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Sunday, June 21, 2015

Hobbies that Influence Your Writing

A Baroque guitar piece arranged for the ukulele

So, like last last last month I missed the topic of "what hobbies do you have that help your writing?"

That answer is fairly simple for me. And yet, complicated.

Music.

Hands down. Listening to it, singing it, playing music, coming up with tunes that just blurt out of my brain. Half the time I don't even realize that I'm humming, much less what I'm humming. I semi-beat box when I'm bored. I tap my pencil to polyrhythms (usually three against four), and it happened often enough in high school that my Spanish teacher yelled that I was cursing in Morse Code. And sometimes even when there are people around (not just in the shower) I'll jazzy scat for minutes on end, or wind up quietly humming arpeggios.

For no reason at all other than this is a constant never ending stream in my brain.

Kind of like story ideas. And plot bunnies.

Little me grew up listening to a wide variety of music. I can even remember the first time as a child that I truly understood that songs were made of different parts--the clarity of that moment when I heard by itself the bass line, the drum line, the way they worked in tandem. That I knew more than just the lyrics, that I could hum the guitar solo, and be-bop the bass in the back of my throat. It was like a lightning bolt of realization for the complexities of something I took for granted.

This happened when I was around seven. Yes, I remember it that vividly.

And writing is the same. Complex. Working together in vast parts. It has it's own bass line of setting, the solo of character, and the steady drumbeat of plot.

Many of the things I've learned about the creative process has come from the creative flow of playing in a band, from the discipline of practice, from the repetitive motions and the rote memorization. And the sheer frustration and anger at not getting it quite right. Writing for me recreated hitting that stride where things just flow in the "zone." Falling into a beat pattern becomes a sort of meditative high. Writing is the same for me. It became the improvisation of my creative landscape.

I firmly blame my time playing jazz with the reason that I'm such a writing 'pantser.' Writers often claim there are two types of writers: 'ploters' who plan out a lot of details before hand, and 'pantsers' who run down the street not wearing pants screaming "I'm a writer!" Okay, no. 'Pantsers' just fly into the story, not knowing where they're going. And I've always felt it's a bit like soloing--you've practiced your rudiments for so long that it's second nature, so improvising comes from the heart and not the brain.

Then I mostly gave up playing music.

Since I now kinda' suck at playing the drums (though one of my teachers once told me I will remember how to play a basic 4/4 rock beat until my dying breath), I've picked up an intentionally not-so serious instrument. I wrote before how playing the ukulele changed how I view writing short stories.

Some of my best stories have come from asking friends to give me a random song. The three acceptances I've received for my work were all written to music: one of them to Gary Jules' melancholy version of "Mad World," another to a folk mix of Iron and Wine, Nick Drake, and Sufjan Stevens, and the last while listening to YouTube videos of violinist Joshua Bell, violin virtuosos playing the sheer insanity that is Paganini's Caprices, and a bunch of different sopranos singing the 'Mad Scene' from Lucia di Lammermoor.


Playing music influences my writing because music was my first jump into the world of creative endeavors. 

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