music


Music is such an important part of my life. Almost every pivotal moment–for better or worse–has been marked by a song. So, of course, I write with music. A certain song can get me in the right frame of mind for the emotion of a certain scene or into the head of one of my character’s. But more often than not, music serves as nothing more than white noise.

I can’t write in silence. I’ve never been able to write in silence. For as long as I can remember, whether it be doing homework in high school, writing a research paper in college, or a report for work, I have had my headphones on and a song playing in the background.

It occurred to me tonight as I was writing that more often than not, I play one song on repeat for the duration of my writing session. Tonight it was Bat for Lashes’ “Daniel.” Last night, Sarah Jarosz’s “Can’t Hide.” And the night before that The Swell Season’s “High Horses.”  Occasionally, I’ll go with pure instrumentals (Zoe Keating’s album is always a favorite.), but for the most part, lyrics don’t get in the way. The beginning of every writing session involves at least 10 minutes of me trying to find that one song that I want to hear, but that I can also completely tune out. I’ll sometimes spend 2 hours listening to the same song over and over again. I finally realized this is part of my writing ritual. Everyone has their own unique routine that helps them get in the mood and get focused. Apparently, those 10 “wasted” minutes and iTunes on repeat are mine.

…oh, by the way, the writing is going well. And most recent comments on second submission of pages to class were largely positive. The issues pointed out were the issues I was already conscious of. So, moving in the right direction.

This week’s theme: recovering a sense of power. Not so sure if I’ve recovered a sense of “power” or what this “power” is supposed to feel like. I will say that I continued with the Morning Pages. 7 for 7 again. Admittedly, more than a few days were mid-afternoon, or just-before-bed pages, but they did happen. I did slack a bit this week with keeping up with last week’s “little changes”: meditating & getting up earlier. But I still want to do those things, so I’m just letting this week be what it was. I did have some days where all three of those things happened. I choose to focus on those days. (more…)

The theme for this week was recovering a sense of identity. When I first sat down to reflect on the past week, I really thought I was going to say that I hadn’t connected with that theme. This week was busy–work deadlines & some emotional stuff that just made getting the weekly tasks done almost impossible. Since I hadn’t completed most of the tasks, I was sure I’d fallen short on really exploring the theme & wouldn’t have connected with what was going on in my head. But apparently, without realizing it, I did tap into that theme. The theme of recovering a sense of identity really could have been my theme for this week even if I wasn’t doing the Artist’s Way process right now. (more…)

I’m going to admit something…and yes, it pains me to do so.

I have been listening to the new New Kids on the Block album non-stop for the last 2 weeks.

Nope, nothing else. I wish.

I have 5424 songs on my iPod, over 600 different artists, and 970 albums. And yet, I’m stuck on repeat with this one.

And no, I’m not listening to it because it’s in some way genius or ground-breaking for its genre. I’ll be the first to admit that it’s not experimental on any level. Most of the lyrics are derivative. I would argue it’s a tad overproduced & it sounds like every other pop/R&B album out there. Plus, as a general rule, I don’t listen to pop or R&B.

So, why the hell am I, someone who considers Radiohead brilliant, Imogen Heap creative, Interpol & Damien Rice engaging, Silversun Pickups the best band to come out of LA in recent years, someone who makes a yearly pilgrimage to spend 3-days in the California desert at Coachella, unable to turn the damn thing off?

Maybe nostalgia. But mainly because, as I briefly mentioned in a previous post, it’s complete & utter fluff. And at the moment, the rest of the 969 albums on my iPod depress me, remind me, or require me to think. And those are just not things I really want to do when I listen to music right now.

There is not a serious or profound line to be had on this album, & I’m glad.

Yes, music heals, but it also reminds & drives my mood. I have enough external & internal influences that do that without music having its say as well.

