Know Your Writing Triggers
At Breathe 2013, I sat on an authors’ panel. I believe I was the token newbie. I don’t remember much of what we discussed, but I do remember that someone asked us, “What do you read to prepare yourself for writing?” Tracy Groot said Steinbeck, I think. Someone else said they read John Ashbery.
I said I don’t read anybody. I watch an episode of Breaking Bad. And I have a cigar and a cup of coffee. Then I’m ready to write.
I should have felt silly about that, but I didn’t. I know what triggers get my mind in the right head-space and I’m very intentional about using them. I know that I do my best writing on a particular bench overlooking the Capitol building and the Lansing skyline, while writing on this decade-old word processor I bought on eBay. I know that music and surroundings tend to affect how I write.
I like to have a playlist for each novel I’m writing, that evokes the mood I want to tap into, but also one particular song that I can play to sort of Pavlov’s Dog myself into the right head-space in under a minute. For my forthcoming book The Last Con, the song was “Crystalize” by Lindsey Stirling. I heard that song in a bookstore a couple weeks ago and immediately (involuntarily) started concocting new scenes. The problem is that I’ve already turned in the manuscript (it will hit stores in June 2015). For 42 Months Dry, it was all about Matisyahu.
For Playing Saint (which is the drug I’m actively pushing now), watching a little Breaking Bad was the thing that chambered a round for me, creatively speaking. Not that I wanted to copy Vince Gilligan’s style; just that I found myself wanting—needing—to be creative in a sort of uncharted way after forty minutes of that. The writing flowed better when I crank-started the process that way (there’s a pun in there somewhere).
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