Inspiration week! Olivia’s writing music

I loved talking about week inspiration and motivation on the podcast this week. This is one of my favorite topics because it means I get to go back to the things that make me excited to write, and read or listen to them again. It’s a good way just to start noticing what is working for you – and maybe what isn’t.

This morning, while writing, I noticed how much I was loving Bill Evans’s album Everybody Digs Bill Evans – a great album. When that finished, I went on to Bonobo, a totally different type of music, but the album Migration really gets me into a good writing place. It’s a mix of melodic and some beats that make me feel cheerful and creative. Lately, I’ve also been writing to Philip Glass’s Piano Works, and before that I just listened to Mendelsohn’s Songs Without Words on repeat.

I can’t write to music with words (although I can listen to mellow and folky music at my day job). In college, I played through an old CD of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture – the one with the yellow label on the front and a canon – literally hundreds of times to write a paper in college. It also had a couple other Russian composers; I guess that was helpful for all my Slavic Studies classes.

(As an aside, I have started to feel sort of annoyed at how many playlists I have been listening to, curated or automated by Spotify, and am trying to consciously listen to albums. Have you ever felt that? I just feel like I’m not really listening to music anymore – more like I am just sitting in a lobby with random music on. I like the wholeness of an album. But maybe that just makes me super old.)

All that is to say, music is one of those things that can make a big difference in my motivation/inspiration to work.

And, despite having said all the above about playlists, I have a playlist of music I work to here on Spotify, if anyone’s interested. I like following other actual humans’ playlists; probably my favorite is Teju Cole’s Jetlag playlists, although he is in general a good music curator.

We’d love to hear your favorite writing music!

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Rituals, the brain … and writing

I’ve read a lot about rituals and how important they are when you’re doing creativity. There’s a lot out there about how the muse will only show up if you actually put your ass in the chair and wait for her. In fact, I think, if you’ve only got a very short amount of time to write or be creative (like all of us day-job-workers), then this is even important: we need our muse to show up on time, right?

And yet, if I’m honest, I think something in me is somewhat resistant to the idea that I need to make a special ceremony for my muse. Like, why isn’t it there already?? Maybe there’s something wrong with my muse? Maybe my will for the muse isn’t strong enough to summon her, etc.

So I was sort of encouraged to read this post about how rituals affect our brains. It’s a very scientific explanation of how that whole “put your ass in the chair” thing works: we perform better when we have a ritual.

Well, if science proves it, I guess I can let myself and my muse off the hook and start doing what the scientists tell me to. I am going to work on a ritual – nothing too intricate, but something to get me going in the morning. As we are heading into autumn/winter, I’m thinking my ritual should involve candles and maybe wonderful tea.

What does your writing ritual involve?

We’d love to hear from you, especially because next week’s podcast is about inspiration, motivation – and I think a big part of that is making it easy to stay motivated. A ritual can be a big part of it.

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Matters poetical

The title of this post is totally stolen from a Times Literary Supplement podcast I listened to today, which had this lovely interview with the British theatre director Peter Brook CBE. You can listen here, or on iTunes or wherever else you get podcasts. The interview starts around 27:10, and it’s lovely.

Next week on the podcast, we’ll be talking about inspiration and motivation – what’s the difference, and what makes a difference for us. This is totally inspiration for me. I’ll give you bits of it if you are interested, but obviously listen to the whole thing if you want more.

First of all, he talks about the need to try but let go – we will have a longer discussion about this idea on a future podcast, because it’s something I’ve learned about through yoga. Here’s a quote from Peter:

There is something very subtle that can come through if we, just for a moment, try the best we can, and then quietly let be.

He then goes on to talk about what he calls “the formless hunch,” which I’ll let him explain:

I had to have gone through all the impossibilities. I had this very early on in my career, where people said to me, if you’re a young director, you must prepare. So I took it seriously. … I had a great ball doing this. But then I came into rehearsal and just saw simply that none of it was any good. And I think all one needs is to be able to say to oneself, ‘It’s no good.’ And at that moment, things fall away, and that’s what the formless hunch is about.

I really loved how he talks about the separation of the form and the meaning. He says that, for the podcast, they have a microphone, a table, whatever, but continues:

but they are not the cause of whatever good may come out of anything we say to one another. That will happen. And that’s why I say the formless hunch. People get obsessed with the form, and the form is just a starting point. It’s something we need… We need words, but words are just a form. Gradually you can find that the word is either a dead piece of useless bone, or it is vibrating because within the word there is more.

