Save the forty winks for later

If your writing doesn’t keep you up at night, it won’t keep anyone else up either — James M. Cain

When I work on a writing project, I tend to stay up longer than I should and bear the effects of not enough sleep. But then, I’m a night owl, so I’m not entirely sure my writing is really the reason I stay up at night.

Why do I stay up longer than I should instead of getting my forty winks? Well, for starters, there is the night owl factor that is impossible to ignore or be dismissive about. And my brain tends to get its second wind after midnight whether I want it to or not.

There have been numerous stories and discussions, online and elsewhere, regarding what time of day writers and artists work on their craft. There are early morning folks who get up before the rest of the household wakes up to spend an hour or two doing their thing before life demands their attention.

There are those who write in the late evening after dinner and the kids and spouse have toddled off to bed. There are those who don’t start writing until after midnight where the creative embers don’t start burning at their brightest until 2am.

I am clearly in the late night category. However, I also will write any time during the day. I steal moments whenever I can. 15-30 minutes here and there. A part of my brain is always with the story, always with my characters, always with my boys. My writing doesn’t just keep me up at night. It’s with me every waking moment, too.

I have yet to be told by some well-meaning person that maybe I need to be more structured with my writing time. You know how this is going to end, right? If anybody does make a suggestion that I be more disciplined about the whole process, I will tell them to go fuck themselves with a lubed up big black dildo. And I’ll say that with a smile on my face.

Anyway, the time I spend working on my writing project has been steadily increasing in the past week. And I’m enjoying it. It’s grounding for me. It means life is settling back to a rhythm that would be optimal for writing. And that would still include staying up until two or three in the morning since that is never going to change.

All of this is a welcome change.

Time to take a deep breath and immerse myself again.

Stealing moments

There is something delicious about writing the first words of a story. You never quite know where they’ll take you — Beatrix Potter

I don’t know about using ‘delicious’ to describe writing the first words of a story. It’s not the first word the comes to mind but it is very appropriate. Personally, I think of ‘excited’ and ‘eager’.

There are other words or phrases that incorporate the word ‘fuck’, too. Examples of this are: I’m fucking excited; I can’t fucking wait to get to the keyboard and start writing; why can’t everybody leave me the fuck alone so I can write. You catch my drift?

Writing the first words are not just the only things that are delicious in the process of writing. Aside from coming up with the characters and developing their personalities, putting two or more characters together for the first time and watching the sparks fly — for all the right and/or wrong reasons — is absolutely exciting and intoxicating. These meetings are worth more than beer and popcorn. Depending on what is happening, you either don a hazmat suit or a wet suit and have a bottle of mezcal and a plate of chilaquiles for snacking purposes. Whatever you wear and whatever you dine on, it all equals fun times.

Would I describe it as a high? Yes. It’s a better high than smoking pot or eating ‘brownies’. You avoid the after-effects which includes having the munchies. The creative part of the brain gets all lit up and you’re ready to take on the world or, at least, take on your characters’ world. You just want to go in there and fuck things up because the characters are planning to do exactly that… fuck things up. You know what that means… all hell is going to break lose. ¡Maldito derecho! Think I said that correctly.

Something else that is delicious is writing the first words each of your characters utters in the story. It is the first real introduction of the characters to the reader. It’s not just a physical description of that character which is also important because it’s one of the layers for building and creating a character. A character’s first words is another layer. It sets the tone and offers a first glimpse into who that person is and what their story might be.

I have fun writing dialogue. I know there are folks out there who have a hell of a time writing dialogue. It’s always fun opening a character’s mouth and hearing what words go flying out of it. I don’t know why but I find writing dialogue way too much fun. Writing dialogue can be delicious. Writing certain scenes can be delicious, too. But I won’t go there right now.

With all these things that makes writing so appealing to me, it’s a wonder I haven’t dropped everything to just simply write. But living in a world where money is required in assisting you in having a roof over your head and food on the table, kind of gets in the way of dropping everything to do the one thing you feel passionate. Ok, you can argue that there may be more than one thing you are passionate about. I’m just simplifying.

Once again, life has temporarily gotten in the way of letting me dive completely into my characters’ world. However, I’ve gotten better or sneakier about being a stone’s throw away from that world. Now, stealing moments with my boys is more of an expectation rather than an exception. In moments where there is nothing but me and the music playlist either occupying the quiet or chasing away the noise, in the moments before I go to sleep, my boys come for me and we enter the world the three of us are creating together. We talk while we are on the move. There is much to do, much to sort out, much to show.

