Jeff O'Handley, Author

Jeff O'Handley

The Doubting Writer Finds His Voice

Musical Monday: Tangled Up in Blue

What is it about the Sunday/Monday transition? Last week at this time, I had a severe case of the blahs. That went away as the week progressed. Yesterday afternoon I started feeling a bit scratchy in the throat, which has given way to a raging sore throat. Can’t wait to see what next weekend brings.

Song of the day: Tangled Up in Blue, Bob Dylan
Tangled Up In Blue by Bob Dylan on Grooveshark

Typically I post songs here just because I like them. Tangled Up in Blue actually has a certain significance to my writing. Here’s the story:

On December 6, 2010 I started the actual writing on the work that has become Parallel Lives. By the middle of the month I had a general feel for the story, though it was still extremely slippery. I essentially had a couple of characters, and a couple of events, but no real sense of where it was going or what was happening. By this time I’d spent less than two weeks actually writing it, and probably another two or three weeks of musing over it and turning things over in my mind while I’d been working on my NaNo in November. One day I drove into town, possibly to go to the bank or do a bit of Christmas shopping run; whatever it was, I got back into my car, turned on the radio, and Tangled Up in Blue was on.

I’m not a total Bob Dylan nut. I think the man is a genius when it comes to writing musical poetry. His best songs are full of vivid imagery that can be beautiful and haunting, and his song structures and phrasing are often downright interesting to listen to – and difficult to sing. It’s unfortunate, really, that his singing was so…well, at times, bad, especially in concert (I’ve seen him three times, so trust me on this). I’ve always liked this song; I think it’s one of his best. For some reason, the song resonated with me this time in a way it hadn’t before. As the song says,

‘Every one of them words rang true and glowed like burning coal pouring off of every page like it was written in my soul’

It was perfect timing. I don’t know if the song tapped into some element of the story that was still hiding deep down inside of me and brought it out, or if it somehow inspired me to do something that wasn’t planned. What I do know is the period leading up to Christmas was spent in a writing fury, and the story really grew and became a whole lot easier to hold after this (On a side note, I popped a blood vessel in my right eye around that time; I sometimes wondered if it was a result of writing so hard, though it must have been something else).

Have any of you had a song that’s really spurred on your writing? That’s all for now, have a good week.

Reminder: The Origins Blogfest is coming!

11 Responses

  1. That is really cool. I don't think I've ever had a specific song spur me on like that but I find Tori Amos' music to be really great for writing dark stuff. It's not the words so much but the sound of her music, very haunting. Hmmm . . . can't say I've ever popped a blood vessel from writing too hard. I'm a slacker!

  2. I love how music (and other art) can inspire writing. I do have two songs that really encompass the mood and tone of my novel, and I listen to them constantly while writing. I wouldn't say they spur me on, but they definitely help me get into the mindset while I write. Also, I clicked on the link for the popped blood vessel and yikes! Those pictures are freaky! I've seen that happen before but never to myself.

  3. Cool story! (Well, aside from the popped blood vessel. That was mildly horrifying. *Shudders*)

    I'm not sure I can pinpoint a specific song right now, but E.S. Posthumus usually spurs on a good writing session. It's a lot of cinematic-style music. Good stuff. 🙂

    As for Bob Dylan, well, sometimes I listen to Rainy Day Women #12 & 35 when I'm processing a bad crit. It seems fitting!

  4. The whole blood vessel thing was kind of freaky. I used it to scare the kids, hah hah. I thought at the time that it might have been some sort of eye strain thing. It didn't affect my vision at all, it just looked really nasty.

    Carrie, I get you completely on RDW#12 & 35. When we were young and foolish, my friends and I were dead-certain he was talking only about the drugs. It doesn't take a deep listen to realize he's not. Or at least, not entirely.

  5. Thanks for sharing the song!

    I don't think I've ever come across a song that spurred my writing like that, though listening to certain types of classical can help me get through a writing slump.

  6. Oh yes, yes, YES!!! The Mistaken was inspired by one song, Hurricane by 30 Seconds To Mars, hence the reference to it in the middle of the book. It made me wonder what could make a good man do a really bad thing and could he find redemption afterwards…and viola! My book was born. I used villains from my past, but the story came to me whole shortly after hearing that song for the first time.

    My second book, which I am proud to say I have finally started working on, albeit slowly, is being compiled through a playlist of songs that almost tell the story,as if they were the chapters themselves.

    I find music very inspiring and couldn't write without it. And whatever inspired you to write PL, I am so glad, because that is one helluva story! Loved it!! Can't wait to BUY it!!

  7. Songs and song lyrics inspire me all the time. I keep paper and pens in my car because I often hear a song and it ignites all sorts of ideas related to my work in progress. I love this. Yet, when I am actually writing, I can't listen to music with lyrics because they become too distracting. I wonder if musicians realize how much they influence some fiction writers.

  8. Thanks for the comments, as always. GE, I think classical is great for writing because it doesn't have the same distractions as music with lyrics, though lyrics don't usually bother me when I write – a TV show or movie in the background does, but not music with lyrics.
    -Nancy, that's an interesting approach to your second book. As PL took shape, I could compile a list of songs that 'told' the story, but that came after the writing. It sounds like a fun approach. And I'm slowly progressing through the edits to make it PL a buyable reality.
    -Cynthia – at the same time, a lot of music is also inspired by poetry and prose. Literary references pop up all the time in the musical world, so it's a two-way street. I try to keep something in the car at all times. Of course, the kids would freak if I tried to scribble an inspirational moment while driving – 'two hands on the wheel!' So, instead of driving one-handed, I end up with half a brain engaged in driving while the other half is writing upstairs. Not sure which is safer….

  9. I haven't had music spur my writing, but I do have music that immediately takes me to one of my WIPs either because the song's theme matches the mood or because I was listening to it when I was writing. It's fun to have that kind of musical association with a story.

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