Tag Archives: writing process

Writer’s Block? Maybe It’s Time to Declutter

This morning I should be writing. I want to write. There’s a novel that’s dying to leap onto the page. I’m sitting here in the kitchen at table. A sky is beautiful outside. The birds are singing. My pen is poised over the paper ready to strike at any moment. And. . .

Nothing!

Not one single, solitary thing.

The pen and paper repel each other like oil and water, together in proximity but not in spirit. I can see the characters. I know the beginning and the ending. I even know most of the middle which for me is often the trickiest part. But the words won’t come. I’m stuck in quicksand and don’t know exactly where to begin. So how can I work my way out of this momentary lapse into writer’s block? It’s obvious the current path I’m on isn’t working. Time to change course a bit, I think.

I read about a trick some years ago in which a well published author suggested mentally opening up your character’s medicine cabinet. What do they have hidden in there and why? Not having a medicine cabinet in my home, I’ve modified that trick somewhat. I often dig through their junk drawer. You know the one I mean. That one drawer in the kitchen that’s crammed full of trinkets and what-nots that no one can exactly remember acquiring. There’s a box of matches in there from a long ago vacation to the mountains and a light bulb for over the stove. You find a bottle opener which used to play your college team’s fight song but now it only putters out a few miserable notes. And my personal favorite, mismatched birthday candles from parties past, leftovers from an eight piece packet bought for a six year old’s cake. The items are endless and there’s a story for each one. A uniquely individual story that helps paint a picture of who your character truly is.

Today, I have decided to let my mind wander a bit further. Thinking back to this past weekend when I was cleaning out some boxes in my garage, I decide to repeat the exercise with my character. The old box of photos she finds. A box full of books, very technical manuals from the age long before internet surfing. And last, but certainly not least, a Hawaiian floral shirt in vibrant orange and yellow.

It may be that I never use any of this. But it provides an important back story for my character and more importantly it gives me an opening with which to begin writing again. For me, this little trick works wonders. So please pardon me while I go and explore why this uptight teacher has a grass skirt hidden away in the back of her garage. I’m sure there’s a story in there somewhere.

Happy writing!!

My Writing Playlist

violin-924349_1920One of the most frequent questions I get asked about writing is what music do I listen to when I’m writing? For the most part, the answer is none when I’m actually putting pen to paper.

However, during the time that I’m writing a particular novel or piece, I’m usually listening to some type of music that will help get me into the general mood of the character. For example, while I was writing The Face in the Mirror, I spent quite a lot of time listening to opera, Broadway musicals, and classical music. Maggie Arnet loves her concertos after all! I spent hours pouring over the great arias and listening to various movements of different sonatas.

By contrast, when I was working on Beneath the Mulberry Tree, I needed to connect with a completely different era and mindset. There’s nothing like some great old jazz and swing to do that. Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and, of course, my personal favorite, Ella Fitzgerald, were regulars on my playlist. These songs helped to put me in a frame of mind when romance was thought of in a completely different way. In many ways, romance was far simpler and more straightforward. Through the lyrics, I was reminded that love is not the convoluted experience we know today.

Now, I’m working on a different novel. The main character has an down-to-earth, country feel. He enjoys the simpler things in life and has a solid foundation in old fashioned values. So, what’s on the playlist? Country music from the 80s and early 90s. Before the cross-over pop culture infiltrated the airwaves. Artists that I miss hearing on a daily basis: The Judds, Mary-Chapin Carpenter, Trisha Yearwood, George Straight, Vern Gosdin, and many, many others.

Many writers find that listening to music during the writing process is relaxing. Frankly, I don’t. To me it’s very distracting as I’ll get caught up in the lyrics of the song. Like the constant distractions of the internet and Facebook, too much music will draw me away from the ideas I’m formulating and the images I’m trying to convey. I’ll become wrapped up in another artists’ work.

If I do listen to much while writing, it’s usually a very meditative, new age type instrumental piece set to a low volume. My kids will sometimes joke with me that I keep my music so low that no one can actually hear it. For me, that’s the point. I want something calming but not distracting to the writing process.

Of course, when I do turn up the volume to try and immerse myself in my character’s mindset, my kids will groan and mumble at the music selected. Not always, but fairly often. I guess going between several hundred years of musical trends is not common. Thankfully though, my eclectic musical choices have rubbed off on them even if they won’t readily admit it.

In the end, if you’re a writer, the type of music you listen to during your writing process is as individual as the story you are telling. There is no right or wrong answer. What matters most is that the music doesn’t in any way hinder your process. If you detest Country, I certainly wouldn’t suggest listening to it while you write. Likewise for any other type of genre. Find the type of music that helps elevate your own unique voice, not the one that drowns it out. Then, the music you listen to will become an asset rather than a hindrance.

Happy Writing and Have a Great Weekend!