When life gets in the way, trips to that world are not as frequent. And wanderlust builds up. My boys get antsy, I get antsy. In the moments we steal, we do what we can before I have to leave them again. And they’re getting better about not pouting and behaving petulantly. Thank god for small mercies.

The moments we steal are precious. Words hit the page and the adventure continues. I know where my boys will be at the end of the story. But it’s their unfolding journey to get to their destination is what excites me. How do they get from point A to point B? If I or the boys change a seemingly small detail, how does that alter their journey? What if I change the role of another character — how will it affect my boys? These are things I’ve already done and they are for the better. The subtle and not-so-subtle changes mean nothing but fun for everyone involved. When it’s fun, nobody wants to leave. Even when it’s not fun, nobody wants to leave. That’s why when life interferes, it sucks being dragged away.

Fortunately, there is another week of life’s interference and then, my boys and I will have more quality time together.

But for now, we are satisfied with stealing moments to be with each other.

Sound, imagery inextricably linked

I listen to music cinematically. I think about music and how it would make me feel when it’s put to an image, a moving image, and I love it — Walton Goggins

In the last three or four weeks, I’ve been obsessed with a musical mash-up between Blondie (Heart of Glass) and Philip Glass (Violin Concerto: II) which was created by Daft Beatles a few years ago. Titled Heart of Glass (Crabtree remix), I never knew this was a mash-up I needed in my life and on my writing playlist.

The first time I heard the song was on the July 11 broadcast of CBC’s q with guest host Ali Hassan. Hassan was interviewing Michael Perlmutter, the music supervisor for the TV adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. They were discussing the rise of the music supervisor and how the Emmys finally created a category for outstanding music supervision.

Side note: Perlmutter didn’t make the cut for that category. Bummer.

Second side note: the job of music supervisor or music editor for a film or TV series fascinates me to no end. Soundscapes are just as important as the visuals and when you have a perfect marriage between the two, it is absolutely unforgettable.

The TV series Person of Interest was the first show I became aware of the music they used in their episodes. They used music by artists such as Johnny Cash, Nat King Cole, The Kills and Philip Glass for two or three key scenes in every episode during the five seasons that they ran. It was smart use of sound and visuals to manipulate the viewer into feeling a certain way about a situation or one of the characters. Although the show probably paid a pretty sum to use the music of these artists, the real star, musically-speaking, was music composer Ramin Djawadi who created the score for the series. This is where I discovered his music and have remained an ardent fan of his work. The leitmotifs he created for the series were sublime. Mind you, his work for Game of Thrones is nothing to sneeze at either. Light of the Seven will always be one of my favourite works from Djawadi.

Watching this series made me think about the marriage between sound and imagery. It also made me want to talk to the show’s music supervisor, Djawadi and the show’s producers about their views on music and its role in visual storytelling. I just wanted to pick their brains. It would have been an eye-opening experience.

Anyway, back to Perlmutter and his CBC q interview. Assuming I heard the man correctly, the show submitted its third episode for Emmy consideration which featured the Daft Beatles mash-up. Then they played the song without naming it. Well, I nearly fell over when I heard the piece. I love Blondie. I love Debbie Harry. And I have an ever-growing appreciation for Philip Glass. Holy crap. Who knew these two artists could be mashed up like that and sound so sublime. I didn’t. And had I been PVRing The Handmaid’s Tale I would have discovered this little bit of aural heaven a lot sooner.

Of course, it’s a piece of music that fits perfectly with my current writing playlist. The piece is visually and emotionally evocative. It inspires my characters. It sets the right tone for them in some of the scenes I plan to write. It sets the wheels in motion.

My playlist is forever evolving and being fine-tuned as I work on the second novel. What the playlist looked like at the beginning of the writing process will look almost completely different by the time the first draft of the book is finished. What will remain are the core pieces that represent the characters and their relationships to each other.

Music and the writing process are inextricably linked.

I’m not sure when I started listening to music cinematically. I probably started when I was a teenager. Bits and pieces of images that would pop into my head because the music I was listening to at the time demanded it. I’ve always believed in the power of combining music and imagery, be it still or moving. But not everything I hear is cinematic. The pieces of music my brain registers as cinematic share some sort of intangible quality. I know what some of the commonalities are but it doesn’t completely explain the reason they affect me the way they do.

To be honest, I’m not all that interested in over-analyzing it. I go by gut instinct when it comes to music.

And now, I’m off to obsess over music and story.