Music for Writing

Right now I’m listening to psychedelic 60s music (an Apple Music playlist), trying to see if it inspires me to write. So far, it’s not inspiring me to write, but I’m contemplating laying down and grooving to it. I’m too involved in the music and where it wants to take me (even without substances) to write about my much more mundane world. I’ll go back to this later when I want to trance out and see what happens. For now, Pink Floyd’s Interstellar Overdrive is on as I write.

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I’m picky about my music to write to. I need music that will help me concentrate and relax at the same time. The music must be interesting but not too involving. Luckily, composers have written and refined music with these characteristics through the ages. Erik Satie was the father of ambient music, which he called “furniture music”. Look him up; the music is perfect background music. While we’re talking about history and forefathers, look up Brian Eno’s Music for Airports to experience ambient fully realized.

Today there’s a music classification with a focus on just the sort of combination of interest and detachment called study music. There’s several playlists on Apple Music curated for study music, a combination of chillhop (downbeat hip hop), Lo-Fi, ambient, jazz, classical and other music that paints an atmosphere like a curtain around me. It’s perfect for someone like me who can’t concentrate in a quiet room and who did my best studying before school, sitting in the hallway and being stepped over. (Yes, I was that oblivious and that annoying.)

So, sitting in my living room, I will write under the influence of study music.

Tomorrow is my first day of meetings. Vacation is over. This means that I need to change my plan to write because I won’t have as much time to fulfill it now that I’m back at work. Right now it’s taking 2 hours to write 1000 words (which is slow for me; I really need to get inspired by this story!) So the SMART goal looks more like this:

I will write 1000 words of creative works a day (novel, short story) in the afternoon/evening.

Place will vary: home in living room, home upstairs, Starbucks.

Using the usual tools: laptop, Scrivener, ProWritingAid, iPad and DuetPro for double screen at Starbucks.

There’s my new SMART goal.

Too tired for Christmas

The semester is almost over, and I am tired.

Last week, I graded three major assignments and a handful of smaller ones. I fielded last minute requests, including two students who are just getting their spring semester internships put together. The Curriculum and Degree Requirements committee meeting went on forever.

I have written nothing this week — actually, the last couple of weeks — because I have been so tired. When I’m not working, I’m listening to Christmas music and surfing r/niceguys and reminiscing about my dating years. (I’m mostly joking.)

Next week, all I have to grade are the essay questions in the exams, and that shouldn’t take too long because they’re very short essays. Then I submit the grades. I should be done grading by Friday. Friday seems so. far. away.

All of this exposition about my time is for one purpose — to make the case that I am too tired for Christmas spirit. I’m sitting at Starbucks right now listening to Christmas music and wearing an ugly Christmas sweater. I just lost Whamageddon without realizing it. There is a Christmas romance I need to write and I’m not inspired. I’m not quite Bah Humbug here, but I’m about ready for a long winter nap.

And then, after a couple days of vegging out while listening to the Grinch soundtrack, I should be ready for the season.

Dear Universe, Please Deliver One Muse.

A message to the universe

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Sometimes I write because I see it as a method of getting an idea out there into the universe, as if the universe will supply me with something I need to deal with it creatively. Part of my belief system holds that, if one listens closely enough, the answers or comfort or solution is out there. I like whoever’s providing the aid to know what I’m asking. It comes from Quakerism and it also comes from the Christian belief of praying for what you need. I don’t know if I believe in what would be called “intercessory prayer” in some circles wholeheartedly, because my spirituality has become a muddle from the time a psychiatrist diagnosed me as bipolar. But I put words out into the universe occasionally, with some witnesses to hear. That’s you.

My life with the muse

Right now, I struggle with creativity. The spark is gone. I am writing without that burning desire to see what comes up next in my work. Everything I write feels pedestrian. I lay my problem on the muse I have had throughout my career. Muses exist to give motivation. For example, my writing life goes like this:


I assume the muse enters at the inspiration part of the equation. I used to get inspiration from my dreams. My dreams haven’t come from a muse lately. They’ve come from the Karen of my subconscious. In my dreams, I forget little things like showing up for class (I’m the professor) and wearing clothing. I’m doing everything wrong, and I am about to be discovered as a fraud. My bad dreams don’t even have the courtesy of being a dystopic plot line, preferring instead pedestrian impostor syndrome.

