Are audiobooks the key to better writing?

Young man listening to audiobookStrange question I know. But even stranger is what I noticed after I got an Audible subscription for Christmas.

I’ve been listening to audiobooks non-stop since. It’s pretty addictive. Sometimes it’s a nice change to listen to a book instead of reading. It’s more convenient too. You can do it on the commute to work, walking round the shops or even in the gym.

Since I got back to work after Christmas I’ve had a fair bit of writing to do. Like any writing projects, I have distinct peaks and troughs in productivity. However, I noticed a very cool trend.

Periodically during the day I would listen to my audiobooks. Whether walking to work or having some coffee. I quickly noticed that as soon as I sat down after doing this, the words simply flowed.

It was crazy. I couldn’t believe it at first so I decided to test it. When I found myself struggling and slowing down with my writing, I would intentionally stop and put in my earphones.

After 15 – 30 minutes of listening to one of my audiobooks I would get back to work again and guess what?

The writing came easily! Not just that – it was crazy fast!

Strange right? I honestly can’t explain why (maybe you can?) I’ve written about how music makes me write faster but this is different. The same thing doesn’t happen when I listen to music, or even when I listen to a podcast. It’s only with audiobooks where someone is actually reading words off a page.

I’ve heard Inger from the Thesis Whisperer say that she finds reading trashy fiction helps with writing and I think my experience here is similar. It might also be related to the fact that I’m taking a break from writing to focus on something else.

Who knows!

Anyway if you want to give it a try, here are some things to consider:

Make sure you’re not working on your writing while listening to your book. It’s not a good idea to focus on both.

I found my best results came where I listened to the recording at 3X normal speed. This sounds a bit weird but it works wonders. I used the Audible player on my phone which lets you do this (there are others too). The voices sound a bit strange but when someone is talking that fast, it forces your brain to switch gear and you focus intently. Once you switch off the audiobook to begin writing, this focus lingers for a while and I’ve found I can use it to great effect when I want to get those words on the page.

I’ve listened to fiction and non fiction with much the same effect. It doesn’t seem to matter which.

I’ve only ever used for audiobooks. I know you can buy CD’s easily enough and I think there are some free website (I just haven’t found them yet – maybe you can let me know).

So there you have it. I’d love to know if you’ve ever experienced this before. If you haven’t, please give it a try and let me know what happens in the comments.


    • says

      I’ve just finished listening to Game of Thrones which was interesting (and took a long time!) Now I’m listening to the Undercover Economist.

    • says

      I know right! I think the magic is when you listen to the written word as opposed to a conversation. It seems to condition my brain to write. Weird…

  1. Sarah Stephens says

    I suggest the Overdrive app to everyone looking for audiobooks. It is a listening platform that links to your local library’s online content. Overdrive lets you sign into your library with your library card and then check out audiobooks and/or digital books. The books can be listened to or read on any device, including your smartphone. A perk is that the book, audio or ePub, is automatically returned on the due date. There are never library late fees.

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