Friday, October 2, 2009

Setting the Mood

(Chris asked me to post this for him. He's away at a SF con in Canberra and will check in later to answer and discuss your comments -- Amanda)

Rowena's post got me curious about what writers do to get in the mood, or stay in the mood when they write. For me it depends on what I am doing. I used to always write to music, but these days I tend to prefer quite when I am first-drafting - I like to get completely absorbed. Whereas for editing -- which Louise Cousak once described as Creative Bookkeeping -- I still enjoy cranking up the music and even singing along (aren't you glad you're not there!)

I would never have thought about using visuals to set a mood like Rowena does. I can usually evoke any sort of feeling in myself by thinking it (having a reason to evoke it is another story) and imagination serves pretty well for the setting. I guess when writing particular scenes I am dipping into a store of emotional memory, built up over all my experiences. This is why I guess I crave new experiences to add depth and breath to this.

How many of you write to music? What other ways do you get inspired or stay in the mood while you write? If artwork does the trick, why not dance? I guess it might be a little tricky balancing the laptop, but there is always dictating software. Surely somewhere there is a dancer/writer who could bounce along doing ballet while furiously dictating a stream of words at top speed.


Rowena Cory Daniells said...

The Dancing Writer, what a visual, Chris.

When Keven J Anderson was at the Brisbane Writers Festival, he said he wrote while bush walking, dictating into a machine.

I couldn't imagine doing that. I think my own voice would put me off.

Chris McMahon said...

Hi, Rowena. Hello from Canberra.

That's really interesting. I would not have thought of that, but I guess its a logical extension of what I was tossing around.

Dictation doesn't work for me. Something about the process just throws me off my thread. I know legal guy at work who is absolutely expert using it.

I love walking, but one of the things I love about it is how is seems to shut my mind down, allowing me to just experience. I think trying to stick to any sort of writing flow would not be physically possible! I would have to stand still to do it.

This is fascinating stuff though. I love hearing about how other people approach their work and really enjoyed your post.

Kate said...

I can write in pretty much any circumstances unless there's something I'm actively blocked on (usually I don't know what has to happen next and can't write it until I beat the answer out of them). I write best with music - but only some music.

Some music actually shuts me down and I can't write to it - but what piece does which isn't anything I"ve been able to figure out. Dracula and the epic fantasy with vampires goes very well to anything from Within Temptation, the soundtracks of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies are good for anything that's got a faster and snarkier feel, and the soundtrack from Gettysburg works for anything.

Editing, doing outlines... I need a big chunk of dedicated time and the right music or it just isn't going to happen.

I don't need visuals - I close my eyes and I have them, although when I start acting out the scene I get really funny looks.

Anonymous said...

Walking or driving a car makes it easy for me to mentally work out scenes. Music interferes. But when I'm really stuck, playing music seems to shut down the unproductive wheel spinning, for awhile. Then I can back up and look at the story critically and see where it went wrong and ::sigh:: how much I have to toss and do over.

When I'm really on track it's like a reservoir that just gushes out. I can (irritably) turn it off at need, but I'll be back compulsively writing as soon as possible.


Chris McMahon said...

Hi, Kate. I'm pretty much the same with the visuals. So it looks like music is pretty important for your writing process.

I know what you meant about being blocked. When I reach that stage its like this kind of knot in my brain that says 'this is not right'. Then I need to prod at that knot for a while. The answer usually comes later. I very rarely get a solution when I attack the problem, it needs to filter through the old grey matter for a while.

Interesting stuff this.

Interesting that you can write to soundtracks. I find them kind of distracting because they tend to go from quite to furious and quite again. Music usually works best for me when its kinds of a constant thing in the background.

Chris McMahon said...

Hi, Matapam. Interesting. Like I mentioned to Rowena, I'm not sure I could manage to work anything out while walking - I tend to get too immersed in the now.

Its amazing the different effects that music has on people's writing processes. Generally it seems to definately have an effect, but this can be almost opposite.

Francis Turner said...

I find music distracting. Silence is good. Though going on what I've written so far the noise of jet engines and train tracks works best. I think that's not a noise thing its a "I'm unable to be distracted for a few straight hours" thing

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

I write to music. And I want to know why my space operas ONLY come out to Buddy Holly. Worse, of course, was the mysteries that ONLY came out to the soundtrack of Evita. Argh.

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

Oh, and if I'm really blocked I need to get my husband to drive out with me for a long time at night. (If you knew the "necessities" I invent for these drives!) I can't drive at night -- night blind. I think that's part of it -- the blank darkness with a few bursts of light. Hypnotic, sort of. I've found also attending the symphony will have same effect -- partly because it stops the words, which is mostly what I think in. Into the silence, new words CAN pour.

Anonymous said...

Could be worse Sarah -- you could write Space Opera to the soundtrack for Evita ("Don't cry for me House Arrakis").


Chris McMahon said...

Fantastic stuff. What complicated things we are. I love hearing about this.

kesalemma said...

I've certainly had ideas spring at me during ballet class, and done a fair bit of world-building in my head - but there's no way I could have dictated while dancing (and I only do beginner's level ballet).