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Monday, April 06, 2009

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Your Song Playing?

Plain and short, last week kicked my ass. To give you an idea, I spent all day Monday stuck on one sentence of my manuscript. Spring break, winter vacation, and allergy season (you try to focus when all the oxygen going to your brain has been displaced with tree pollen) have put me behind word count. It's nothing I can't make up, but enough to turn on the pressure.

My solution? Increase the pressure. My self-talk most of the week went something like this: NO SUGAR! EARLY BEDTIME! MORE EXERCISE! WRITE HARDER! WRITE FASTER! WRITE NIGHTS! WRITE WEEKENDS! DOUBLETIME! GO! GO! GO!

So very conducive to creativity.

While I was writing myself this prescription, the universe was writing its own. A friend showed up with a bottle of wine. Another took me to lunch. I was ambushed by a sale at Ann Taylor Loft. Patrick told my inner drill sergeant to stand the hell down. Repeatedly.

Finally, I surrendered. I took a sick day Friday. I had some fun with the kids and did a few chores Saturday. I went to church for the first time in a lot of Sundays. I ignored my manuscript.

This morning, I woke up way too early and realized I was having that "crap, it's Monday" feeling about getting back to it. Hold the freaking phone. When did I start treating my dream like it's a cubicle job? I think somewhere way in the back of my belief system, there's a rotten notion, like an old pair of gym shoes, that says if I'm getting paid for it, it has to be really hard.

One of my favorite movies of all time is the much-maligned Joe vs. the Volcano, because I think it's such a great little fable about expectations and how they color our reality. Plus, Abe Vigoda! You know the first act, before Joe leaves his desk job, and it's all shot in blue-grey? My attitude last week.

I needed a reboot. Instead of marching myself grimly to my desk this morning and buckling down, I put on fresh coffee, plopped down in my chair and fired up Itunes. "Get up now, baby, it's your song playing," The Weepies cajoled.

Oh yeah, I thought, beginning to peck at the keyboard. It is. Blue-grey brightened to warm color.

I even grooved a little in my seat. It's been way too quiet around my desk lately. Played at low volume, the tunes cancelled out the drill sergeant. I think I need a whole playlist dedicated to that task—songs that are stirring, without being demanding. Suggestions?



Blogger Lindsay said...

Umm, I've never written a book but this would be my playlist for Cdnish you who needs stirring but no drill sargeant:

Feels Like Home - Chantal Kreviazuk
Coming to America - Neil Diamond
So Far Away - Carol King
Please Come to Boston - Kenny Chesney

...and my word verification is: fatheri....stirring?

10:47 PM  
Blogger Sweet Laura said...

I have a few different women who I like to listen to when I am feeling less than motivated. Here are a few songs that I think were written when these women were feeling a bit stuck in their writing/lives:
Room with a View- Tina Dico
Unwritten-Natasha Beddingfield
These R the Thoughts-Alanis Morissette
Oleander - Sarah Harmer
The Fear-Lily Allen

All playful and comforting in a sisterhood kind of way.

11:26 PM  
Blogger kazari said...

Jack Johnson's Curious George CD
anything by John Butler
Ze Frank!

good luck : )

or for some really rockin' 17 year olds from Australia, try Operator Please. They play electric violin : )

1:17 AM  
Blogger Tracey - Just Another Mommy Blog said...

I agree with the Jack Johnson cd. Very mellow and bouncy without making you want to dance around...

4:56 AM  
Blogger Angie Mizzell, Writer, Speaker and Certified Life Coach said...

I love this post. I can totally relate, especially to treating my dream like a "cubicle job." I had a similar conversation with myself yesterday. I'm so glad I found your blog.

6:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes on the Jack Johnson ...


Let it be Me, Ray Lamontagne
Adele (anything she sings)

and I also love Leonard Cohen for some stirring, soulful music.

8:11 AM  
Blogger Chris said...

I'm amazed you can work and write with background music! If it's a song I like, even a soft easy-listening tune, I want to sing along. I'm afraid I won't be much help here, but maybe some instrumentals.

Good for you for giving yourself a break! Good for you for getting back in the saddle. You go, girl!

8:40 AM  
Blogger katandkarl said...

i like to work to:

the blow
the submarines
kate walsh
tegan & sara

(a little indie for ya!)

9:04 AM  
Blogger Cid said...

This is great, just by reading all the comments I have a whole new playlist. Thanks to you all and keep writing Kyran.

10:08 AM  
Blogger HaikuKelly said...

I find that the Buena Vista Social Club on in the background helps me chill. And once I chill, it's a lot easier to write.

