When Music Returns

This compulsion called writing is a strange thing. The last few months working on book three has been very difficult. I was beginning to think the story had escaped me, had moved on to someone who might be able to tell it better. But I’ve been doing this long enough now to recognize that fear.

It’s not writer’s block because if I do sit down to write, the words are there; I just can’t put fingers to pen or keyboard. Maybe it’s a lack of trust in the story and the characters. Maybe it’s a lack of trust in myself. I’ve only had this problem the last six years, which makes me wonder if sometimes my brain goes back to its radiation days, moving away from the creativity. Because this feels like a weight. I wouldn’t call that weight sadness but I suppose it could be that. It’s a sense of just not having the energy to start, exhaustion.

I’ve learned however, that if I just keep pretending, if I talk like I know what I’m talking about, if I go through the motions without actually working on the story, eventually that weight goes away.

I used to try and force the story during these time periods, but then learned the only thing that came from that was throwing away a lot of words. The story knows when you’re faking or trying too hard. And that will also show up in the writing. I can read a draft and point right to the spot when the weight descended and I started trying to force the words. The voice changes, everything becomes stilted, unfamiliar. I know now instead of forcing the story, I leave it, and just pretend to others I’m still working.

So this evening, finally, the weight went away and the words came back. Why? I have no idea other than that this time, I put music back on. The familiar tunes I used to write to. Before radiation I always wrote to specific music. It gave me that restless melancholy, that ache that’s needed to write. After radiation, when I was learning to be me again, music was a distraction and I needed silence to be able to hear the characters.

Now I’m wondering if finally, finally, I’ve returned to who I was before lymphoma. Because tonight the music was there, the weight was gone, and the characters took me by the hand and showed me the story that’s been patiently waiting.

This may not be the final fix, the last cure. I’m sure that struggle will come back. Maybe it has nothing to do with the past few years. Maybe this weight is actually a waiting space I need to inhabit during each story, in order for it to grow. We’ll see. No matter how long one writes, the process is always evolving.

Or maybe it’s simply the return of music.

Hopping Around Blogs

Susan Schreyer, author of the Thea Campbell mystery series, invited me to answer a few questions as part of a blog hop. Her blog can be found at http://www.writinghorses.blogspot.com (for some reason the link wouldn’t load; sorry) and I hope you take a moment to visit.

And just have to say I love answering questions. Kind of like filling out forms, which I also love. Weird, I know.

1.What am I working on?

Ghost Roads, which is a prequel to The Memory Keeper. All the fault of a friend named David, who came by my place of work while I was in the midst of meeting with bigwigs from FEMA. I’m sitting there with suits and ties, he pops in the door and says ‘I can’t believe you killed Kelly!’ and leaves. You should have seen those FEMA guys. A little mountain town and a clerk who’s killed someone. But anyway, so many people had a connection to that character that I decided to write a prequel with him. I also have a few projects percolating. The fourth book in this series of course, then reworking an older story, and then one that’s completely different than anything else I’ve done, relating to myths.

Mt. Baring; location of the myth story.

Mt. Baring; location of the myth story.

2.How does this differ from others in the genre?

I’ll take this question as relating to the mystery series as a whole, rather than just to the prequel. And it’s a hard one to answer. What does make one mystery stand out from another? There’s a dead body and the reader has to figure out what happened to it. I guess, for mine, there are two things. One is the setting. Mountains and forests pull at me. They are mysterious on their own (I swear Bigfoot is out there somewhere), but more than that there’s a connection for me that I try to share in the stories. Second is family. The layers in relationships, the history that influences the present, the ties that hold you back or allow you to fly fascinate me. The connections that run so deep with another person, simply because of shared DNA and shared experiences also fascinate me. Why are we so bound to these others in our lives? How do those bindings impact our daily actions and decisions? I find the stories I write always seem to end up looking at those questions.



3. Why do I write?

To read a book I haven’t seen on a shelf yet. To bring a daydream to life. To answer questions in my own way. To bring peace to inner turmoil. To be able to manipulate life the way I want it to go. And because I haven’t been able to figure out a way to stop. The stories keep finding me.

4. How does my writing process work?

What writing process? I guess it’s a process of discovery. Meaning, suddenly discovering that I have a free half hour. Or suddenly discovering I have a whole day. I write in the mornings on weekends (except for the last few months of moving), in the evenings on weekdays (except when work wears me out too much, or there are cardboard boxes needing unpacking), or whenever I can squeeze in a few moments. I tried a regular schedule but failed. Life is too chaotic, hence a chaotic schedule, tossing words out here and there as I rush through. Sometimes I need quiet to write, but usually there’s music playing. There’s specific types of music I like to write to, such as Gaelic songs, movie themes, etc. I try to avoid music with lyrics I can understand as I get distracted by the story in the song and listen instead of writing. Usually I write on a lap top as I can type faster than I can hand-write. And I don’t like writing where someone can see me. I hate that feeling of a story being exposed before it’s done. So basically whatever works as I can fit it in.

A couple weeks ago I sat down to write in my newly created space amid moving boxes and the cat (Zim, ruler of the world) spilled tea all over the laptop. For some reason my son found it hilarious that I put the laptop on a cookie sheet in the oven. But hey, it worked, and I used the laptop last night.

Zim when he was first found as a drop off in the woods.

Zim when he was first found as a drop off in the woods.