“Music in the soul can be heard by the universe.” — Lao Tzu
I’m working on a novel. I’d always romanticized this type of writing. I imagined that words would flow from my head onto the page with the greatest of ease. Hey, I create other types of work every day. I have a solid, diligent writing practice. So, how hard could writing 80,000 to 110,000 words be? It turns out that, like running a marathon, writing a novel can be exhausting, and worse: I can hit the wall. I can run out of ideas and inspiration, and sometimes get sick of the sound of my own inner voice. I have a deadline to hit with this book, which only makes the stress worse, and mires me even further.
Desperate times called for desperate measures. And thus, my technique to shake off my writer’s block was born.
It may sound goofy, but it’s working like a charm!
Where words fail, music speaks.
–Hans Christian Andersen
I pick a song that resonates with me in the moment. Something upbeat that excites me when I hear it. I’ve chosen everything from “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor, to “Dream a Little Dream of Me,” sung by Mama Cass. I may even have dipped my toe into Michael Jackson’s Thriller album and plunged into my bottomless pool of 80’s movie soundtracks.
I play the song LOUD. I sing to it, I dance to it, I imagine that I’m performing live at Carnegie Hall or the Hollywood Bowl. I make it big, and I totally let loose. That’s the important part — not the choice of song, not whether my singing voice is like nails on a chalkboard, or that I dance like an elephant wearing roller skates. The important part is that I allow myself to be unfiltered — unencumbered about what others might think of me — unconcerned about whether my neighbors think I’m nuts.
My writers block gets worse when I try to force the process, when I over-plan, or worry too much about what my readers will think of my choices. Trying too hard is the bane of my creativity. Stepping away from my keyboard (but not too long, or I’ve found I don’t go back) is the big breath of fresh air I need before I jump back into work.
One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.
When I do sit back down, I let my writing flow…
…sometimes I’m able to pick up where I left off when I hit the wall, other times, I’m inspired to start someplace new, to explore new themes that I hadn’t even considered before. Sometimes I use the writing…and other times, this free writing gets deleted, but it’s broken the dam of my writer’s block and I’m able to pick up my narrative again.
This really works for any type of writing. For example, today when I sat down to write this blog post, I looked at a blank screen. I wanted to write a post about the worst writing advice I’d ever been given. It’s a funny story I’ve wanted to write for a long time, but my mind was a blank. So, I stood up from my desk and turned up the music. I’m not going to lie, my rendition of Heart’s “Barracuda” made my cat hiss at me and hide on top of the refrigerator.
At the end of the song, sweaty, and out of breath, I sat down at my laptop and let my fingers fly. I wrote something that I never even considered. I wrote what I felt, unconcerned about word count, topic, or even the reception this post would receive by readers. I felt joyous. As I typed, my cat warily approached me, and sat on my lap. He’s sleeping soundly now.
Music should be your escape.
I love when writing doesn’t feel like drudgery or obligation. Tonight, when I sit back down to work on my novel, if I get stuck, I know exactly how to free myself. My stereo speakers are ready to blast some inspiration into my ears. Full disclosure: I feel some 70’s tunes in my near future.
Bring on the disco ball.
Surprise yourself: pick a song from your iPod, CD rack, or record collection, and have FUN. Then, sit down at your keyboard and let your fingers fly. Tell us what song you chose, and how it inspired your writing.