There are a few memos I didn’t get as a writer back when I started. No. Seriously. I missed a few. Things like, “writer’s block” and “tortured souls”. Yeah. We’re supposed to have those things. Who knew? Not me! Oh… and we’re supposed to have these elaborate soundtracks for our books. No seriously. Soundtracks. They’re essential. Just comb the forums at NaNoWriMo.org and you’ll see. Soundtrack of your book? Not an option. Get’er done, baby!
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Well, it’s evolved over the years. It has. Originally it was squealing toddlers, laughing tweens, and debating teens. After that, we added the MacGyver theme song when #7 daughter (#9 kid) was born because she LOVED that theme song.
After that, I got sick. My sleep cycles changed. My next soundtrack is my favorite.
Then it happened.
One kid after another went up to the local community college. And after that came late-night study sessions alone and with friends. Staying up late. Watching TV. Noise. Lots of it. I should have been used to it. After all, I wrote my first dozen or so books amid the chaos of a small house filled with a large family–and MacGyver, of course. That’s a lot of chaos to add to chaos. Just sayin’.
“Can you look at my paper?” Always happy to do it. “Can you look at my friend’s paper?” Sure! Why not? And I meant it. Every time. But it did become more and more distracting. I had deadlines now. I had Megamind, er, Ashley breathing down my neck… all the way from the other side of the country!
I sound scared?
Trust me, you would be, too. Ashley is one scary, Southern lady. I’d call her a broad, but I wanna live.
Something had to change.
So, I went looking for productivity experts–people who could help me really do something fabulous to get myself writing even amid distractions. I found a solution. In THIS POST, Michael Hyatt told us about this website his friend, Stu McClaren recommended, Focusatwill.com (Note: this link will give you 5.00 off if you subscribe. It will also give me 5.00 off my renewal.) I’ll admit, I was skeptical.
Look, I don’t like most music out there. I have a very limited range of what I like compared to what’s available. I like things that are melodic. I don’t even like most classical music because the notes tend to be verbose. I’m probably the only music lover on the planet who hates Chopin and the only writer who hates Hawthorne—AND… who thinks that they’re the mirror image of one another in their fields. They both use ten notes/words where one would do.
So when I heard about this Focus at Will thing, I was more than a little skeptical. But they give you a generous trial period (two weeks, I think). So why not, right? Most of the options they have (Classical, Uptempo, ADHD1, Water, NeuroSpace, AlphaChill, Focus Spa, Ambient… there are a ton) I don’t like them. But I do like their Acoustical and Cinematic. Sometimes I listen to the Classical or Baroque Piano. But not often. 99% of the time, I write to Acoustical.
In fact, I’ve become a bit Pavlovian about it. When I hear the music, my brain is trained. “It’s time to get serious and write.” So for that reason, I don’t let myself play these unless I AM working.
But it wasn’t enough.
Because when you’re right there, people coming in and out of the house (older girls sleep in the detached garage-turned-bedroom now) distract. I needed a new solution for nighttime, and that solution turned out to be a surprise.
NaNoWriMo prep came a couple of years ago, and something fabulous happened. I went to Denny’s with friends. We planned. They went home. I kept working. WOW. So easy to just write. And write. And write!!! My word count doubled.
Tell me why! Please! I want to know. It makes no sense. In Denny’s, there are people coming and going all the time. They stop and ask what I’m doing. Am I working on a class? It’s distracting. But still, I get lots done.
Well, I did.
Then something happened. I made friends with everyone. First, there’s Angela-the-Wonder-Server who is now going to be the heroine of her own series. There’s Alfonso the sweetest bus boy alive. Then there’s Andrew who makes me laugh, and Ryan the scary good writer for someone who doesn’t read much and has little grammar/spelling skills. Even the managers chat now. I’d name all the servers, but I’m probably pushing the bounds of appropriateness in naming this many!
And my productivity crashed again. *insert frown here* Look, I LOVE working at Denny’s. But when you spend a fortune there every night of the month (I’m a very good tipper when I spend 8 hours in a place!!!), and don’t get enough work done to justify it, the IRS isn’t going to accept that deduction. So, I had to come up with an alternative.
So off I went to a friend’s house. Her husband is a police officer in our town. So while he works and she and the kids sleep, I write at their kitchen table five nights a week. It saves me a TON of money and I get more done again.
Sounds perfect, right?
So then what’s up with the soundtrack?
It started back with a dream and Theme from a Summer Place. That dream eventually became Prairie. It was the first and only time that I had a specific song for a specific book. And I only did it then because, well, I dreamed it. I didn’t listen to it often, but I did some.
Then came all that Denny’s stuff up there. And Ante Up! With Aggie, I wanted the hymns that she usually sings filling my heart as I wrote that book. So, I bought traditional hymns played on the guitar. And while drunks passed in and out of Denny’s, screaming obscenities at one another, I listened to It is Well with My Soul and Softly and Tenderly. There’s irony in that somewhere.
It all shifted from there.
While I still spend most of my time writing with silence again (at my friends’ house), when I need to focus, I listen to Focus at Will. When I need inspiration (or just something to drive out the noise around me on Denny’s nights, I’ve been known to turn on the Beach Boys, Bert Lucarelli on the oboe, Billy Vaughn, The Piano Guys, or even The Everly Brothers. Yes, I have been that obnoxious person in booth 14 at Denny’s bee-bopping to the tunes only I can hear. I probably look ridiculous. Oh, who am I kidding? We all know I do.
But I don’t care. It drives out the filth people around me spew. It drives out the new music the restaurant now plays (one reason I avoid them more). Look, the lyrics to some of that stuff is VILE. Not just inappropriate, but VILE. So, once more, I listen to my stuff.
Yep. I’ve finally got the memo.
And I have the soundtracks to prove it. 😉