I love music. I think the iPod was one of the greatest inventions ever. Before it existed, I’d been known to carry a 100-CD carrying case around Europe when traveling. I don’t like silence. I can’t drive without the radio on. I hate talk radio. I can’t read without something playing. I can’t write without something in the background. So the fact that all but 1 album on my iPod manages not to set me off in the wrong direction…I’m just rolling with it.

At this point, I’d thought I’d be tired of the damn thing. Really, I was sure this would come to an end sometime this weekend. Seriously, how many times can I listen to this thing?!?! Even I admit this is ridiculous & seriously screwing with my last.fm profile.

But as I sit here waiting for the vet to call to give me Leo’s prognosis with chemo, while trying not to be reminded that today is my brother’s 1st birthday without our mother, it’s the only thing keeping me from climbing the walls. So, I accept it & I’ll go hit repeat one more time.

Image: …..dotted….. via flickr

Yes, I can honestly say, today was a good day.

It started off mundane enough. If anything, it had all the makings of a bad day: gray, cloudy, rainy outside; didn’t sleep well the night before; & woke up later than I’d wanted.

But finally got out the door & went to meet one of the members of my writing group for coffee. I dragged my laptop along with me, I guess with the intention of writing; but I didn’t. Instead, we ended up having a 3 hour conversation that really just made my day. We talked about writing & our respective novels, & our respective procrastination. We’re both on the same page. It’s always nice to know you’re not alone. I explained the plot of my WIP & it was nice to hear someone else say it sounded interesting. It was also good to bounce some ideas off on her & get feedback. If anything, it gave me a little kick in the butt that I really have something here & I need to get it done already!

But for the most part we talked about our lives. The nice thing about her is that she actually has a lot of the same spiritual beliefs as my mother. My mother was very involved in metaphysical/new age thinking, as well as her Native American belief system. So, she wasn’t exactly your typical mother. She always kept it interesting to say the least. So talking to her, it was nice to be around someone who thinks the way my mother did. Our get together really put me in a great mood even though we were talking about death. Go figure.

Then this evening I got to have fun. I went to the New Kids on the Block concert here in LA. Yes, I was/am a New Kids on the Block fan. Nsync & Backstreet Boys were after my time. I went to my first New Kids concert here in LA when I was 14 with my oldest/best friend C. Funny enough, my mother bought me the tickets for my 14th birthday. I went on to see them 2 more times in concert as a teenager. One trip even involved my mother driving me from Albuquerque to Phoenix. And the other involved her booking us a room at the same hotel they were staying at in Albuquerque in an attempt for me and my 15-year old friends to try & meet them. We didn’t succeed. She supported my teenage obsessions to say the least. Later, when I was in college in Boston, I went to a record signing & got their last CD before they broke up signed by all of them. So, to say the least, I was SOOOO going to see them in concert on this reunion tour. Admittedly, my music taste has matured to say the least. And I’ll be the first to admit their old material does not hold up well when listened to now. But still, C & I got tickets & saw them on October 6 here in LA, a couple weeks after my mother died. Then, it was a great distraction. We ended up having such a great time that we decided to see if we could get tickets to their 2nd added LA date. The tickets only came through this morning. Really short notice, but we were there. Again, it was so much fun. Before we went to the October concert, I hadn’t listened to their new album. Not really my taste. And I’ll be the first to admit I really thought that October show was going to be painful. I was prepared to be tortured. So, when it wasn’t & it turned out to be a hell of a lot of fun, I was pleasently surprised. And yes, the old songs actually held up pretty well live. Shocking I know. This time I had actually listened to their new album. I hate to admit it (REALLY, I do), but it’s actually kind of good. I’ve struggled when trying to listen to music in recent weeks. Apparently the bulk of the stuff on my iPod is depressing, serious, or sentimental. So, this album is just pure fluff. And fluff is what I need these days. So, yes, as much as it pains me, I have been listening to it a lot. So, this time I actually knew the new songs as well as the old ones. The whole thing was just fun. I’ve been to a lot of concerts in a lot of genres & surprisingly, these last 2 concerts of theirs rank as the funnest (yes, I know that’s not a word) concerts I’ve ever been to. Everybody was up out of their seats the whole time, at both. Yes, there were cringe worthy moments, but still, they were a good laugh. And that just made my day.

