Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Not a Room of My Own

Posted by: Shawna Reppert

One of the things non-writers (and some beginning writers) often ask me is if I have a special place/time/set of conditions that I need to write. My standard answer” I can’t afford to be that precious. When you working full-time, overtime, sometimes two jobs at a time, you learn to write where and when you can. Kids at the coffee shop getting loud? Ignore it and keep going. (OK, glare first, then ignore it and keep going.) There’s a ping pong table in the lunch room at work. I’ve learned to toss back stray balls and barely break rhythm.

That said, I do have some preferred spots to work. Sometimes I need a ‘vacation’, usually defined as going someplace else to write. I really like windows with views of nature—trees especially, but oceans and rivers are also good. This is complicated by that the fact that the glare of natural light often makes it difficult to see the computer screen. This leads to all sorts of strange shifting of angles of chair, table and laptop as I try to ensure that I can see both the computer screen and my beloved trees.

One of my favorite writing ‘time-out’ locations surprises people who don’t know me well. I love to take my laptop to Irish traditional music sessions. A session, for the uninitiated, is an informal gathering of musicians to play tunes (and often share tunes and learn new ones.) There are many types of sessions with many different levels of players, each with their own unwritten rules of etiquette. Some are in private homes, but more often they take place in bars and pubs (or, as I prefer to think of them, music venues that conveniently serve food and hard cider.) Far from the music distracting me, I find it helps me focus. Irish tunes are often played at a fast tempo, and my typing speed picks up to match. I’m a versatile writer; I type equally well in jig-time, reel-time, or waltz-time.

Sessions, for me, also serve the same purpose as write-ins. There’s a nice little social-time before and after to help ease that writerly social isolation, and then my musician friends settle down to their business and I settle down to mine.  I’ve become such a fixture at the Westside Irish Session that the fiddler introduces me to new musicians as ‘our author’, as though every session has a writer in among the fiddlers, guitarists, and bodhran players. (I sometimes tell people that I play the ‘silent keyboard’.

For some reason, Irish traditional music, above all other genres, seems to make my creativity flow.  Even though I am a planner, not a pantser,  my characters and scenes often go in surprising new directions or find new depths when I write at sessions. In fact, I distinctly remember a formal harp concert in a concert hall where it took every ounce of self-control not to pull my laptop out from under my seat and start writing the idea I’d just had for the next Ravensblood novel.

And just on the way to tonight’s session, I told the fiddler giving me a ride that I had this blog due and I had no idea what to write. She said ‘alcohol, music, and desperation will get you there.’ And here we are.


 Shawna is an award-winning author of fantasy and steampunk. You can find her works on Amazon .

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