Music for Writing

Music for Writing

To say I love music would be an understatement. As a child I spent hours recording songs as they played on the radio. Much of my allowance went to buying cassette tapes. Waves of excitement would wash over me as I hit record every time a new song came on the radio. When I got older I became obsessed with CDs and built a pretty enviable collection. Digital music came along, and my collection was growing exponentially until the option of music subscriptions. With some now, like Amazon’s Music Unlimited, you can listen to pretty much anything you want whenever you want. I buy much less music as a result.

This blog post is not about collecting music. Maybe I will devote another one to that topic later. Rather, I would like to rattle on a little about using music while writing.

Are you a writer? Do you play music while writing? If so, what music do you turn to?

My music tastes are very eclectic, largely decided by the mood I am either in or want to be writing about. If I am dabbling with a bit of romance, Adele or Dido might be my artist of choice. Dealing with confrontation I may turn to something a little angrier. Two of my fallbacks are Linkin Park and the heavier tracks from Evanescence. A mellow passage might turn me to Josh Groban, Sarah McLachlan or Enya. Looking to be happy or humorous, I may call on Michael Bublé.

Editing, we all know how painful it can be, typically points me to something without words so I can concentrate fully on butchering my work. My favorites are piano based, but there are many orchestral ones as well. There is a techno old favorite, David Arkenstone’s In the Wake of the Wind, that has been with me for decades. The soundtracks to A Beautiful Mind and Pride and Prejudice are also calming favorites.

I am not stuck in the past as many of the above references might imply. Streaming today’s pop, alternative and country stations frequently create the right mood or desire. Much of today’s music draws me, but a good playlist is like comfy slippers and a well-worn cardigan. Hence, I find myself returning to old friends often.

Perusing my digital playlists, I seem to be drawn to certain themes. Many of the songs in my collection have “home,” “breathe” or “rain” in the title. It remains a puzzle as to what that means. Still, I am fascinated by the fact that I am drawn to songs with similar subjects.

At times, rare as they may occur, I may turn off all music. Sometimes the voices in my head need to speak clearly for me to get through a particularly challenging passage. The silence does not last long. While it helps to focus momentarily, I tend to find myself drifting mentally or inclined to walk off and do other things. The music comes back on and I can (mostly) focus again. Music helps to drown out some of the lesser voices that are not needed in the moment.

Music is an important part of my writing ritual. What rituals are important to you?

Getting Home – Official Trailer

Frozen Lake – Poem

Frozen Lake poem wolfe butler WB

I tried to walk

Alone across

An endless frozen sea

 

T’was dark as coal

All twilight gone

A path I did not know

 

I walked in vain

To reach no goal

Direction had no road

 

No markers there

Or signs to guide

A frozen land nowhere

 

Though not yet doomed

My trip grew worse

As through a hole I fell

 

To gasp for air

And fight for strength

But all to no avail

 

For in the dark

With water deep

I found no hole to flee

 

A grave unmarked

No man to know

A myst’ry plain to see

 

No light to guide

No helping hand

Instead this silent sea

– July 25, 2005

Read more poetry here.

Poetry

 

Peter Pan – Fan Fiction

Author’s Note: I have been toying with the idea of writing a darker sequel for Peter Pan. It is a story that has always had great meaning for me, and I love the way the Robin Williams portrayed the character in Hook. This is my opening draft. I would love to hear your comments.

                “Peter,” the name rang long in the cool night air. The boys were looking for him. Again.

                “Peter! Peter, where are you?” Their childhood laughter echoed up to him high up in the tree as the ran beneath, play fighting with wooden swords.

                “He’s gone off to the ship again,” one of them presumed.

                “There’s no reason to go there,” another one challenged. “What’s left there?”

                “Nothing left,” some of smaller ones sang. “Hook the crook lives no more.”

                All the boys cheered in unison thrusting their swords into the night sky.

                “Suppose he’s flying?” little Tyler asked.

                “Probably, but not here,” Jacob answered. “If he could hear us he would definitely come play.”

                Peter couldn’t help but laugh to himself. Fortunately the clang of wooden swords kept the sound from their playful ears.

                It had been a very long time since Peter had wanted to play. Someone had changed the rules and Peter was a boy no more. On the oustside he was very unchanged, forever the boyish leader of the Lost Boys, but inside… Inside things were very different. Inside Peter’s youth had left the last day he had seen his shadow. It was a day Peter relived everyday no matter how hard he tried to forget. It was the last time he had gone to see Wendy Darling. It was not the last time he had seen Wendy Darling. That was some time before. The last time he went Wendy Darling was no more.