As muses are notorious for whipping up their subjects into a creative fury, I lay the problems of my obsession stage on the muse I’ve had as well. The obsession is the need to get into the story to interrogate the dream. I want not just to know the story but to be in it. To be it. It’s an exhilarating feeling, like flight. The obsession part is alright, unless it’s not. I know writers go a little crazy when they write, but my obsessions come with hypomania. I get into mood swings that swing between elation and Subconscious Karen, telling me I’m out of control, as if she fears I will skip class and run around naked. (Thank God I have done neither.) So I don’t get wild, but I fear giving creativity any quarter will cause the calamity I dream of.

Go away, muse

So I fired my muse. Those obsession parts were too wild, and I feared sliding down a slippery slope to a bacchanalia in the middle of the University Ballroom and all those other explosions Subconscious Karen feared. I never have experienced the wild elation since I fired my muse. I miss it sometimes, but it’s nice not having Subconscious Karen around all the time (she’s only around sometimes now, usually when I’m under a lot of stress).

Now I wonder if I can hire a new muse. I don’t want an erratic, frenetic, startling muse anymore. But I want a muse to inspire me without the feeling that I’m about to choose to swing naked on that chandelier. There has to be a middle between swinging on a chandelier and Subconscious Karen.

It’s not about a muse, is it?

Writing this article has been alchemy. I discovered, in writing this, that it was about writing with bipolar disorder. Although I am convinced that I am not less creative with the bipolar meds, I don’t know how to grasp my creativity as readily as I would like to. In a hypomanic state, ideas jump at me and I grab onto them and run. I feel touched by the muse and my self-doubts melt. I feel gifted, and this makes writing easy. Subconscious Karen keeps me from veering off the deep end but makes my life uncomfortable and my mood swings worse. I have given up those things which encourage artificial highs (irregular sleep, extended stress, obsessive crushes) and thus have robbed myself of the muse.

My thought going out into the universe: Help me live with Subconscious Karen in a way that doesn’t rob me of joy. Help me find inspiration without obsession, intensity without disruption, creativity without condemnation.

Death and Stories

I haven’t written for a while. My father died a week ago on Thursday, and I feel so tired. I don’t understand it because my dad was 86, and I’m almost 60. It’s not a shocking death. I wake up every morning from nightmares that seem to have nothing to do with my dad, and then I realize there will be no fresh stories about my dad. There will be the old stories, and that’s it.

I haven’t cried for my father. I didn’t cry for my mother either. When my father figure, Les, died, I didn’t cry either. Or when my best friend Celia died. I seem pretty stoic in the face of death, unless I am asleep and my mind explores the afterlife.

Most of the time, I don’t believe in any afterlife. (This does not mean I don’t believe in a Divine Presence.) If there’s an afterlife, we are swirling energies in the universe that — um, contribute to the Akashic records? Sing the music of the spheres? I don’t think we lived this life as humans so that we could live as humans somewhere else.

When someone close to me dies, however, I want to believe in that paradise, and I clutch to myself the imagery of a big old house and a party where all the people I have ever been fond of show up. There are joyful reunions, even between those who have never met. We fill the house with hugs and laughter.

I go to the kitchen to help cook because I feel overwhelmed by the noise and the hugs; it’s something I often do. I turn to the woman cooking — she’s tall and bountiful — and ask if I can help cook. “No, go out there. It’s your party.” As I go out, I realize that it’s everyone’s party, because this is Heaven and this is God.

I fear death. Not the inevitable emptiness itself; I worry about the knowledge just before one dies, the certainty that there will be no next minute, no stories to tell. Yet it’s the only scenario that stands up after examination, after questions of “Who gets admitted in?” and “Aren’t they going to get bored?” That and the humanized energies scenario discussed above.

We die and are returned to ash. Our stories live beyond us, until those carriers, too, die. This is what makes me cry.

In the End

When you’re sixty, no one calls you an orphan.

My dad is dying. He’s 86 and in hospice care, so it’s not unexpected. It’s hard, though, watching the person who taught me how to ride a bike and who took me out fishing at his weakest. It’s the way of life, though.

That doesn’t make it any easier.

Dad alternates between agitated and a twilight sort of existence; in neither does he seem to be with us. He doesn’t recognize any of us anymore, except possibly my sister, who has been his caretaker through this.

I am here to say goodbye, which has become a prolonged process. I think I said my proper goodbyes two weeks ago, when he was still coherent sometimes.

Goodbye, Dad. You did a fine job with us.

In the Middle of My Grouchiness

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I’m having a grouchy day today. I feel prickly, moody, and absolutely disagreeable. Of course, I don’t show this in public because I am a good midwestern girl who strives to be outwardly agreeable. Disagreeableness is a hideous faux-pas among midwestern women. Shade is subtle in its application.

