Living Write

My Weird Writing Rituals

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I’m a writer, which already pegs me as a little odd. I make stuff up. Crazy stuff, sweet stuff, scary stuff. I write down my dreams and nightmares and build worlds around them. Weird.

But to get to the actual business of smearing thoughts across white space, I have a few rituals I practice. Some of these are absolute MUSTS, others are just when I’m having a tough time with motivation.

Always, I get started with coffee. Not weird; lots of people do that, whether they are writers or not. Coffee is important. Not only does coffee wake me up and energize me, the taste and aroma sort of work like a time machine, transporting me to wherever else I need to be. It’s magic.

Sometimes I listen to music. It can be the perfect way to get into the needed emotions of a scene. I don’t do this every day, because if my playlist shuffles badly, I get distracted. Nothing worse than having the Goldfinger theme song stuck in your head while you’re trying to write a story about a Bible character. And Song of India is too relaxing to sufficiently inspire a fight scene. My playlist is extensive, so I get pretty picky about that.

I prefer to be alone when I write. That means when people walk in to chat or ask a question, I will minimize my story. This isn’t really a ritual, but it keeps everything secretive, and that mind-set helps me write. When I find myself being interrupted too much, I declare a National Get Out of My House Day, and that usually fixes the problem.

When I first begin writing each day, I go back to my last chapter or last page, and read for a minute or two. I want to get back into the “feel” of the story, so the next part develops naturally. I don’t edit, but I like the more organic approach, as opposed to reviewing my outline (I use that term loosely) or checking a to-do list. Also, I cannot stop writing until the chapter or scene is finished. Walking away from my keyboard mid-scene is not an option. If my house catches fire while I’m writing I will probably die.

Then there is break time, which is about doing chores (How would my main character feel about washing dishes?) or getting a little exercise. If there is music, I will dance. I’m not a great dancer, but that’s never stopped me.

If I get stuck in a scene or situation, I jump to my Pinterest board for the story in question. Here is where I have cast my story and pinned all the research links I might need. Sometimes just reviewing the “facts” gets my stream of thought back on track. If I’m really stuck, I will stare at the photos of my characters and ask them questions. You would be surprised how often they answer. Some of my favorite chapters are the result of this technique.2015-09-11 15.27.09

Another thing that I find myself doing– when I’m working something out in my mind’s eye– is playing with my earrings. Because I do this fairly often, I keep myself focused by wearing earrings that coordinate with my story. What? I know it seems silly. I’m discovering that I do quite a lot of silly things. Yes, in the morning while I’m getting dressed I ask myself which story I will be writing today. Little Black Dress is set in Paris, so I put on my Eiffel Tower earrings. Shooting Stars Traveling Circus calls for my pistols. Her Most Precious Gift is about Mary of Bethany from the Bible, so I wear my favorite cross earrings. When I start fiddling with them, they become inspiration. My fingertips, which usually hop from key to key, now explore the edges and form of real symbols from my stories. Sometimes the tactile bond is just what I need to keep going.

As I look over my list, I’m noticing something that has never occurred to me before today. All of my quirks, my weird little writing rituals, revolve around my five senses. I suppose these are just some of the methods I use to make my story real.

Would you like a glimpse into the novels I’m writing? Here are a few links to my Pinterest boards. Follow me!

Little Black Dress Novel Research

Shooting Stars Traveling Circus

Her Most Precious Gift

 

Living Write

Ten Favorite Songs

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My taste in music is eclectic, to put it mildly. My playlist includes Schubert and Holst, Guraldi and Mancini, Sonny and Cher, the Eagles and the Troggs, Hall and Oates, Dwight Yoakam, Meghan Trainor, Pink, Florence + the Machine, the Clash and the Muppets, and many more.

wedding day
1985

For me to list just ten songs as favorites is just a silly idea.

us 2b
2015

Instead, in honor of my 30th wedding anniversary, let me give you a list of songs that would top today’s playlist.

10- I’ll Stop the World and Melt With You, by Modern English

9- That’s What I Like about You, by the Romantics

8- Something to Talk About, by Bonnie Raitt

7- You Might Think, by the Cars

6- The Things We Do For Love, by 10cc

5- It’s Something That We Do, by Clint Black

4- Moondance, by Van Morrison

3- When a Man Loves a Woman, by Percy Sledge

2- Let My Love Open the Door, by Pete Townsend

1- Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman, by Bryan Adams

 

What are your ten favorite songs? What are your favorites for today?

