Monday, 11 February 2013

Tuning Into Writer's Block

I’m the Nashville girl, which I guess makes me the country girl? Well, something like that.
I live in a town that is so fueled by music, we earned ourselves the official title of “Music City.” There is music everywhere–good music too–new, talented artists flock here on a daily basis, looking for a chance to make it.

As a writer, I sort of luck out with that.

I’m not sure what the connection is between music and imagination. I’d like to learn more about it though, because I know it’s a strong one. So strong that the main way I develop story ideas is through listening to music–live, radio, award shows–you name it, I want to daydream to it. 

Writers deal with writer’s block in all sorts of ways, but over the years, I’ve developed a method that seems to be almost foolproof for me: I drive. I get in my car, hit the scan button on the radio and turn the ignition key.

I let the songs on the radio skip and surprise me until a sound, a lyric, or a feeling sets my daydreaming on a determinate path. I daydream about a lyric my character might’ve said or if the sound of the song could be the background music to a particular scene. I drive and drive until I’m daydreaming in three-dimensions. Then, typically, I pull over and make voice memos to myself about it so I won’t forget.

I’m not saying my music daydreaming will work for everyone, but it’s one that has worked in my favor time and again.

For example, I’m working on a story right now that’s a twist on Greek myth. It deals with gods, zodiacs and fate. Over the holidays, I was explaining my idea to my dad. He shook his head and asked me how I came up with such a thing. I laughed and I told him I didn’t know.

But I do.

I was trying to outline the new novel and I was failing. In fact, I had five different outlines saved on my laptop and I hated every single one. But then I'd gone over to a friend's house to watch the AMAs (the American Music Awards) and saw Taylor Swift’s performance of “I Knew You Were Trouble.” Halfway through her set, something in my brain clicked about the character I was trying to create and I thought to myself, “Now she would be TroubleTROUBLEtrouble.”

The outline that followed turned into 330 pages of a manuscript. 

So if you're stuck, my advice is to get in your car and let the radio surprise you or watch some of last night's GRAMMY performances and let your imagination go. 

But if you've got a full proof writer's block method that works for you, let us in on it! I want to know.


  1. Caitlin,

    I've got a similar break-the-block method.:) For me it's not driving, it's running. I strap on my iPod, go out for a long run, and as I listen to tunes, it's like the combo of methodical-moving and music let my mind drift.

    I have so many voice memos on my iPod and all are somewhat breathless! :) So the running and music combo works for me...but I know it's the music that's the key.:)

    How fun to live in Nashville Caitlin! How cool. And congrats on that MS--woot!

  2. You are SO lucky to be in Nashville! Take full advantage! And, yes, congrats on the break through! Awesome.

    Believe it or not, cleaning usually does it for me. I put in my ear buds, tune out the real world, and wa-la! Shiny new ideas. I guess you could say it's very Cinderella-ish - singing, cleaning, dancing, imagining. Now if I could only find talking mice and singing birds to help me with my chores. ;)

  3. Nashville is definitely a fun place to be! Well, so long as you follow the city's golden rule of never dating a musician...which, is another post for another time.

    I need to be as productive as you two are when you brainstorm. I'd be super fit and have a completely clean apartment :) both great ideas!

  4. Great post! For me, it's a song on repeat that gets me out of a funk. Lately I've been listening to this track by I Am Kloot.