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bear by san

March 2017



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phil ochs troubador

hey jack the ripper won't you come on over, hook me up to the powerlines of your love

Just to prove that serendipity and listening to one's subconscious are vital parts of the writing process, I think I just managed to put together a soundtrack for the story I've been calling "Steel Something," because I couldn't figure out the second word in the title.

I did this completely by accident, by dint of poking through Winamp's media library on a drunkard's-walk, going "Oooo, I haven't heard this song in a while." And then when it was done I looked at it, moved a few things around, and said, "Huh. This goes with a story."

This seems to be a part of the process this year, since it's exactly what happened before I wrote "Needles." I got obsessed with a couple of songs, and then a few days later realized they were essential to the mood of the story I'd been trying to figure out how to write for months.

Writing is a very left-brain/right-brain process. However much the little guy in the driver's seat likes to think he's in control, really the deep squids of the subconscious have all kinds of traction. And what we get from the squids is highly dependent on what we feed them--but of course, sometimes the squids crave a certain kind of fodder, and they make sure they git it.

All this stuff happens in a very mysterious space, deep in the symbolic parts of the brain, and then it's the job of the logical left hemisphere to take it and turn it into a narrative that other people can understand, through the use of craft and experience.

You gotta trust your squids. And still keep them from running the joint, because if the squids are in charge, who the hell can see through the ink to swim? Er. So to speak.

This is what they were craving today:

1. Jethro Tull - Steel Monkey (3:40)
2. Jackopierce - Anderson's Luck (4:09)
3. Talking Heads - Once In A Lifetime (4:19)
4. Billy Idol - Heroin (6:57)
5. The Patti Smith Group - Dancing Barefoot (4:16)
6. Vienna Teng - Gravity (3:38)
7. Dire Straits - The Man's Too Strong (4:40)
8. John Lee Hooker - One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer (3:26)
9. Supertramp - The Logical Song (3:48)
10. Billy Joel - Allentown (3:50)
11. Tom Waits - Ol' 55 (3:57)
12. Joni Mitchell - Chelsea Morning (2:35)
13. Alanis Morissette - You Learn (3:59)
14. Steely Dan - Show Biz Kids (5:26)
15. The Dandy Warhols - Not If You Were The Last Junkie on Earth (3:11)
16. Bruce Springsteen - Prove It All Night (3:59)
17. The Escape Club - Wild, Wild West (4:08)
18. Mumford & Sons - Dust Bowl Dance (4:40)
19. Big Country - Steeltown (4:39)

I mean yeah, my brain is definitely on to something there, and chewing hard. And I didn't see it until I stepped back and looked.

I wonder how I managed to avoid sticking "Not an Addict" by K's Choice in there. Possibly it's just so tied in my head to Jenny that there's no prying it loose for another addicted character. How I got out of it without "High on Sunday 51," I'll never know--except nobody ever was willing to fight that hard for this guy. And Stew's "Rehab," also just doesn't work.

But I think I might as well face up to it, and just name this damned thing "Steel Monkey," as I've been tempted to since the very beginning.

What is it with me and the vampire stories this year, anyway?


Yeah, my subconscious picked a song for the end of the Victorian book, then demanded I find an ending that would go with it.

Now if only it would give me a title, too. But I don't think I can get away with calling the book "Death Is the Road to Awe," for about half a dozen different reasons.

I sometimes think the verbal nature of writing is why we all seem to end up approaching it through these weird non-verbal channels. Someone will call me on that use of "all," of course -- everybody's process is different, so there will no doubt be writers out there who don't get random narrative insights through music or cooking or martial arts or any of the other hobbies we pick up along the way -- but I feel like it's a natural consequence. If I could figure out the story verbally, I'd already have it on the page; so if it isn't there yet, then of course the understanding has to show up in another form.
I think it's more that the literary arts (which are, after all, redheaded stepchildren--they don't get to be "fine arts") are weird in that they *require* verbalizing of the art-stuff, which is otherwise essentially right-brained and intuitive. So we're trying to dance about architecture *all the time.*

The contradiction is intrinsic in what we do, not supplied later by a critic.
18. Mumford & Sons - Dust Bowl Dance (4:40)

I just recently discovered Mumford & Sons. I quite like them.
One of my fictional friends turned me on to them.
Steel Monkey!

And I love your squid analogy.
*squidge* *squidge*

Lookit them go!
I adore that icon.
I woke up at 2 am last night with the key to the next thing I want to write just sitting there, small and round and perfect. I must have kicked it to my subconscious to play with without realising, and my subconscious came back with a Kate Bush track and an image and a phrase.
Kate Bush. I find she's full of stories. *g*
'Not an Addict' - great tune, and I can now claim to recognise at least one title in your list! (I probably know more of the tunes, but I'm lousy at putting title and tune together). I never thought of applying it to Jenny, but yeah.

The album that most evokes addiction for me is 'Cake or Death', a single album spin-off project by Paul Durham of Black Lab, probably something to do with having titles like 'Bag of Cookies' and 'Sweet Abuse', though mostly it's talking about addictive relationships.
Yeah. I had that one on endless repeat writing Hammered. There are some other songs I'll never shake loose of her, too--"Life is a Highway," notably, and Alice Cooper's "Vicious Rumors."
At this point I actually have a playlist on my computer whose purpose is not to get played, but to collate in one easy place all the songs I've already used for other things, which (in most cases) can no longer be pried free for use in a new context. This song belongs to A Star Shall Fall. That one belongs to Ree (a game character). Etc. When those associations are strong, they're Pavlovian; hear song, think of character. Trying to re-use them would be a recipe for self-derailment.
ufda. Yeah, this.
And then there are the stories that have to be written someday because they've got a piece of music, after all, and doesn't that constitute an obligation on the writer's part? If The Iron Rose ever happens, it will be almost solely because it has a 1) a title and 2) a scene that goes along with the second half of "The Death of Tybalt" from Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet.

Well, I suppose books have been written for weirder reasons.
The members of my writing group have been known to comment to one another, "There's a story in this song."
Some, like Tom Waits' "Singapore," appear to have several stories inside them.
That one's bottomless.
Lately, as I've gotten (I flatter myself) better at it, writing has required more of my processing cycles. So I haven't been able to listen to music as freely as I used to while writing.

However, I have found that I can put one song on endless repeat and write to that. Much to the dismay, I am sure, of my roommate....
I write with the quiet or instrumentals, but the I need songs for the later stages, especially the slog through cleaning up the manuscript.
What you're saying works just as well for creating in visual and solid media too.
I bet it does. Although I imagine the demands of linearity in the final form are less?
Not sure about that - a story can be written in pieces that aren't necessarily in order until the whole thing is put together, and solid media demands a constrained set of relationships between the elements (particularly if there are moving parts) that I think is equivalent to the linearity of a completed story.
Hmm. I'm thinking of linearity on a sentence level, even--English words are scanned left to right on the page, never appreciated as a gestalt until later.

But I take your point.