Monday, April 18, 2011

Mozart and the creative juices

One of my greatest challenges as a writer has been space, both mental and physical.  My apartment does have three bedrooms, and only two are used, but to put the computer into the third would take more rearranging than I have the energy for.  Besides, the desk sits nicely out in the living room.  It's a blessing when I work and want to still interact with the family.  It's a curse when I want to write and there's a movie playing on the big TV sitting a dozen feet away, or when there are several teenagers taking up the other part of the living room. 

I know, I should just take a folding table and my laptop and set them up in the spare bedroom, and if it gets too bad then I'll probably do it.  For now, though, I found a pretty good answer in Stephen King's book On Writing.  The grand master of horror discussed the importance of writing space...he, of course, wrote Carrie in the laundry room of his trailer, if I recall the story correctly.  Now, though, he talks about having a place separated by an actual door from the rest of life.

That separation is important.  It's true that the creative juices unleashed in the writer's mind do just flow...I suspect, honestly, that most, if not all, of us have that happening regularly.  It's one thing, though, to have mental images flash through your brain, and another entirely to actually capture them, wrestle them into conforming to linguistic norms, and then place them onto a piece of paper--electronic or physical--at whatever rate it is the writer can type or write.  I'm lucky in that area in that long ago I conditioned my fingers and mind to do 80 words per minute; I can't imagine how challenging it would be to pin your ideas down by their straps till you got to writing them at any significantly slower speed. 

To do so, at whatever speed, requires concentration as well as some degree of distance from the mundane world.  I've had to turn off Facebook, for example, because I'll be writing along about a nice little fight and pop!  I've got a comment from my friend on another friend's picture of their parrot.  Oh, hey, somebody just poked me.  And hey, somebody else sent me a request in a game I don't even play.  Minimizing distraction is the key to winning the writing game. 

Stephen King also uses music.  He says, "I work to loud music--hard-rock stuff like AC/DC, Guns 'n Roses, and Metallica...for me the music is just another way of shutting the door."  What a great idea!  Except...that type of music doesn't insulate me.  Instead, it gets me going, makes me want to jump up and move quickly, which is kind of the opposite I want when the desired behavior is to sit still and type. 

Last night I tried several options from my own CD chest.  Cat Stevens's music has always gotten my creative juices flowing.  Problem is, when he's playing, the juices are all I got.  It's too easy to get into the music, singing along to great lyrics.  The music takes me away to its world instead of helping me insulate myself in my own.  I tried Petra, also; This Means War has always been an uplifting album for me.  Nope, same problem. 

In desperation, I pulled down my CD of the Canadian Brass playing Mozart.  Now, I bought that album long ago.  I love the Canadian Brass because of their brashness.  This album, though, bored me, and so I only listed to a small part of it, and that only once.  It's not that Mozart is boring...far from it, in fact.  It's that when I'm listening to the Canadian Brass, I'm looking to be entertained by great yet playfully done music, and them doing Mozart ain't it. 

Regardless, the result was magical.  Turns out that Mozart is truly a perfect composer (for me) to write to.  The songs go from energetic to lyrical on the album, so my brain is lulled into focusing entirely on the story I'm trying to discover.  And, bonus points...I was inspired to work one of the songs into the story. 

I'll have to experiment some day...Bach, for example, was also great at keeping a good pace alive in his music, as was Beethoven, and I love both composers as much as I do Mozart.  For now, though, CB doing Mozart works, as evidenced by the four thousand words I got down yesterday, and it's what I'm going with.

Word count:  11,862

1 comment:

  1. When you're writing to music it's so easy to get caught up in the lyrics. I can well imagine that Cat Stevens might be distracting although I too love his music. I grew up with it.

    Classical music would work well for me because it is mostly devoid of lyrics unless you are listening to opera in which case you can't always make out what they are singing anyway.

    Personally, I have found Enya to be good to write to in the past - it is calming and evocative. I once wrote a story to Enya in front of a roaring fire and it won first prize in an arts competition.

    It can be the same problem with translation at times (which in itself is (re)writing plus comprehension) - background noise can be distracting, although it really depends what I am translating. With some texts, you have to ponder over every word, but with others I can multitask - type, talk on the phone and watch a movie at the same time:-). Generally, those are subject areas with which I am very familiar though. That said, I can see that that might not work so well with writing, although some background music can be advantageous.

    When I am writing about something technical such as medicine I generally need to avoid distractions as it takes a while to get my head around things before putting them down on paper in a way that people actually understand them.

    As for touch typing, I too learnt it at an early age and it's one of the most useful things I ever learned. It makes work so much faster, particularly when there is a deadline looming.