To cap off the evening: We had taken the metro to the concert. When we went to catch the last train to head home, we’d missed it. We had to call to get someone to pick us up. The funny thing: the exact same thing happened in October. Then we had to have my younger brother come pick us up. This time C’s younger sister had to pick us up. It just brings so many flashbacks of having our mothers pick us up from the New Kids’ concerts when we were teenagers. An amusing way to end the evening.

Oh, and when I got home, I got a text from another one of my best friends who was in India on business. I was concerned about him with the attacks that have been going there all day. I knew he was leaving today, but wasn’t sure what time. I got a text when I got home tonight saying he had just landed in the US. Good news.

A good day. Kind of nice.

Image: nigel appleton via flickr

Currently listening to: Angel by Sarah McLachlan & Josh Groban

Today was ok, despite the 7 week mark. I hate to use the word anniversary. An anniversary is something that should be celebrated. I will never feel like celebrating this. Instead, I’m marking time. Time since.

I went to my writing group this morning & got the kick in the butt I needed. The nice thing is we’re all behind on NaNoWriMo, although, I’m the most behind. Hey, I’m competitive. If I’m going to be behind, than I’m going to be the most behind. Only got about 400 words in during our session. Yes, we got distracted talking about life & writing. Still, it got me in the mood.

I came home, pulled back the curtains, opened up the windows and front door, burned some sage (An obsession these days. My mother used to burn it, thus it reminds me of her.), put some music on the stereo system, curled up in the leather chair in the living room, propped my feet up on the ottoman, and wrote all afternoon. It was a beautiful day. I didn’t mind being cooped-up since everything was open & I could see outside.

Overall, I did 2518 words today. Not bad. I went with the new direction I mentioned earlier this week. So far it’s working. And I think I can see it continuing to work down the line. I’m hoping it does because it’s feeling really comfortable. It feels like it’s allowing me to finally get everything I want into the story, and all where I need it all to be. Good thoughts that it will continue to work & that this is the answer I’ve been looking for.  But still aware that it could all prove to be quite a disaster.

The plan tomorrow is to try & get at least 3000 words. I’ll be nowhere near caught up, but at least I’ll be making a tiny dent.

I know I usually buy flowers on Saturdays, but instead wound up buying some yesterday. A little pot of yellow roses that are currently sitting on the kitchen counter. I decided to go with something that will last a little longer than cut flowers.

Today still felt heavy despite it being ok. It still doesn’t feel anymore real. I caught myself thinking I needed to ask her if I should put a rug down next to the sofa in the spot where Teddy, our other dog, likes to sleep. The idea of making changes to the house still feels weird. Admittedly I’ve rearranged things. But, the only real addition are the pictures on the shelf. (I need them to remember her another way.) I haven’t brought anything new into the house. Her things are still all around. Her books on the bookshelves, her computer on the desk, her cellphone & glasses on the counter, her purse and jacket on the coatrack, and all her things in her room. Having her stuff around doesn’t bother me. Admittedly, maybe it should. Maybe it’s holding me back, but right now it’s keeping me together. And, right now, that’s the most important thing.

7 weeks. The day could have been worse. I’m glad it wasn’t. But I still hate this.

Image: Claudecf via flickr

I realized today, that since that day, I’ve been listening to my iPod on shuffle. I never do that. I’ve been cycling through all 5000+ of my songs rather than a playlist based on my favorites or my mood of the moment. I’m too scattered, unfocused, and disconnected to narrow down my choices or determine what I like.