But I know what you mean. I left the public school world to be a freelance writer -- my dream to write.

But some days it is just so HARD!

10:49 AM  
Blogger Schmutzie said...

Listen to Bon Iver's "Skinny Love". Hell, listen to the whole album. It's stunning but subtle.

10:53 AM  
Blogger Wonder Woman said...

i was just about to suggest skinny love

also the driftin cd by daniel wesley (a local canadian band you may appreciate)

11:55 AM  
Blogger Wonder Woman said...

oh and also the 'sing and dance' cd by daniel wesley

11:56 AM  
Blogger nicole said...

E-mail me your home address, and I'll send along a mixed CD of my favorites: xo.

1:04 PM  
Blogger Tis I said...

First, well done for giving your drill sargeant his or her marching orders. S/He is completely redundant, him indoors (that'll be Patrick) is right.

My taste in pick-me-up music is different than the music that helps me create. Joan Armatrading Love & Affection (love those bass notes), Gospel (ditto) and then most things by Simply Red. Norah Jones is wonderful. Am quite partial to Gregorian chant (yes, am blurring my distinction, above.)

Had a quilt teacher who won lots of awards who works a 9-5 day quilting art quilts. She says, words with music is no good, you sing to it, its too left brain with using language. Tie up your left brain so that it can't work it out - no lyrics - any thing by Cirque du Soleil, for example- and other music to which you don't know the words. Mozart has a proven positive effect on creativity, apparently. I used to sew for HOURS playing a thing called Bardo by Peter Michael Hamel, which I can only describe as somewhat weird organ music that does not irritate like Phillip Glass (apologies to all you Glass fans out there, but his stuff drives me bonkers even in Koyaanisqaatsi which is amazing.) Do something that always makes you smile, cos you love it. Then turn around and look at your writing table, and lo, I bet the words will flow.

I hope you let us know what you felt worked in the end. People are all so different....

PS: When the drill major pops up again, send him/her packing. Sheesh already.

5:50 PM  
Blogger thisKat said...

You are more than welcome to check out my station on Pandora, Sparkly & Moody. It has a lot of Postal Service and studio indie. That's generally what I listen to while I work. I might augment that with a little Sara Bareilles or The Breeders or Cocteau Twins (also stations you can create on Pandora). But when I get into the flow, all music goes off, or I turn on Dvorak (if I need drama) or Chopin (if I need a light heart).

I also love your Cat Power station, Kyran. If anyone has other Pandora recs I'd love to share!

6:59 PM  
Blogger Heffernhyphen said...

Here's a little number that might help:

Send Your Boys To My House After School Today, by SHS

8:36 AM  
Blogger sheryl_stephen said...

Hi Kyran
Long time lurker - first time commenter...

I'm often looking for music to listten to while writing. I picked a bunch of things from several playlists of mine, focusing (until then end) on "stirring without being demanding". Of course it's relative. You can find all of these on iTunes - or if you email me mailing addy, I will send you a CD of MP3s.

Thank you for this site, which I enjoy reading.


Your Rocky Spine - the Great Lake Swimmers
Boy With a Coin - Iron & Wine
Crosses - Jose Gonzales
It's Because We've Got Hair - Tunng
Omaha - Tapes n Tapes
Mykonos - Fleet Foxes
There Is A Light - Great Lake Swimmers
Piece of Wood - Youth Group
Brackett, WI - Bon Iver
He Lays in the Reins - Calexico and Iron & Wine
How We Breathe - Pinback
You May Be Blue - Vetiver
Six Organs of Admittance - Elk River
When Under Ether - PJ Harvey
The Eraser - Thom Yorke
How to be Invisible - Kate Bush
Swing it Low - Morphine
Hanging on a Curtain - Morphine
Everything Should Try Again - Joseph Molina
Pushing Oars - Whispertown 2000
Crossbone Style - Cat Power
Simple Way - Port O'Brien
Roscoe - Midlake
Cataracts - Andrew Bird
You've Been Loved - Joseph Arthur
- this River - Brian Eno
Romulus - Sufjan Stevens
The Sky Is Broken - Mo-
If I Had a Neart - Fever Ray
A River Could Be Loved - Brightblack Morning
Eastern Glow - The Album Leaf
Breathe Me - Sia (Four Tet Remix)
Green Grass of Tunnel - Mum
Hands Away - Interpol

10:43 AM  
Blogger Jess said...

Ever heard of Mindy Smith? Her myspace page has a few samples. I think you might like her.

11:29 AM  

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