The Freelancer’s Soundtrack: 10 Songs That Will Help You Get in the Zone

By Clint Corey November 26th, 2014

To get in the zone, athletes listen to music while they warm-up, subconsciously auditioning for the next Beats by Dre headphones commercial as they coolly nod their heads.

But what if you’re not a professional sports star who needs to drown out an angry mob of fans? What if you’re a freelancer just trying to find the right inspiration? Can music provide the same motivation to help you finish that article or illustration due by the end of the day?

The answer is a resounding yes. A number of studies suggest listening to music you like can improve your mood and prepare your mind for work. Furthermore, listening to music allows you to get into what Dr. Daniel J. Levitin, author of This Is Your Brain on Music, refers to as mind-wandering mode, which is an essential space for creativity.

Here is a list of songs freelancers should be able to appreciate as they try to get in the zone. Come for the Doors, stay for the Eric B. and Rakim.

1. Lindsey Buckingham: “Go Insane”

Freelancers often obsess over absurd mundane details such as refreshing a Gmail inbox every six seconds or remembering whether or not they paid the electric bill. That’s enough to make anyone go insane.

2. The Doors: “Break on Through”

Many naive writers get into the profession because they seek transcendence or a higher truth, a sentiment Jim Morrison explores when he tells the listener to “break on through to the other side.”

Or, we can take a more literal approach for those who get evicted and have to break on through the door to get their possessions—a bean bag chair, the TV you got for $20 at Goodwill, and your laundry basket that doubles as a TV stand.

3. Peter Gabriel: “Digging in the Dirt”

Investigative journalists are constantly digging to unearth the truth. You need to be careful, however, not to dig too deep, or you could wind up “sleeping with the fishes.”

4. The Posies: “Dream All Day”

One of a writer’s greatest gifts is imagination, which many of us rely on before we actually sit down and grind out an article.

But daydreaming can also be a shortcoming for freelancers who think of scenarios completely off-topic, such as fantasizing about Jessica Alba serving you chicken wings in an Arizona State University jersey. Sorry, that’s generally what I daydream about.

5. Eric B. & Rakim: “Paid in Full”

Freelancers can definitely relate to the lyric: “So I dig in my pocket, all my money is spent / So I dig deeper still comin’ up with lint.”

Guess Rakim is familiar with the struggle of waiting for invoices to process.

6. The Replacements: “Here Comes a Regular”

A poignant, bittersweet song in which Paul Westerberg croons, “Here comes a regular / Am I the only one here today?Just be careful not to overdo it on the alcohol or you might end up in the city’s public pool on an alligator raft wearing only a Jagermeister hat and muttering different lines from your favorite unpublished longform profile.

7. The Stone Roses: “I Wanna Be Adored”

To be recognized for your talent is one of the great intrinsic rewards of being a freelance creative. Unfortunately, the one loyal fan of your blog is from a town in South Dakota you’ve never heard of, and his interests include corn dogs and classic Intellivision video games.

8. The War on Drugs: “Under the Pressure”

Making money, meeting deadlines, and dealing with unreasonable editors are just a few of the many pressures most freelancers can relate to. Not to mention, the pressure of living with your roommate Randy whom you believe is secretly adding typos to your articles when you’re not around.

How are you supposed to work under these conditions?

9. The White Stripes: “Seven Nation Army”

Randy notwithstanding, to make it as a freelancer, you needs to believe you could persevere with armies in your way. Up to seven armies, at least. If you have to confront eight armies before filing a draft, you’ll probably fail. Too bad it only takes a Freaks and Geeks marathon on IFC to keep you from working.

10. The Who: “The Seeker”

We’re back to seeking a higher truth. Let us know if you find it listening to Pete Townshend while you pitch a gonzo journalism story to Rolling Stone.

Soundtrack complete. I hope my collection of songs inspires you to make your own freelancer playlist to listen to while warming up your finger muscles. Who knows, the insight and inspiration may just be the difference that helps take your creativity to that next level.

Image by Jens Meyer
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