                A solitary tear wound its way down his cheek. Wendy had been the first. Well, really, Hook had been the first, but no one had been sad to see him go. Wendy was the first one that mattered. John and Michael had followed too soon after. Smee was next while the pirates were finishing their new ship. Not long later they all sailed off never to bother the Lost Boys again.

                Then the unthinkable. Peter had squandered and played with his perpetual youth changing some with each goodbye, but still playing on, leading the Lost Boys on crusades again imaginary foes and searching for glittering treasure.

                Peter new things were changing. First she stopped coming to find him. Peter thought it a game and would set out to find her but she was always there. She had set up home on the abandoned ship. Peter didn’t know why. Even though Hook was gone the ship still meant something to her, though the ship would never move again. She spent in time in quiet vigil, in her small way still protecting Peter as she could.

                Peter would come to her every night and tell her of their crusades and treasures. He would act out their battles and dance to the songs he sang and she would smile and sometimes sing with him, but mostly she sat still on her little shelf and listened.

                He didn’t want to admit it, but he knew what was coming. She hadn’t flown in a very long time. Her wings had become tattered and gray and Peter knew they wouldn’t work if she’d wanted them too. Still he lived the perpetual boy.

                Both moons were full in the sky the night it all changed. Peter knew before he reached the ship that everything had changed. He almost didn’t go. He knew he could turn around and play and pretend that everything was the same, but he had to know.

                The ship was dark, too dark for the brightness of two moons in the sky. Peter tiptoed into the cabin not wanting to wake her from her sleep but quickly found himself shouting wishing more than anything that that was the one thing he could do. She was no more.

                Peter cried the whole night through. By morning he was Peter no more. Wendy, John, Michael, Tink – all of his happy thoughts were gone now. He hid from the Lost Boys for days not wanting to tell them. When he joined them again no one asked, so he never told them. He played their games, lead their crusades, told them of treasures to find. It was different now. If any of them noticed, no one said. Peter knew. It was something he wished he could forget.

 

Lesson 5: …to be flexible

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Lesson 5

Lesson 5

Dear readers, let me start today’s post by saying I am a little OCD. {Pause for comedic effect.} Okay, if those of you that know me personally would stop laughing now, I will admit that I am perhaps a lot OCD. I have mellowed some with age, but I still prefer most things to be done a certain way. I am also a big fan of schedules and routines. Think Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory. Thursday night is laundry night and Chinese food.

When I was a young man it was much worse. I liked training people to do things because then I knew they were being done the right way. Most of the jobs I have had throughout my adult life have involved some form of teaching or training others.

The little things are very important. The toilet paper should come over the top. The toilet lid should always be closed when not in use. The shower curtain should always be closed. When cooking, most of the prep dishes should be cleaned before the meal is ready to be served. Shoes should not be worn in the house unless they are house-only shoes. The house should be quiet by 9:00 PM to give everyone some quiet time to unwind before going to sleep. And do not even get me started on the big things.
Toilet

It is no wonder that my first and only roommate was an utter and total failure. We lasted about seven months, and our friendship did not survive the experience. Though in that instance, I am confident that our friendship would not have lasted regardless. But I digress. My point was that I was a difficult person to live with, to date or even be friends with.

I cannot say when it was that things finally started to click in my mind of just how insane I was acting. We all know that there is more than one way to do most things. It was not a problem of not having the knowledge. I was just particular. That sounds nice, doesn’t it? Particular. Except that it would probably be more accurate to say that I was exacting and inflexible and, sadly, at many times, unreasonable.

What was probably the craziest thing was that when someone did something differently than I might have, it not only frustrated me, but tended to make me very angry. It felt like something was wrong with the universe, or like a personal affront to me. Now you can see why my wife sometimes called me, “The Beast.”

angry-1297540

Credit for my change must largely go to her. My dear wife had a way of training me in such at way that at the end it felt like it was my idea from the beginning. That seems to be a skill that God only gave to women, and maybe that is why as men we are so often frustrated with each other.

The details of what had happened are long forgotten, but her words to me still echo loud in my head. Something had been done in a manner I did not like. My wife reasoned with me that the important thing was that the task was now complete. That should have been the important thing, but once again I found myself fixated on how it was completed. When she finally got me to admit that, yes, having the job complete was all that mattered, she moved on.

