Playlist: Music For Writing With Your Heart Split Open

I’d drink white wine from a coffee mug with the window cracked and my heart split open. I had this stupid blog where I kept all my feelings and these songs made me feel really vulnerable and if you’re going to share all your feelings with hundreds of strangers then that’s the kind of music you need. You need music that can gut you.

I’ve gone through phases with writing music. Before mp3s and iTunes and Limewire and streaming music, it wasn’t so easy to put a bunch of different songs on a list and listen to them so you’d have to pick entire CDs. So in the 90’s I would write to random stuff like Sarah McLachlan, Miles Davis, Billie Holiday, Mazzy Star, Beethoven, Ida, Nick Drake, Bob Dylan, Beatles’ The White Album, the Stealing Beauty soundtrack.

The thing about writing music is the words. So you try to find some songs without words, and songs that are slow. Or you pick songs with words you know so well that it’s almost like there actually aren’t any words at all. If I’m writing about something other than my feelings or your feelings, then I’ll just listen to classical music on Pandora. I recommend that.

So these are songs you could write to if you wanted to. None of the words are too distracting, but it sets a mood.

What do you listen to when you write?

Ave MariaFranz Schubert
Swimming PoolFreezepop
23Jimmy Eat World
This is EverythingTegan & Sara
Ender Finch
Suite Bergamasque: III. Clair de LuneClaude Debussy & Michel Beroff
What the Snowman Learned About LoveStars
Flamenco SketchesMiles Davis
RevellingAni DiFranco
Set Fire to the Third BarSnow Patrol
If 6 was 9Jimi Hendrix
The Gift of Balance – Gorecki
Breathe MeSia
Lover, You Shoulda Come OverJeff Buckley
Will the NightLow
Dome Epais – Delibes
Fade into YouMazzy Star
Einstein On the Beach – Knee 5Phillip Glass Ensemble
It’s a FirePortishead
Nora – Dar Williams
Take it With MeTom Waits
Mystery Lights – Uh Huh Her
A Case of You Joni Mitchell
Roxana’s AriaKarol Szymanowski
Act I: O Soave Faniculla – Herbert Von Karahan; Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
God Bless the ChildBillie Holiday
Trois Gymnopedies: No 1Anne Queffelec
Sick of MeAni DiFranco
The Blower’s DaughterDamien Rice
High HopesPink Floyd
Pink MoonNick Drake
You Don’t Know What Love Is John Coltrane
NovemberAzure Ray
Cruel and ClumsyChris Pureka

Write it Out Oh-Seven Style from Autostraddle on 8tracks.

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Riese is the 41-year-old Co-Founder of as well as an award-winning writer, video-maker, LGBTQ+ Marketing consultant and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and now lives in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in nine books, magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. She's Jewish and has a cute dog named Carol. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 3181 articles for us.


  1. Riese, I know I speak for many of us in a very specific way when I say that you speak for many of us in a very specific way.

    Reading your blog was like seeing my own history through a new lens. Realizing I was queer after several honest hetero relationships, posting heart-wrenching personal but relatable emotional truths in my livejournal, an unhealthy obsession with Tegan & Sara, a desire to bring together the thoughtful and intelligent queer community in a thoughtful and intelligent way… That you’ve actually leapt across the dragon-filled chasms to do this–even fallen in and fought a few–and created this place, while I and many others can only stare in quiet (and sometimes not-so-quiet) appreciation of your realization of this reality, knowing the talents that you harbour somewhere inside, that you sometimes painfully unlock to share to make the world a more honest and connected place: it inspires us that we may unlock our own talents and jump our own dragon-chasms and fight our own dragons. And then, as if all that inspiration weren’t enough, you post these lists to nudge us along even further.

    Thank you.

  2. I don’t know how I can possibly top the previous comment, but I just have to say that I’m so glad is accessible on my work computer. The Autostraddle playlists make my work day significantly better. (I’m listening to the Nicki Minaj one right now. With headphones, obvs.)

  3. I write to my girl each week and music is very important. My thoughts flow more nicely when music is in the background. So thanks for the list of songs!

  4. I found the Battlestar Galactica soundtracks incredibly helpful when I had a lot of words to write and not enough time to write them.

    • what?! I’d get waaay too stressed out about who’s a Cylon and whether the Colonial fleet is gonna self-destruct to be able to write, listening to that soundtrack.

  5. I find Bon Iver a good choice FOR EVERYTHING, but also for this sort of writing specifically.

    Thanks for this playlist Riese, I’m listening to it right now while struggling with a, uh, history essay. It’s a very difficult essay. It feels like my heart is being split open with frustration, if that helps…

  6. My music choice depends on what I’m writing, but for things about my feelings I prefer Bikini Kill, Go Betty Go, Jack off Jill and the like. It helps me get it out without being overly sad. I’m writing a fantasy story at the moment and I match my music with the tone of a scene, which helps a ton.

  7. Ugh, I have so many feelings about The Blower’s Daughter. I don’t WANT to have any feelings about it, but that just makes the feelings worse.

    • it honestly breaks my heart into five thousand pieces, it’s so much representative of this really specific time, and then it was in Closer and also in the finale of The L Word, and actually i think that song might have more feelings associated with it than like any other song in the world, def top ten

  8. i’m not religious anymore, but something about a childhood raised in a church whose midnight mass silence is broken only by ave maria… i just hit play and my heart literally started beating more slowly, as weird as that sounds. (after a long time writer’s blocked, this feeling again feels important…)

    wow brb feelings, seriously. thank you for this.

  9. Just started taking a class called “feelings.” Part of the class is keeping a journal. What I’m trying to say here is expect a lot of page views Riese, I’m going to be using this playlist a lot.

  10. re-found this playlist. needed it so, so badly. can you say 8-page journal entry? starting a new novel? came out three days ago? yeah. riese. thank you. <3

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