Music as a Motivator

Admit it.  You do it.  We all do.  That song you love comes on and you run a little faster, or you lift a little harder, or you press the gas pedal down a little more.  We can’t help it.  A good song triggers something in our brain that seems to give us that little adrenaline jolt that we didn’t know we were missing.  The music can be reminding us of something we did well in the past, or helping us to envision something great we are going to do in the future.  At times, it’s neither.  We simply get lost in the music and for a few precious minutes we aren’t concerned with either the past or present.  We are there and we are pumped up.


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I’m an iPod shuffle junkie.  You will rarely see me out for a run without my iPod.  I’ve never smoked crack, but I’ll go ahead and say, “It’s like crack!”.  There is an ongoing debate in the running community about whether one should listen to music or not when running.  Some argue that it can be dangerous since you may not hear a car coming up behind you.  Some say that by listening to music you are missing out on the serenity that comes with a good long run.  This isn’t the place to have that debate, but I will say that I’ve gone with and without music and I prefer music.  Sometimes, when I think I can’t run any further, a great song come up and it helps get me through that last mile.

There is a creative aspect for me as well.  I mentally “write” my books while I run.  As a child of (mostly) the 80’s, I think I’m firmly entrenched in the movie generation.  Even when writing a book, I tend to visualize it as a movie.  I want to see the action in my head when I’m coming up with plot lines.  I want the image I create of a flickering light bulb or a dimly lit basement to be as vivid in the reader’s mind as if he or she was sitting in a movie theater.  And what do most great movies have?  A great soundtrack.

We all have our own personal soundtrack.  What is motivating for me (bands like Godsmack, Digital Summer, Chevelle, Pop Evil… don’t judge, I like my angry music) will not necessarily be motivating for others.  Some personal soundtracks may be filled with country music.  Others use rap.  Someone probably uses that little blonde kid from Canada that I keep ignoring on TV.  Possibly when punching the heavy bag.

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It’s whatever works for the individual and that may be one of the best things about both music and books.  They are subjective to the creators and subjective to the consumers.  Maybe I wrote a fight scene while hearing a Stone Sour song in my head.  A reader will read that scene and may hear Kelly Clarkson.  Well, maybe not her… but, you get the point.

Whether running, writing, lifting, cutting the grass, or driving to work… What is on your soundtrack?


J.J. Hensley is the author of RESOLVE and other works of fiction.

RESOLVE has been named a finalist for Best First Novel by the International Thriller Writers organization.

RESOLVE was named one of the Best Books of 2013 by Suspense Magazine.

Twitter @JJHensleyauthor


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