“Now as to how it was done,” she had a sparkle that would appear in her eyes when she was accomplishing a goal and a little hint of a smile that always melted my heart. “Does it really matter?”

“No,” I answered begrudgingly, “I guess not.”

“Because, as you can see, the task was completed, and the world did not end.”


She turned around and walked away from me then to give me a chance to mull over her words. She knew I was a wordsmith even with the spoken language, and that sometimes those words too quickly became vicious. She seldom allowed any conversation to get to a point where negative words would even start to be spoken. That might have been the secret to our marital success.

It took a lot of effort, but in time I was able to assign tasks to people and celebrate the fact that they were completed even if in a manner different than what I preferred.

Don’t get me wrong. There are still days when I would much rather take over a job than to watch someone do something the “wrong” way. For the most part, though, I hear my wife’s voice in my head, and it holds me back. When the task is complete, I can tell myself, “And the world did not end.”

Couple Bench

The View

The View is billed in part as, “the original forum in which real women discuss everyday issues, share their opinions and engage in colorful conversations.” It is a talk show on US television on ABC. I tend to watch it later in the day on Hulu because my current schedule does not allow me to watch it during the day. It has become one of my favorite hours of the day.

The ground-breaking show debuted more than twenty years ago with original cohosts Meredith Vieira, Star Jones, Debbie Matenopoulos, and Barbara Walters. Joy Behar was originally set to be a fill in cohost but quickly became a regular cohost and is the only one of the original five that is still cohosting.

I am a little late coming to The View party. Though I have known of the show from its beginning, I never imagined it would be the type of show I would be interested in watching. For me, TV time is a time to escape. Generally, the last thing I want is to think about reality and what is happening in the world.

A little over a year ago, Hulu added The View to my recommended list. I decided to give it a shot with my usual skepticism. I typically give a new show ten-to-twenty minutes to hook me. If I am not sold during that window, I quit watching and seldom give the show another shot. Surprisingly, I was sold in the first five minutes. Though is seems to be an ever-changing panel, the current cohosts are Whoopi Goldberg, Sara Haines, Joy Behar, Sunny Hostin, Meghan McCain and Paula Faris. They are a cross-section of intelligent, strong women that are not afraid to stand up and defend their beliefs and opinions.

The show is not engaging because I find myself agreeing with the panel. No, the opposite is generally true. Every day I find something that I feel strongly against. The congenial way that the ladies share and debate each topic, though, keeps me engaged and opens my mind to thoughts that I may not have been inclined to before.

There is an abundance of humor in each episode, and that is the biggest reason why The View has become one of the most enjoyable parts of my day. Getting to take a few minutes at the end of a workday to catch up on the insanity of the past twenty-four hours, and we have to agree there is an abundance of insanity in our world today, and yet find a few reasons to laugh during that review is the best reason to watch this show.

I should mention that I do not personally know any of the ladies currently or in the past serving as cohosts. I am not affiliated with ABC and am in no way being compensated for this post. No, I am just a crazy, getting older man that has stumbled upon this gem and was moved to put my musings down in writing.

Lastly, I must give props to the show for highlighting so many authors. Many of the authors are political fellows, but the show has a long-standing tradition of keeping literature and reading in the forefront. In this age where some think that reading and writing are dying arts, it is refreshing to see a show that still devotes so much import to writers and reading. As a writer, how can I not love that?

If you live in the US, do yourself a favor and check out the show. If you find nothing else you like about it, I am sure it will at least make you laugh. If you are outside the US, well, I am not sure what options you might have. If you know of a way to watch The View where you are, take a few minutes and check it out. I know you will enjoy it as much as I do.

 

Overcome fear

Fear

Lesson 4: …to be surrounded with the positive

 

Do you remember the character, Debbie Downer, played by Rachel Dratch on Saturday Night Live? No matter what situation she found herself in, no matter how happy or festive, she always brought things to a screeching halt by dispensing her abundance of negative information. I remember laughing many times at those skits. There was great humor in the absurdity of the things she would say in the most inappropriate situations. There is also an important life lesson to be learned.

Funny as Rachel Dratch was, those skits can help us to understand an important lesson. We become the people we are around, whether positive or negative. Even if we are generally upbeat and happy, it will not take long for a negative person to bring us down and make us feel sad and depressed.

