I’m in the mood….

Posted 13 June, 2009 by DLWhite in Random, Writers Write 3 Comments


illustration by Anthony Russo

illustration by Anthony Russo

I don’t mean that the way it sounds.

Sometimes when I’m going to do something that I sort of don’t want to do, I change the atmosphere so that it becomes inviting. A pile of papers to file? Turn on some music, set a timer, make it a game to see how many pages I can file in X amount of time. Got to unload the dishwasher, scrub the bathroom, fold laundry? I usually call up one of my yappy friends and let them talk to me so I’m distracted and I don’t realize I’m doing the things I didn’t feel like doing.

When it comes to writing, it’s not that I don’t want to do it… it’s that sometimes I just have ideas, because things write themselves in my head. Ideas write themselves in my head and then I leave it up to my fingers and my brain to form those ideas into words that make sense and have meaning and impact. And to me, that’s work. It’s enjoyable, but it’s work, kind of like having kids or being married (neither of which I have experienced, but every mom or wife says ‘oh gosh, it’s hard work. It’s fun, but it’s hard work’).

So, when I sit down to write, the atmosphere has to be conducive. I have friends who can sit down in 15 minutes during their break at work and shoot out a drabble that makes me laugh or cry, or… something else emotional. 15 minutes isn’t even enough time for me to really get started with anything. I can’t really write at work– besides, it’s too busy and my boss is too nosy. At the most, if it’s quiet and slow, I can blog or edit a story. I cannot produce new material at work.

I found, today, that writing in public isn’t a very good idea, either. I’m too distracted by what’s going on around me, constantly. And then there’s internet and IM and Twitter going off every 12 seconds and aaargh! Again, I can edit, but I can’t concentrate long enough to make a dent in anything new.

For me to be able to write, I have to be at home. I have to be comfortable, which means laptop on lap, and under a blanket, whether it’s June or January. Sitting upright in a chair isn’t conducive to writing, to me, for some reason. I’m usually propped up against a few pillows. I have to have music. HAVE TO and if I am going to seriously write something, the music has to be Dave Matthews Band.

I don’t know what it is about the most mellow band on earth– except that they’re probably the most mellow band one earth. I’ve got a friend whose son will only sleep to Dave Matthews Band. it’s pretty funny. Anyway, I have pretty much everything they’ve ever recorded (thanks, Internet), so I set my DMB Play list, plug in the headphones, and let it play.

For me, the music selection has to be something that both drowns out noise in the room (TV, neighbors, etc) and also is something that doesn’t break concentration. If the music flips from smooth blues to jarring rock to bass-laden hip hop to sleepy classical, that’s too much for me. I need a constant and I can’t be reaching for the ‘skip’ button every few minutes. For some reason, I can listen to DMB continuously for hours while I write. It’s even more effective when I can’t hear my fingers typing on the keys of the laptop… then nothing is distracting me and then the ideas can get out of my head and then I can stop thinking about it!

I’m interested in your rituals, writers– how do you get in the mood? How do you set the mood? What do you “have to have” in order to get something done– or are you the kind of writer than can jot a quickie on the back of an envelope in 10 minutes?

I wish I could be that writer. Maybe someday.

Till later,

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3 Responses to “I’m in the mood….”

  1. I’m not unlike yourself in that I have to sit down and make myself do it, have to drown out everything else and require a decent amount of time to write something worthy of publishing. I however need a chair or I’ll fall asleep on the pillows and can’t have any music or movies or TV on because I’d never write two coherent sentences. My ideas are jotted onto whatever paper I can find at hand when they come – index cards, the back of my grocery list, old receipts or flimsy cardboard packaging almost thrown away. The good ideas are usually the ones that keep coming back even though I might have forgotten whatever little scrap they were hidden on.

    • I haven’t yet mastered the art of WRITE IT DOWN, NOW! I find if I talk it out to myself, I’m likely to remember it, but I JUST started carrying around a note pad. Have yet to use it. But it’s there.

  2. I only write in blog form. Blog post ideas will form in my mind, and the next day they could be gone. I have a notepad I use on my blackberry to jot even a word down to help me remember.

    As far as atmosphere, well, I prefer to write after the kids are in bed and the TV is OFF! But I don’t need that. I can write a partially formed in my head blog as my toddler crawls all over me. Once it starts spilling out, it’s “born” and I can start and stop if needed.