I have the same problem with food. When I go out with friends or family, they ask what I want & I have to tell them, “I honestly don’t know. I can’t make a choice.” And I can’t. I’m not just being indecisive. I am that disconnected from what I want. I’ve solved the problem of cooking & feeding myself by basing the decision on whatever is easiest or closest to the front of the refrigerator. Grocery shopping, however, is still a bit of a disaster. It takes me forever to come out with either not enough stuff or stuff I’ll never eat.

I guess I’ll know I’m getting back to normal when I can make these decisions without realizing it.

…as for NaNoWriMo…yeah, I could make excuses, but I’ll just be honest. I’ve done absolutely nothing. I’m just looking forward to my writing group on Saturday morning. Maybe then I’ll be able to get back in a groove. And there’s still tomorrow. There’s always hope.

Image: nerovivo via flickr

Currently listening to: Black Wave by the Shins*

Spent most of the day working on articles for work. I always leave this stuff until the last minute. At least it kept my day full & busy. Less time to really think. These days that’s a good thing.

So, I’m on the fence with what I’m going to be working on for NaNoWriMo. Part of me wants to go ahead with draft #2 of the WIP, with the caveat that it could take new twists & turns. The other part of me has this other idea bouncing around in my head. Unfortunately, it hasn’t settled down & taken shape. I can see just a sliver of it. Enough to start, but not enough to know where it would all lead. I’m not sure if it’s better for a short story. The only way to know is to actually work on it, to start writing. But I don’t know that I want that to be what I focus on during NaNo. I want to use the next month (actually 2–December as well) to really get a good handle on something so I actually have something to submit to the writer’s conferences at the end of the year. Urgh!!! Decisions, decisions. My plan is to take a big chunk of Friday to sit down & figure this all out, so that Saturday morning, November 1st, the first day of NaNoWriMo, during my writing group, I know what I’m writing. At least that’s the goal. I get this sinking feeling I will be staring at my computer for the better part of Saturday morning still debating with myself over which to go with. Joy! Don’t worry, I drive myself crazy too.

If nothing else, all this is a great distraction from everything else. At least for a few moments. I’ll take what I can get.

Still sucks.

* I’m bringing back the “currently listening to” feature just because I like it & I miss it. I guess it’s a way of getting back to a normal routine. Although, still forgoing the “mood” feature. You get enough of my mood in these posts without me trying to sum it up in one word.

Image: Daeveb via flickr

Found this meme here. Of all the memes I’ve done, this is probably the most blog related. So, here I go…

1. Do you write fiction or non-fiction? Or both?

Both. My paying gig is doing newsletter, brochure, and web site writing. And, I should be doing some freelance writing, but I just haven’t gotten around to it. I write fiction for pleasure. I’m not quite ready to verbalize any professional aspirations there. Let me finish this novel & then we’ll talk. (By the way, I’m answering all the following questions based on my fiction writing.)

2. Do you keep a journal or a writing notebook?

Yes. More of a writing notebook than journal these days. But there’s a little bit of both in it. I carry it with me everywhere, just in case I have a spare moment to write & am nowhere near my computer. But more often than not, I need it around because my short-term memory is horrid & if I try and remember some brilliant phrase or idea to write down when I get home, it will be lost.

3. If you write fiction, do you know your characters’ goals, motivations, and conflicts before you start writing or is that something else you discover only after you start writing? Do you find books on plotting useful or harmful?

I have an idea, but I’ve found that much of my characters’ personalities, motivations, etc., only come out once I’ve started writing. It wasn’t until about half-way through my 1st draft that I really could get a handle on my characters’ thoughts and motivations. Even now, going into my 2nd draft, I’m finding that I’m still discovering things about them.

I think plotting books can be helpful, but I wish I’d stayed away from them until I’d really developed my writing practice and my voice. If I had to do it over again, I’d say, stay away from the craft books until you’ve had some time to just write. And when you do get around to reading the plot books, I would recommend reading a how to write a screenplay book. I know it helped me really think about how to frame a scene & pacing.