And then, the magic (bonus tip: I basically love anything about magic used in this way):

Yes you have to prepare and now, when you come to it, you have to trust the true magic of intuition, and the intuition only comes if you’ve prepared the ground and if you then have the simple good will to stop taking yourself so seriously.

 

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We’re collecting inspiration for our podcast next week. What type of thing do you learn to hear about?

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Episode 2 is up, and the kittens are home

Our second episode is up here!  Turns out we had a lot to say about what we get out of our day jobs.

We would love to hear your thoughts on writing retreats, how you keep up your routine when you travel, and how you think about what you get from your job – and what you don’t like.

Plus, I (Olivia) adopted some kittens. I’m now trying to convince them that I’m trustworthy. This photo from my morning writing session represents huge progress – we are all sat at the same table:

For comparison, here’s a photo of when I found out that the grey one doesn’t like to be watched when she eats:

They don’t have names yet. My dad’s suggested Romy and Michele – a pretty solid suggestion, considering how great the film is (I think there’s a glitch in the IMDB star rating on the page I just linked to, ha).

Any literary or funny suggestions?

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Episode 1 is up, and we have rules

iphone playing podcastOur first full-length episode is posted — check it out here, along with show notes, or get Marginally on iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, or wherever get your podcasts. In it, we talk about what we’re working on, what margins mean to us, what it means to be a Genius and create Art (with capital letters), and our rules.

The Rules

Marginalization – we don’t want to ignore this aspect of the margins. Get in touch – we’d love to listen.

Structure — one full episode every other week, with mini episodes in between. Also, sometimes y’all might not get a full episode anyway. We have lives, and the last thing we need is for this podcast to take away from our writing, so you might get an extra mini episode. It happens.

Social media — we do Instagram (@marginallypodcast) because we understand it and like them, but no Twitter or Facebook. If you do, awesome — go ahead and share away and talk it up out there and do our social media marketing for us. We love you.

The website — we’ll post show notes and stuff here on the blog. There will be something at least weekly, maybe sometimes more. We hope you’ll join the conversation.

Newsletter — for now, it’ll be for show notes and news. Maybe there’ll be super-special secret extras later, who knows. Subscribe and find out!

Deep dive — this is the only time you’ll hear this phrase from us, ever. Meghan’s also trying to make the phrase “online radio show” replace “podcast”, but isn’t hopeful.

No snobbery — This is the most important. This is not the podcast to go to if you want to hear only about literary fiction, or how to write something that gets well reviewed in a literary journal. We are talking about writers’ struggles, and we talk about how to get work done that you’re proud of. But how you as a writer do that, and what you write down, is your business.

 

Have a question you’d like us to try to answer, or a topic you’d love to have us cover? Interested in being a guest? Contact us here, or send an email to podcast [at] marginallypodcast.com. Thanks for listening, and keep up the good work!

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Writing on vacation

It’s Labor Day weekend in America, right?

(I’m originally from the US, but I forget these things – the holiday only really dawned on me late this week, when I was wondering why there were so many Americans in Athens, and then I was listening to a podcast, and they mentioned it, and I thought, “Ah-ha!” But actually it may not be the reason there are so many Americans in Athens at all.)

Anyway, it’s Labor Day weekend, so everyone’s schedule is probably all up in the air. I’m writing to you from the end of my vacation in Greece – we’ve been here a bit over a week, and it’s been sort of a whirlwind. Sure, it’s a lazy whirlwind mainly composed of lots of hours of silent reading on the beach, or slow shuffling walks along dusty paths to the next pebbly beach, or six-hour marathons of The Good Wife, but it’s a whirlwind nonetheless.

 

 

On one hand, I’m happy because I have done some good writing here, and some thinking about my draft. And, on the other hand, I always think I have more time than I do, or that I will be more disciplined than I am.

Especially on holiday. I tell myself: Look at all that time! Whole entire days, and all I’m doing is going to the beach, which is totally a great place to work. I even take my laptop and notebook to the beach (and actually did some work):

And yet, the real truth is that writing on holiday is like writing all the rest of the time: if I don’t get up and work, I am not that likely to make up the time later. Turns out just sitting in your seat and doing the work is… well, really the only way it gets done.

