a 120 sq. foot studio in my backyard, and I stare at my giant pecan trees or rose bushes when I write. Music is satellite. I listen to whatever mood strikes me BUT I listen to stations I would never listen to sometimes – about 2X week. It’s interesting how it makes the writing process flow differently. I was inspired by Miuccia Prada who said: “Women always try to tame themselves as they get older, but the ones who look best are often a bit wilder.” My new mantra for 2013. 🙂

  25. This post reminded me of my husband, Laurie. He currently paints wherever this is a small amount of space for him, but it is our dream and goal to one day have a separate space where he can retreat into creativity. As it stands, other life things (laundry, cooking, cleaning, etc.) always seem to interrupt his flow and prevent him from being fully immersed in the zone. One day…
    It was interesting to read about your writing ritual and space. The tea light is a great idea. 🙂

    • Dana – It’s always great when you stop by, thank you. If I’m not mistaken, you guys are in Arizona right now. Hopefully the warm climate will go a long way toward thawing you both out, and unleashing his amazing creativity!

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