4. Are you a procrastinator or does the itch to write keep at you until you sit down and work?

Procrastinator. Although, I do have moments where I just feel the need to write. I wish those moments were more common than they are. The good thing is, whether it was the procrastinator-in-me or the itch that got me to sit down, once I do, I tend to stay with it for a good amount of time.

5. Do you write in short bursts of creative energy, or can you sit down and write for hours at a time?

It depends. If I have time, I can write for hours with no problem. If I’m just trying to fit it in, then I can also do a couple hundred words to just make some progress on my WIP.

6. Are you a morning or afternoon writer?

Actually, morning or night, but night more than morning. The only way I can write in the afternoon is if I started in the morning & it’s carrying over into the afternoon. Or, if I’m out at a cafe or something with the intent to use that time to write. My afternoons would be more productive if I could just take a nap. Actually, most of my blog posts tend to be done during the afternoon because it’s the only thing that will keep me awake & seem somewhat productive.

7. Do you write with music/the noise of children/in a cafe or other public setting, or do you need complete silence to concentrate?

Most of the time, music. Instrumental movie soundtracks are the best. Sometimes there are songs that just help me get into a mood or into a scene, & I’ll play that song on repeat while I’m working on it. In essence, it becomes white noise for me.

I can also work in silence. That’s usually a result of the music having stopped & me being in such a zone that I haven’t realized that it’s stopped.

8. Computer or longhand? (or typewriter?)

Computer for the most part. I only do longhand when I’m not near my computer or if I’m just jotting down some notes. But, I have found that if I’m having trouble writing on the computer–you know, a nice case of writer’s block–then switching to a pen & notebook can help clear my head. Just like a change of scenery is good; sometimes a change of method is good.

9. Do you know the ending before you type Chapter One? Or do you let the story evolve as you write?

No. Honestly, I tend to only have my stories plotted out about half-way through. After that, it’s a total & complete freefall.

10. Does what’s selling in the market influence how and what you write?

No. I’ve honestly never given it any thought. I just believe in writing well & having a good final piece that I’m proud of.

11. Editing/Revision – love it or hate it?

Hmmm…jury’s still out on that one. I’ve done professional editing and I don’t mind it. But I will admit, I’m not the best editor of my own work. I have a lot of trouble “killing my darlings.” Once I have a draft of this current WIP ready to edit/revise, I’ll be able to give a more honest answer.

Apparently, I’m all about new experiments this week.

A friend sent me this article today.* It’s about memoir writing, but it has some great writing exercises that non-memoirists can totally use. But what really resonated with me was what the author, Abigail Thomas, said about the importance of silence. She wrote,

“Don’t listen to anything but natural sound. Don’t look at anything you have to turn on. This is about the pleasure of silence. This is not meditating; this is reacquainting yourself with yourself. Something interesting might enter your head if you let it alone.”

Given my constant inclusion of what I’m listening to when I write these posts, you can probably guess that I listen to music when I write. Sometimes it’s to tune out other noises & distractions. Sometimes it’s for inspiration or motivation. I love music. But reading what Thomas wrote earlier today, I’ve been thinking about how I tend to neglect silence. If I’m in the car, there is music playing. If I’m taking a walk or on the metro, my iPod is on.

But it’s those moments when I don’t have anything on in the background that I have had epiphanies about my story or new ideas for another project. My ideas and thoughts tend to come together as I’m lying in silence trying to go to sleep. So, it’s made me think that I need to incorporate more silence into my life. I need to let my mind wander without distraction. Yes, music & noise serve their purpose, but I think in this case, I need to loose the distraction and leave my mind alone. So, let’s see is I can spend some of that time at the beach tomorrow in silence. Maybe something good will come out of it.

* Yes, I realize this article comes from AARP magazine. Although I’m about 30+ years away from being a subscriber, I’ve got to give them credit for a good article.

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