“It’s like a heat wave” sang Martha Reeves (with or without The Vandellas), a song about love, but most certainly inspired by some summer heatwave back in the Sixties. A great Motown classic, an inspirational song, but was it easy to write, particularly if a real heatwave is on?
Probably not. But then, the composer and the lyricist of “Heatwave” obviously made it and came up with a song that still resonates today and will continue to do so.
There seems to be one of the hardest and longest heatwaves going around the world at the moment. Everything seems to be melting, including your brain, and air-conditioning and cold drinks, showers or whatever don’t seem to be much help. How then can you write in such conditions?
Obviously, very hard, but then, you can always find an excuse not to write. Why not turn the tables on the heat and use it as a cause and inspiration to DO write?
Whether you try the counter-attacking style and counter the heat with heat — steaming coffee, hot showers or simply make the heat and inspirational source, and it can be a multitude of things. What goes on during a heatwave, what caused it, what is its source…
You can search for the causes in the climate change and what causes it, from real solid facts to conspiracy theories of all possible influences — from political meddling to aliens. Some of those might even turn out to be real facts.
Makes no difference, just so that all that sweat and mind-melting doesn’t go to waste and comes up with some meaningful, readable writing. You never know, someday you might come up with yet another “(Love Is Like A) Heatwave” and all that sweat and tears (with hopefully no blood) will be worthwhile.
Ok, you’ve found a thousand excuses not to journal (I know I did). After all, you’re a writer. As if journaling is not writing. Still, how many times have you caught yourself trying to remember something and connect it with a specific date, time, weather conditions, mood…
So you probably missed it, but is there anything else around that can help you jolt your memory, is there somebody out there that could have done your journaling for you? Not really, but there are certainly straws you can grasp and suck that memory out of its hiding place.
As somebody who devotes quite a bit of his writing time to music, scouring almost any type of a music site for useful information is a daily must. Particularly if you want to connect a piece of music to an artist, date…
In an almost frantic moment, I ran into a site called Harkive (www.harkive.org), which has an interesting concept — every year it runs a music listening survey and actually asks people to write a personal music listening story. For 2018, they have extended their entry date until July 27th.
Harkive then stimulated the ‘memory lane’ mode it got me into and I ran into Classic Album Sundays (www.classicalbumsundays.com) , which itself led to more news-oriented Best Classic Bands (www.bestclassicbands.com), which then brought me to where I was actually headed — to This day in music (www.thisdayinmusic.com), which not only lists a choice of daily music events through the years but also has its choice of best albums, quotes and other factoids.
Being of ‘certain age’, one of the daily entries for Friday, July 20th did that jolting trick personal journaling could have — “1975, [Bruce Springsteen](http://www.thisdayinmusic.com/pages/bruce_springsteen)
and the E Street Band played the opening night on their [Born To Run](http://www.thisdayinmusic.com/pages/born_to_run) Tour at The Palace Theatre, Providence, Rhode Island. This also saw the live debut of Steven Van Zandt, (Miami Steve) as a member of The E Street Band.”
So, yes, there are treasure troves of writing information and inspiration out there you can always resort to, but, then, I think I’ll start keeping my favourite notebook and pen in proximity for one more try at journaling.
Being a writer might not exactly be a conformist thing to do, but each writer has his own comfort zone. First of all, you go at it alone. All those thoughts, words and sentences you transport to paper or your word processor, your room (or corner) for thought, your morning runs, favourite cafe, family, the surroundings that give you that ‘space’ to work and operate. A comfort zone.
And yes, that comfort zone can create the necessary stillness you need, but at times it does create a still water — it has its limits and boundaries and it can create a stillness of thought, imagination or no imagination. Sure travel will often do the trick, but what about the so-called big events, with a lot of people around you, a crowd, a mass, an event that requires you time to get there and obeying not only pre-set rules of the event but also the unwritten rules of being in a crowd?
You certainly need those with all the benefits of an exciting and intriguing live event like The North Sea Jazz Festival in Rotterdam, The Netherlands I try to attend every summer, but also with all its drawbacks of getting there and being in a crowd. It gives you a chance not only to clear your mind of all the “still water” of your comfort zone but is a source of boundless ideas.
Whether it is the excitement of listening to some exquisite music live, like the combination of saxophonist Charles Lloyd with guitarist Bill Frisell, or all those drawbacks, like infinite lines in front of the restrooms or food/drink stalls to your feet getting stuck in tons of spilt beer. But most of all it is having an interaction with people. The musicians, staff, the crowd. Separating them and observing them as individuals they are and the possible (and impossible) stories they might hold in them.
Yes, it does take an effort, it certainly disrupts your daily routines — what about the thousands of those emails you have to sift through when you get back — but it not only represents the necessary change of scenery, it gives you strands of writing inspiration that you might not have picked up in any other way.
“It’s only words, and words are all I have…” So starts the chorus of the well-worn Bee Gees song. Personally, I’mm not exactly a big fan of the Gibb Brothers music, but this one certainly has its ring when, well, words come to mind. And, yes, that is one thing writers do and should have. Maybe not the only, but certainly the paramount one. In most instances, we use them to express what we are inspired by, but how often do we use them as a source of inspiration?
Starting out at one point as a translator in a quite large translation service, I at one point noticed a colleague who was avidly reading a dictionary, any dictionary, even in her pastime, as if it was a novel that she couldn’t let go until it was finished. At first instance, it seemed like a strange habit, then as an obsession with the work you love. “It’s exciting!” she would say, “not only to get to the source of a word, track the way its meaning changes, but try to project which way its meaning would go.”
These days, trying to use those words and their meaning as a way of expressing yourself, I get the full sense of what my former translating colleague had in mind. And a bit more. Not only does every word in any of those dictionaries have its story that has a fully developed plot line that begs to be written, but each and every one of them can serve as a source of almost limitless inspiration.
You can go back in time or explore an unknown science-fiction territory with each and every one of them — they have their beginnings, their history, they will develop in some direction or other, at some point they will just be forgotten, unused. Still, they will be hidden on one of the thousand pages (online, or those that you really have to turn) ready to be used again. Or researched, developed into a story of their own.
Sometimes it is not only words that you have, but words could be the only thing you need.
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