All of that is not to say that I feel guilty. I don’t think I should or do – it’s pointless, it wastes energy, and it doesn’t change what was or wasn’t done. It’s just a sort of note, a placeholder for my future self. Maybe I can come back here and read it before my next holiday, and then make some realistic writing goals or timelines.

What about you? How are your holidays going? Do you get work done, or do you use it as a way to really switch off?

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Putting it all together

editing in greece  We’re hard at work on wrapping up editing for Episode 1 — where we talk about what we mean by margins — and prepping to record Episode 2 — day jobs. It’s been fun to learn something completely new, and we’re already racking up the lessons and lists of what not to do.

It turns out that recording a conversation is way different from working from a word-for-word script, like we had for our trailer episode. Both of us have plenty of experience with public speaking — we give presentations and teach workshops as part of our day jobs — so it’s not hard to work from notes and keep the ideas moving. What is hard is recording a second take!

We expected a technical learning curve, and have been happy to discover while it’s time consuming, it’s not so difficult we need to consult sound engineers. Hooray for the internet and the kind people who’ve posted podcasting how-tos!

But the biggest part of our process has been what’s part of our larger conversation — how to fit it in? We live 7 hours apart and don’t have flexible schedules, so just finding time to sit down with each other to chat is a real testament to our friendship each week (it means either I get up before dawn, or Olivia stays up past her bedtime). The great thing about it is we do make time to sit down each week and chat — and it’s worth every hour of lost sleep.

The time difference works in our favor in other ways. Because we’re more or less a workday apart, we could preeeetty much post to Instagram non-stop. Of course, that’s counter to our writing and work goals, so we don’t, but it would be pretty awesome. We also end up being able to tag-team the post-recording editing, since our periods of free time don’t overlap.

Bottom line is, we’re excited to give you Episode 1 (working title: In the Margins) on Monday — maybe we should have covered day jobs instead, for a Labor Day special. We hope you’re as excited to tune in.

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Episode 0 now live!

Our introductory podcast episode is now available! It’s a short rundown on Marginally and what you can expect. We hope you enjoy listening. Subscribe now so you don’t miss the first full-length episode, and share with a writer or artist you know.

Have a question you’d like us to try to answer, or a topic you’d love to have us cover? Interested in being a guest? Contact us here, or send an email to podcast [at] marginallypodcast.com. Thanks for listening, and keep up the good work!

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Facing the blank page

blank page in a notebookYou know how writing in a new notebook, on that first page, is super hard? I always just skip the first page and then I’m writing on the second page, and then I can move on. Or write something witty on that second page about how I don’t want to write on the first page.

Anyway, we can’t do that on the blog – you always have to write the first post. No getting around it; it just has to be done. So consider this post, to some degree, as an almost-blank first page.

It’s been really difficult to start this project and this blog that we’ve been talking about for weeks. Before this, we swapped productivity tips and photos of to-do lists with ease. Now that the blank screen is staring me in the face, I’ll just start with three things we’ve learned as writers who have full-on day jobs and lives – all of which could be a podcast episode or two on their own.

First, in order to do this writer-with-a-day-job thing, you need a routine. Or at least we do. I’m naturally a night owl – I was since I was a kid. But my day job requires me to be in the office at a certain time, but doesn’t necessarily release me on time. So mornings are my best bet for fresh, clear thinking, and I write better when I can move from dreams to writing without interruption from the news, facts and social media.

Second, we’ve found it useful to plan in advance. When I have longer chunks of time to just write freely, knowing precisely what I need to write is not so important. But if I have 1 to 1.5 hours in the morning, I need to have a scene or a direction that I can resume and keep going with.

Third, you can’t do it all – priorities matter. If I’m writing intensively, every day, it means I need to go to bed, that I can’t go out with friends every night, and sometimes it means I don’t exercise or run as much as might when I’m not writing. I also don’t hole myself up in my house every day without meeting other humans because social activity is also important. It’s about prioritizing your writing but also having a balance, and figuring out what’s best for you.

Last, it’s a lifelong journey. No routine or system is perfect. When I hold too tightly to my existing routine, I can sometimes feel brittle or like I’m sacrificing everything either for my work or for my book. At the same time, I won’t find the perfect routine that will make me a writer unless I just freaking sit down and write.

What have you learned on your writing-and-working journey? We’d love to hear your thoughts and comments.

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