I’m sure it’s something I’m doing to myself with negative self-talk. I feel out of sorts; I then apply a good helping of “I’m an unlikeable person” to my psyche, and I become grouchy. Add to that some of my natural exasperation at minor things like trying to find a document that’s hiding from me and there we go — grouchy mood.

It’s Friday, and I’ve been waiting for the weekend all week. I think maybe I’ve had a grouchy week and not noticed. I don’t have things planned this weekend, which means some unplanned work on my NaNo project with a twist of working on promotion opportunities. And baptizing my iPad to some creative work.

But what do I need now in the middle of my grouchiness? I need some cognitive journaling, some contradiction of the thought patterns that trap me into grouchiness. Like “I’m an unlikeable person.” How do I know this? Do I read minds? Does everyone think I’m unlikeable? Isn’t that a huge number of people? Like I’m reading millions of people’s minds at this moment? How do I have time for anything else? I don’t think I believe in that statement anymore, it’s just so improbable. That’s cognitive journaling in a nutshell.

New toy

I just bought myself an iPad. The basic type, 9th gen, refurbished. I bought it because I had two gadget needs: a tablet that was light and recognized handwriting, and a spare monitor on the go. The right software makes both possible.

I’m still getting used to it. I have to put it in my lap a lot because it’s a bit heavy although it’s lighter than the one I had years ago. It will do what I want, though. I’m already using it for writing this blog.

New technologies.

So, not a bad purchase. A bit of a learning curve with the new apps, but better than the iPhone for drafting this document.

Writing with my Husband

My husband wasn’t kidding when he said he wanted to co-author my latest romance novel with me. Honestly, I thought he’d beg off on strategizing sessions, but he’s been meeting and working on a brief chapter outline with me. We’ve been through the outline for the first time and are going to add more detail. I rarely make my outlines in this much detail, but with the two of us working on this, I feel we need more guidance.

The way Richard and I work together is that I, with more knowledge of romance writing (and possession of the computer, scrivener, and template), lead and type our responses. Richard largely functions by suggesting ideas, which I reject or accept.

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The writing part is going to be mostly me, with Richard critiquing and suggesting as we go along. We’re going to argue because we’re both headstrong. But he has fresh ideas and I have the knowledge and the worldview, so we think we can get the novel done together.

The novel’s plot: two twenty-somethings, one with a toddler, wonder if they can manage adulthood. Their uncertainty is what’s keeping them from falling in love. The theme of the book: You are enough. We are enough. The background: Christmas in a small, quirky college town.

I’m looking forward to writing this.

What is this blog about?

Every time I try to decide what this blog is about, my fingers take over. What this blog ends up being about is what’s on my mind. It’s an exercise in essaying, in freewriting, in expression. It’s sometimes about the seasons, a fascination of mine. Sometimes it’s about my writing, which has not gotten the niche following I had hoped for. Sometimes, it’s about my cats. (This is Chloe as a kitten). Sometimes it’s about heavier topics, like living with mental health quirks.

I feel guilty because I can’t stick to a topic. I think part of that is because of the admonition “write what you know”. What do I know? A little bit about a lot of things. I know what I have picked up from various places about writing but I am no means formally taught. I know about my subject matter (family economics and resource management) but I don’t want to write a work blog. I need my time off work. I know about moulage (making people look like casualty victims for training purposes) but that may be a little too niche. I know how to make bread, but not how to make really pretty loaves. I know edible flowers. I know Thai cooking, but not nearly so well as a native cook.

So I’m left with making a blog about what comes to mind; again, not something that appeals to a niche audience unless I find one who will ask me questions. I enjoy being asked questions, and will go to some lengths to answer them.

Hopefully I will find inspiration for a blog that people will flock to. More likely, I will find acceptance that mine is not one of them.

I’m Already Tired

Yesterday was the first day of classes in my 28th year as a college professor (and my 48th first day of school). I had coffee with a colleague (Thanks, Amy!) My students kept me busy during office hours. My first class was lively, and my second class had the post-lunch sleepies, and then that first day went in the books.

I didn’t write when I got home; I was exhausted. I’d like to say the first day of classes didn’t exhaust me when I was younger, but I know better. It’s universally exhausting.

I’m still tired, and today’s my workday at home. Of course I have been working at home and haven’t had time for writing. Until now, so I’m taking this moment to blog, and hopefully will have time to write rather than just collapse into a nap. (I’ve done this already, too.)

If I were doing this right, I’d go to Starbucks for a coffee and some writing time. But then I’d have to get out of my sweats and put on a bra. (TMI?) What a dilemma.

Ahh, what to do. Time to make stuff happen… or not.