I was well into my thirties before this life lesson started to dawn on me. People has an immense influence on the positivity in my life. While I recognized that negativity breeds negativity, the damage to my own life I was slow to identify.

Smilies Bench

Generally, I am a happy person. Ask the people who know me, and they will say that I am generally smiling or laughing no matter how bad things are. Though I do complain and vent with the best of them, overall, I strive to keep my conversations and interactions positive. I make a conscious effort to smile and be positive as often as possible.

When I started to realize that my speech and behavior, and even my motivation to do projects at home, were being affected, I decided to try a little experiment. For three months, I limited my contact with the people I knew were generally negative. The impact was undeniable. I found myself laughing more. I was more productive. There was more enjoyment in everyday life. And I even slept better.

Read Lesson 3 in the series

Now I am not saying that I then proceeded to cut every negative person out of my life. In fact, I have a friend, and I will not use her name here to protect her feelings, who is by far the most negative person I know. No matter what good is done to or for her, she always finds fault and complains incessantly. She could give Debbie Downer a run for her money.

The last time she moved, a group of her friends got together and helped her move the bulk of her things. As a single woman, friends wanted to help out so she would not have to hire movers. Those of us who did not help then got to listen for days and weeks after about how disappointed she was with the process. Things were not moved the way she wanted them to be. They were not placed where she wanted in her new home. It was exhausting.

Yet, we remain friends. We have invested nearly twenty years into our friendship. At the end of the day, we both know that the other will be there if there is ever the need.


That being said, I do find the necessity to avoid her at times. After the moving experience, I had to stop talking to her for a time. I could not bear to hear how these hard working and well-meaning friends dissatisfied her.

When I am already blue or discouraged or just plain frustrated with life, talking to her will only make me worse. Then I become The Beast, as my wife used to refer to me.

At those times, I stop returning her calls and even stop reading her texts and emails. I love her dearly, but her negativity is a poison that I cannot always overcome.

The Beast is never pretty.

As to other friends, I did choose to cut many of the negative ones from my daily life. Not only have I found myself happier and more productive, but I also have the added benefit of much less drama.

It is a funny coincidence that negativity and drama seem to go together. That may be the topic for another post.

For many years I worked in a customer service industry. It was the type of business where I got to see customers on a regular basis. I often had the opportunity to spend considerable time with them.

Being in this environment gave me another chance to test my theory. I began to watch as some negative customers came in or called into the business. I then watched to see if the attitudes or behavior of my colleagues changed as a result.

Again, the results were undeniable.

The days that started with these negative customers were much harder days and much less productive.

pexels-photo-415380

Do you want to be more positive? Then I challenge you to look at the people around you. Are they positive in what they say and do? Or are they negative complainers bringing you down? If the latter, why not distance yourself from them for a while and see if you can notice a difference? Then come back and comment on your results.

What are the keys you have found to keep positivity in your life? How have you benefitted from this life lesson? Please share below.

Until next time…

 

Anguish – Poem

 Anguish

 Within my mind I build you up

I put you up quite far

I make a wish and have a dream

And pain of truth I bar

I imagine that you do care

And that my needs you know

And that you want to be the one

To lift me when I’m low

 But all too real I know the truth

You can’t see passed yourself

And with the chance to just have fun

You stick me on a shelf

 It matters not how hard I hope

In time you will not change

You choose not to improve yourself

To grow within your range

 For in all truth you do not care

A fact that does me pain

And maybe once in coming truth

I will see what is plain

 And I’ll accept what can’t be changed

For you won’t let it be

I must love you for who you are

Or turn around and flee

– March 27, 2005

 

Please share this poem with others. Thank you!

Anguish - a dark poem by Wolfe Butler

Change – Poem

Change

Everything still looks the same

Everyone’s still here

There’s not a thing that’s really changed

            When held up to a mirror

The sun still shines, the rain still falls

            The grass and foliage grows

The river runs, the flowers bloom

            The same old wind still blows

The clock still ticks, each hand still moves

            Each moment gone for good

And time goes on ever as quick

            Just as you hoped it would

The faces all appear the same

            Each one betrays no change

As lives go on as ever lived

            With every new exchange

Not one thing here has seemed to change

            Not since you went away

Except my heart, which has a hole,

            I fear may always stay

September 23, 2004

 

Magnetic Poetry Kit

Fiction, Poetry, and Life Lessons Learned for Bloggers and Writers

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