I like to listen to music while I'm writing. I have a huge collection of 45's, albums, cassettes and CDs, and a Crosley that plays and records all of them, so I can listen to music from the 40's to the present. I'll play music apropos to the time I'm writing about and it sets the mood.
Extremely important because I'm a lyricist myself and also because I don't like instrumentals (apart from a favoured few). The beat is the least important because I don't like dancing.
You need a crazy mind just to stay alive.
For a long time I never really listend to the words I guess because I'm an instrumentalist myself and I used to listen to melodies, accords etc. just about one year ago I started listening to the lyrics too because my boyfriend does a lot and my experience listening to music really changed a lot!! like it!
When I'm writing a piece the words nearly always come first. I write the words, then I read them out loud, deliberately emphasising the cambre / timbre of the words. They then produce a natural tonic form which reflects the meaning of the words.