Don’t Write Alone | Where We Write

Looping Music Takes Me to a “Place” Where I Can Write

Putting songs on repeat helps me get into a writing flow, return to my projects after time away, and access memories and moods more easily.

How Far the Light Reaches

The New York Times Magazine

This song makes me feel as if I am inside a champagne glass, surrounded by wavering curtains of ascending bubbles. I play “Gift” when I am having trouble getting words on the page, and it reminds me that an abundance of tiny, half-formed, or misshapen thoughts is better than nothing at all and, from a distance, can take the form of a bigger idea.

This was actually Portugal’s entry to Eurovision 2022, and I loop this to write about my grandparents. It is a melancholy song, one that floats on its sense of yearning and sadness. And the first line—“I’ve tried to write”—reminds me there will always be a gap between our experiences in the world, but all I can do is try and try to write.

Do you want to write an essay that concludes like Mentos in a Coke, an essay that runs all the way up that hill and succeeds in making a deal with whoever’s up there? Looping this song makes me feel like an Olympian, surging higher up a mountain or into the clouds, and asks me to push as hard as I can into the exhilaration of the text. How much ecstasy can I wring from these words? How can I make sentences that mimic a harp?

“Skin” was the first song I ever seriously looped, and I find myself returning to it whenever I am writing to understand something about myself I have never before articulated. “Skin” feels like sighing over and over and over again, seeing what truths might tumble out.

I listen to “Barké” whenever I am trying to articulate a spicy opinion or rant. It’s a prickly and playful song, good for shedding self-consciousness and leaning into the edges of a thing.

The Twilight Saga: New Moon

No matter where I am or what I’m doing, “Limerence” transports me to the calm space behind a waterfall or inside the hollow of a tree. The song includes brief, spoken intimacies between a pair of lovers that feel universal enough to understand as another kind of instrumental accompaniment to the actually instrumental backdrop of the song, which is a rippling loop. I play “Limerence” when I am writing about love—past and present—to help me remember our tenderest moments as if they happened yesterday.


How Far the Light Reaches, a book by Sabrina Imbler, inspired by their Catapult magazine column My Life in Sea Creatures, is on sale now.