Friday, January 23, 2009

An Evil Genius Helps Me Write

Recently, I received a precious gift - two extra days off each week. Yes, this gift came with a price, but it's one I'll gladly pay since it gives me time to write. I've got no excuses now - it's time to apply the seat of my pants to the seat of the chair and get the damn thing done.

Of course, I had to do a few things first. Like tidy up the house. And tire out the dogs. And assemble my writing music. For a long time, the only thing I could listen to when writing was classical music. It was like the rhythym and flow of the music pulled the writing out of me without my mind getting distracted by lyrics. But something changed for me, maybe around the time I started running. I found that music with words could put me in a certain frame of mind, could give me different memories, could help create the world inside my head that I wanted to write about.

My parents gave me a very generous I-Tunes gift certificate for Christmas, which has kept me entertained on these long nights by allowing me to purchase trashy television. (I love 'Friday Night Lights'!) But this morning, I decided to invest in my music library.

I used Peter's Mac to download the music and he has I-Tune's Genius feature turned on. Really, it should be called Evil Genius. It is so much more addicting and beguiling than Amazon's 'customers who bought x also bought y and z'. I don't exactly know how it happened, but somehow, it suckered me into spending $40 on the most random collection of music that I didn't even realize I'd been wanting: Mazzy Star, Jesus & Mary chain, Kanye West, Kenny Rogers, Pure Prairie League.

I loaded up my Shuffle and took the dogs for a walk to get myself in the writing mood. The music unleashed this torrent of memories. Although these memories are not exactly what I want to write about, they do provide overlap and inspiration and ideas that I want to use. I write Young Adult fiction (for reasons that I'll get into sometime) so these memories were from high scool and college.

  • Jesus & Mary chain - The rain-soaked Lollapolooza 1992 where I spent part of my time enjoying the music, part monitoring then 14-year old Youngest Brother to make sure he didn't eat any of our neighbour's vodka-soaked fruit salad, and part of the time wondering if flirting with a guy with a cold sore was really worth it. (No, probably not is the answer to that one.)

  • Toad the Wet sprocket - Ohio University, Athens, Ohio - Going with Alex P. to see them in a packed basement bar, which was inexplicably full of frat boys who seemed to think 'Hold Her Down' was more of a how-to manual than a protest song. Alex P. was tall and lanky with an easy crooked smile and a head of uncontrollably curly black hair. He introduced me to first-person shooters (Wolfenstein), made me laugh, and eventually broke my heart.

  • Depeche Mode - Driving my two best friends home from school in the Loumobile, a shit-brown Ford LTD that I think even had wood panels. I got the privilege of driving it to school exactly once - my last day of senior year. The song was 'Just Can't Get Enough' and I had great fun encouraging M. (the sweetest and most innocent person I've ever known) to sing the words as 'I just can't get it up', which caused her to collapse in a red-faced fit of giggles.

  • Dead Kennedys - The two skater boys from my German class, who used to make me mixed tapes that included Bad Religion and the Dead Kennedys. I can't even remember their names now, but I liked the dark-haired one, which meant, of course, that I spent more time talking to the blonde one. They were fun guys and I can't tell you why nothing ever happened with either of them, except maybe that I was terrified they were too cool for me.

  • When I got home from the walk, I sat down and started writing, letting the memories ease me into my book's world. It worked and I wrote five pages, which is pretty good for me. Now, I think I've earned a 'Friday Night Lights' break.


    At 23 January 2009 at 13:12, Blogger Babaloo said...

    I have the Genius turned off - with good reason. I COULD spend tons of money on iTunes. Money we don't have. So I'm being very good and I don't even go to look at anything. Cos I know I wouldn't be able to resist.

    And I have to check out Friday Night Lights. Never even heard of it. (The last thing I checked out something because you mentioned it was The Wire, and we got thoroughly hooked!)

    At 23 January 2009 at 14:43, Blogger -Ann said...

    Yeah, I'm glad I never turned on Genius on my computer. I think I've left myself enough gift certificate to get through until my birthday. :)

    Sure, give Friday Night Lights a try but be aware that A.) it's not ANYTHING like The Wire, B.) there's a fair bit of high school football (American football), and C.) the characters are ridiculously compelling, even though sometimes the situations are a bit unrealistic. (Although that's more an issue in the second season.)

    At 23 January 2009 at 16:15, Blogger The Finely Tuned Woman said...

    I find, in the end, that complete silence is the best for me when I write, otherwise I get distracted and pulled into the words of the songs. Then they dictate what and how I write too much and settle the mood when I want something completely different. The exception is Baroque, I can listen to that and write evenly and sensibly, although I maybe lacking somewhat in passion. I need Barber's Adagio for strings for that.

    At 23 January 2009 at 21:02, Blogger Fianna said...

    Oooohhh, we had similar tastes back then. I love listening to Toad still, brings back so many memories of high school.

    At 24 January 2009 at 04:31, Blogger ped crossing said...

    The power of music. I have been playing classical for my students during their math work time. Some love it, some hate it. Congrats on the five pages!

    At 25 January 2009 at 15:34, Blogger Career Guy said...

    1992--I believe my sleeping bag became one with the lawn out there. Glad you had a good time and kept your brother safe. What a wonderful daughter you are!

    At 26 January 2009 at 19:44, Blogger Noelle said...

    I got an itunes gc for my birthday, and I have NO IDEA what to spend it on. On one had, there's just too much that I want. On the other hand, there's not enough.

    At 28 January 2009 at 10:08, OpenID conortje said...

    Glad you've more time to write. I get too distracted by music - my mind always wanders with the melody and lyrics - I'm okay working to classical though!

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