Writing Angry: 7 Songs to Ignite the Flame

By Daniel Ford and Dave Pezza

As you can see from the above photo, Stephanie Schaefer correctly points out that I have more angst in my little finger than she does in her entire body (Dave Pezza also adds a deep quote about the writing life).

On days like today, when even the street signs feel like extended middle fingers, that angst can propel my writing so I’m able to pump out stories like “343” or “Cherry on Top.”

In that spirit, Pezza and I compiled a list of songs that should add a little fire to your words.

“The Pretender” by The Foo Fighters

Lyrics for writers: “The page is out of print/We are not permanent/We're temporary, temporary/Same old story”

Daniel: Let’s. Go.

“Thin Line” by HoneyHoney

Lyrics for writers: Some days I try hard/To watch my mouth/To say the right things But the wrong just slip right out”

Daniel: Not all anger is a raging hot volcano of cursing and spitting. Sometimes it simmers just below the surface like a dollar bill stuffed in your waistline by a hammy fist attached to a sweaty meathead (I’m assuming). HoneyHoney is a band that never fails to warm your boiler to just the right temperature.

“Heart of the City” by Jay Z

Lyrics for writers: “Ain't no love, in the heart of the city/I said where's the love?/Ain't no love, in the heart of town”

Daniel: Didn’t see that one coming, did you? Sometimes you need a little New York City swagger in your life when the world isn’t breaking your way. I’d also recommend everything on “The Black Album.” I’d also be 150% less angry if I had a quarter of Jay Z’s money.   

“My Least Favorite Life” by Lera Lynn

Lyrics for writers: This is my least favorite life/The one where I am out of my mind/The one where you are just out of reach/The one where I stay and you fly”

Dave: Sneaky angry. You can hear her anger bubbling under the surface of the eerie timbre of her guitar and voice, making you shiver and clench fists all in one breathe that is humid with epinephrine.

“Arsonist’s Lullabye” by Hozier

Lyrics for writers: “All you have is your fire/And the place you need to reach/Don't you ever tame your demons/But always keep them on a leash”

Daniel: As you can tell by now, we’re fans of the slow burn. Doesn’t mean you can’t use a blowtorch (to your prose, people, stay of the news) while you’re stewing in your own fury.

“Respect” by Otis Redding

Lyrics for writers: “And I'm about to, just give you all of my money/And all I'm asking, hey/A little respect when I come home, hey, hey.”

Daniel: Sure, Otis is smiling while he sings “Respect” but, man, he sounds like a man who had to watch “House Hunters International” one too many times. 

“Powderfinger” by Neil Young

Lyrics for writers: All of them. It’s a David Joy story waiting to happen.

Daniel: Red means run, son.

More From The Writer's Guide to Music

Haunted Playlist: Author Steph Post's 10 Songs Will Drive A Writer Mad

By Steph Post

This is not the soundtrack for my novel A Tree Born Crooked. I put that baby out on Largehearted Boy’s Book Notes series a few months ago. The novel soundtrack featured artists such as Rancid, Hank III, Reverend Horton Heat, and, of course, Tom Waits.

That was the playlist of Budweiser, pickup trucks, and cheap motels. Each song had a particular scene or character that it was perfectly matched to. This is the playlist of dreams. They are mostly instrumental songs because usually words get in the way of making words. These are the songs of late nights and early mornings. The songs meant for that space between reality and fantasy, which is the manna that writers feed on. Those liminal moments after the last glass, when the line between yourself and your characters blur. When anything is possibly, because you can make it possible. Even if you’re only lying on the floor with your headphones in, eyes closed, doors in your head opening. These are the song you are meant to give in to. The songs you listen to alone, so you can create a story for someone else.

Cat Power or Michael Hurley “Werewolf”

(Both versions are equally haunting) This is for the fairytales. For the archetypal fears that will bubble to the surface if we let them.

Alexandre Desplat “The Imitation Game”

This is for peeling back the layers on the characters wearing the masks. For seeing behind and beneath.

Dawn Mitchele “Float Like a Feather”

This is for trying to understand romance. For breaking it down into its most essential instance: vulnerability.

Trevor Morris “Messenger of War”

This is for the epics. For trying to dream on a grander scale.

Hans Zimmer “Coward”

This is for understanding what’s at stake. For putting two characters in a room, locking the door and letting it all play out from there.

Brandon Flowers “Only the Young”

This is for the moment of hope. For letting the heroes win.

Nine Inch Nails “The Hand that Feeds”

This is for the badass characters. The women who take no prisoners. The men who refuse to compromise. 

The Evolved “Theme from World War Z”

This is for urgency. This is for setting the story in motion.

Clint Mansell “Lux Aeterna”

This is for sadness. For saying goodbye. For the character who has to be sacrificed for the story.

Foo Fighters “Walk”

This is for screaming “fuck you” at the top of your lungs. To the critics. To the voices of doubt within yourself. To not having enough time or space or inspiration. This is the gauntlet thrown down in challenge.

May we all take it.  May we all slip on our headphones and dare to dream. And then dare even further to write.

Steph Post

Steph Post

To learn more about Steph Post, check out her official website, like her Facebook page, or follow her on Twitter @StephPostAuthor. Also check out our interview with the author.

If any authors, writers, or musicians are interested in submitting a post for consideration, email or tweet us @WritersBone.

For more writing playlists, check out our full archive