Monday, May 4, 2009


I finally have the missing piece. Writers are sort of like golfers—always missing something in the quest for the perfect swing, the perfect method, the perfect word, the perfect tool.

I should have realized this before but being a relatively new writer, I didn’t. I know what my problem is now, halfway through writing my second book. To be perfectly honest, the second book has been more of a trial than the first book. I think I just did things in the first book that happened to work, without knowing why these things were working. First time lucky. Second time has required me to think about what I am doing and how I am doing it. I didn’t pay enough attention the first time.

The first time writer, I think, is sort of like a lone wolf in the woods. Solitary. Without guidance except for instinct. And all too often, I think I, and probably other writers, ignore their instincts because they just want to finish their project. Deadlines, whether imposed by the writer herself/himself or by the publisher/agent/editor, mess with the creative urge. The first book I worked out a method but I wasn’t really paying attention to my surroundings, those things that made it easier for me to write, where the words flowed from my fingertips onto the keyboard, from my voice recognition software into my manuscript.

The missing piece for me is music. I had one of those “slap my forehead”, “D’oh!” moments as I have struggled through my second manuscript. The first book I had written entirely listening to music, being inspired by the music, matching the moods of my scenes to the music to which I listened. And an occasional glass of port. Mustn’t forget the port. I escaped into my fiction, into my story to avoid the other realities of my life at the time.

I don’t know if this is true for most writers, but for me music is an amazing creative tool. It sets the mood, it creates a bubble which the writer inhabits, away from the world. I have music for all moods—from heavy metal (not much) to classical—you name it, I have some variety of it. And my music collection keeps growing as I look for new sources of inspiration for moods. Right now for instance, I am listening to classical music “Any Other Name”, and it’s piano music, so I am in my happy place. Music has always been my happy place, my sad place, my inspired place, the one thing that has never failed me.

To write, I need to block out the world and just “be” in my head. And music seems to reach directly into my emotional centers. I think most people are this way. Music speaks, even if there are no words. But then, music is the universal language. Allowing me, as a writer, to tap into imagery and ideas I may not have had before, not considered before. I close my eyes listening to music and I “see” a scene unfolding on the backs of my eyelids, like a movie screen or television.  I see people, activities, colors. I see more with my ears and my imagination than with my eyes sometimes, a lot of the time.

The words are flowing again, like a spigot that’s been turned on after winter. The flow of music is clearing the rusted debris and cobwebs from the pipes. So I will ride on the crest of my music from now on.

It’s funny in a way. Last night as I signed off from one of my social networking sites, I posted a picture of a palm-from backlit by the moonlight and music to accompany it – Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 1, Movement 2. The two just seemed to belong together. I listened to that music, staring at the picture, for a long time. Felt it sink into my mind to remind me of what has always been there.

Me and my music.

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