5.21.2008

Finding Your Muse

I often write about my writing process in this journal. The various routes we take to our creative work are pretty interesting to me. I'm a dork for those tidbits about the famous writers and the things they did to make their word count.

Tangent: Supposedly, when he was living in Cuba, Ernest Hemingway would put his typewriter on a high dresser. He would pace back and forth as he considered plot and dialogue, then stand at the dresser and blast away on the machine. He wouldn't let himself rest until he hit 750 words.

Stephen King's On Writing is filled with snippets about James Joyce (he used to write in a milkman's uniform). And I learned much about Raymond Carver in a class I took at Portland State from his friend (and excellent poet) Henry Carlyle.

In King's book, he (rightfully, I think) espouses the value of reading as an artistic catalyst.

When I read Ray Bradbury as a kid, I wrote Ray Bradbury--everything green and wondrous and seen through a lens smeared with the grease of nostalgia. When I read James M. Cain, everything I wrote came out clipped and stripped and hardboiled. When I read Lovecraft, my prose became luxurious and Byzantine.

And I read a post last week by Jeff VanderMeer in which he outlined his playlist for composing fiction. I think that's pretty neat. King talks about certain novels having particular soundtracks, and I admire that level of artistic influence. I've actually grown comfortable listening to Pandora while I work. I like the fact that I can govern the general sound of the music while still allowing for some variety. I set up stations for Bruce Hornsby, Phil Collins, Jason Mraz, Pearl Jam and Counting Crows. I've had the best success, though, with Matchbox 20.

I also like to write with a ballgame (baseball only) on in the background. I love it when the Cubs are on at 2:00 on a Thursday afternoon...

I think seasons influence the writing process. I think a person's circadian rhythms do also (I have students e-mailing me essays at 3:30 a.m. all the time).

So let me pose the question: which outside influences shape your creative process?

2 comments:

writtenwyrdd said...

Definitely music. It can also be the overtone of the current read, if it resonates with my gut. Or a movie I've seen recently. Underworld (mostly because of the soundtrack) got me that way. Now when I write dark fantasy, I still like goth rock, in particular Evanescence. (Although I first heard them in Daredevil, lol.)

Daniel W. Powell said...

Hey there WW,

I appreciate the tip. I haven't looked at Underworld, but I've heard it's pretty decent.

I had a friend back in college that had to fall asleep every night to Three Amigos. It's strange how our favorite songs and shows can put us in a place of comfort and our brains can work on two tracks. I mean, when I listen to Pandora, I can mentally sing along to the Counting Crows but still generate content all the while.

And it is kind of *different* for me to write about Oregon when I look outside here in Florida and it's 92 degrees and the sun is sixteen feet above my house.

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