 

Living Write

My Guilty Pleasure

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Day 4 of the June Blogging Challenge is to tell you about my guilty pleasure.

I’m an online shopper. I love amazon, among others sites. I don’t always buy, of course, but I love to look.

I browse books, music, movies, jewelry, clothes, appliances, baby clothes, make-up, electronics… that’s me. This morning when I hear the news reporter say that Pinterest was adding a “Buy Me” button I nearly swooned. My gracious! Pinterest is what I like to call “online pre-shopping.” This is going to really cut into my work time.

Confession over. Now back to “work.”

Cinema Toast

The Music Effect

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Music does this really weird thing to me. You know how in movies when you have this obsessed detective or even a stalker who has a wall or secret room covered with a jillion photographs connected to each other with a web made of about three miles-worth of brightly-colored yarn? That’s my brain on music.

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Example: After I added some music to a play list on my laptop, the song “Twistin’ the Night Away” by Sam Cooke began. I start to dance immediately. (I was also folding laundry at the time.) I did the Twist, the Fly, and the Watusi, as instructed. Suddenly I think about Gilligan’s Island, because of course, in one episode Ginger is instructing one of the other castaways in the correct form for dancing the Watusi.

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Before I finish that thought, my mind jumps to the scene in Innerspace when Martin Short’s character is drinking and dancing to the same song. I adore that movie. Fast-forward to the end of the film when the credits roll. Short is racing down the road to save Dennis Quaid and Meg Ryan from the bad guys, and the song is blasting again, this time sung by Rod Stewart.

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For a quick moment I think of how much I appreciate Rod Stewart for recording older songs like that—fun and beautiful classics that deserve a new audience.

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Hopping back to “Twistin’ the Night Away,” which is only half-over at this point, I think about how smooth Sam Cooke’s voice is—even on a party song like this. What a voice he had. And how sad that a talent like his was lost in such terrible circumstances. He was killed in a hotel at the age of 33, his death ruled justifiable homicide because he was inebriated and… it’s just like a movie.

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Why haven’t they made a movie about his life? Who would play him? Denzel Washington is too old for the part. Even Hill Harper is past 33. Maybe that cute Dayo Okeniyi from Hunger Games? I wonder when the next Hunger Games movie comes out…

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Yep, all of that in a 2 minute-41 second song. While I’m dancing. And folding clothes. I told you it was weird.

 

That’s a wrap for this Toast to Cinema. Thanks for reading.

Cinema Toast

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

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It’s Christmas. No getting around it. No more putting off the decorating or shopping. Get out that reindeer sweater and your jingle-bell earrings. Find Grandma’s divinity recipe and build that gingerbread house. It’s time for merriment. Parties, plays, choir concerts and cookie swaps are everywhere you turn.

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Listening to the radio these days can be tough, though. I enjoy Christmas music. I sing I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas, Santa Baby, and Jingle Bell Rock at the drop of a hat. I love the quiet and almost hallow notes of Silent Night and Away in a Manger. I like that Elvis, Paul McCartney, Elton John, Eartha Kitt, Chris Isaak, and Michael Jackson all have Christmas tunes that weave seamlessly with the Carpenters and Bing Crosby. My only problem is all those tear-jerker songs.

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You know what songs I’m talking about. The Christmas Shoes, One Last Christmas, It Won’t Be the Same This Year, and The Little Boy Santa Claus Forgot all just bring tears to my eyes. I sure can’t drive while listening to them.

So all this music has got me thinking… Christmas is a time of emotions. We celebrate the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. We get together with friends and family, near and far. We miss those who are no longer with us. We see great acts of sacrifice. We witness ridiculous acts of selfishness. We reminisce about past holidays and look forward to the coming year with hope.

Maybe this is why so many books and movies that really have nothing to do with the holidays have their stories nestled into the backdrop of Christmas. Consider all the “seasonal” films that really are about relationships or personal victories (or tragedies) and you’ll usually see that Christmas is just a setting. Most are not about Christmas at all.

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The Bishop’s Wife is about a troubled marriage. Penny Serenade is about a couple struggling with grief. Little Women is about sisters coming of age. While You Were Sleeping is a romantic comedy about loneliness. Even A Christmas Carol is a story about regret. They all just have Christmas time as another character in the tale. It is the binding that links the emotions of the characters with the audience. It’s good story-telling.

That’s a wrap for this Toast to Cinema. Thanks for reading.