A little bit of drink, some well chosen foods, purposeful lighting, mellow incense, and some mood music and you’ve got all you need for a romantic evening with your beloved. Just find a baby sitter, put the dog out, and turn off the phone for an uninterrupted night of love. But in the case of a writer (or painter, or sculptor, or…you get the picture), these props can also be used to create an atmosphere for inspiration.
When I get stuck at a point in my novel (as all writers do) and feel like the muses have abandoned me, I take a step back to look at the goal of the piece, usually with a wine cooler (or hot tea) in one hand and a sweet treat in the other. Both food and drink calm me, and focuses me, removing me from the irritating position I’m in of having the dreaded writer’s block. Sometimes I like to imagine what my characters would eat and drink under stress and I go find that. Unfortunately, I don’t drink beer, so if Derek (my male lead in Echo, the first novel I’m working on) would grab a cold Budweiser to ease his nerves, I resort to a Seagram’s Calypso Colada. If the name alone won’t inspire me, the taste will. Tara on the other hand (my female lead opposite Derek) is more of a teetotaler. She drinks the occasional wine (of which I do not) and calming teas (my choice of drink also) to help her work through her problems.
Sometimes I need a little more inspiration that food and drink just don’t provide. That’s when I use music to put me in the moment in my novel. If I am writing an edgy scene with young, snarky characters full of attitude, I run my ipod playlist titled “Songs That Kick Ass.” If it’s a romantic or particularly touching moment between characters, say they are just discovering their feelings for each other, I’ll run my “Love Circle” playlist. Sometimes I simply get stuck again and don’t know where to go in my writing; that’s when I just let the music shuffle and randomly select the songs. Is it the most reliable way to always produce a written piece? Probably not. Most people who know writing will tell you to write gibberish until you produce something worth keeping. For me, however, the block usually doesn’t last long after getting some apropos lyrics in my head. It’s not too difficult to write an ugly break-up scene with “Bleed It Out” by Linkin Park blaring from the speaker.
Lighting and the incense are used in the same way that I use the music. Soft lighting, like candlelight, and mellow incense, such as lotus or sandalwood, tend to help me with writing emotional scenes of love or loss. Bright or colored light (think candles in colored glass votives) and harsher smells (patchouli or frankincense) inspire the meaner scenes of fights, break-ups, or other conflicts. I tend to only use the lights and smells when I’m really stuck or really need to be inspired. Usually, if my nudge won’t budge I will also do some meditating to truly focus on my characters, their dilemmas, and my handling of their lives.
So, if you ever feel stuck, uninspired, or totally blocked from your beloved (ahem, your manuscript, people) try some of these props to help you focus and move beyond. You may find that they create a whole new set of problems for you – new characters with bigger issues all demanding your attention. Now, that really would be tragic. (Wink, wink.)