Wuxia Novelist: A Writer's Blog

Wuxia Novelist: A Writer's Blog looks at the broad range of issues encountered by me as a novelist working in the Chinese wuxia (heroic fiction) genre. I have, however, a very broad background and this blog will not narrowly focus on one genre of literature, rather I will consider books, movies, and ideas that relate to my life as a writer. For more information about my background please visit my author's website: www.thedragongateinn.com or www.facebook.com/WuxiaNovelist

Location: United States

Check out my author's website: www.thedragongateinn.com for everything you could ever want to know about me.

Monday, December 31, 2007

Dancing White Dragons

The snow dragons have been at it again painting The Dragon Gate Inn and its surrounding mountain woodlands white. They blew through late last night and were off in the morning. Not many travelers come through here in the winter, so business is okay, which means it’s peaceful up here. But we are purposely off the beaten track and enjoy the solitude.

You know, of course, the difference between solitude and loneliness. Usually, the former is a chosen state while the latter can be an imposed condition. At the Inn, the latter state seems only to occur when the imagination goes cold. As writers, we know a lot of “tricks” to keep the fires of imagination burning brightly; after all, the publishing industry is glut with articles and books on just that subject. It’s fun, however, to share these techniques with others and today I’d like to share with you some of my thoughts and experience with one of the methods I greatly enjoy for keeping in “the zone” of imagination when I write – listening to music.

I recently thought about this when I discovered a fantastic online radio station: www.pandora.com. I’d been searching for an online station that: 1. played the music I found most inspiring when I write, or, even, when I read.

I digress here…I know some of you can’t stand to have anything going on when you write, music or even pins dropping. And some of you love to blast that radio or iPod as an accompaniment to your writing. Once again, I don’t come down on either side. Do what works for you. I blast when I’m working out on the bike trainer and don’t want pins dropping when I’m writing a non-fiction article packed with facts and figures.

In my fiction writing, I pursue a “middle path.” Music that takes me deeper into my story, and that’s the second thing I was looking for in an online station, 2. “my” music, music that I could pick, and 3. no interruptions in “my” music – streaming inspiration!

In my Internet search, I’d get one or two of those conditions, but almost never all three, until one day I hit upon Pandora. This station meets all three of my conditions and goes even further, as you can create a number of “stations” that will play different genres of music you choose and even allows you to mix the stations into one big happy conglomerate of your favs.

In my case, I have a “contemporary folk music station” that plays such a wide range of music you’d be wondering how the heck does he define “folk” music. I don’t know, it’s just steady streaming vocal music that I enjoy.

For those non-vocal moments, and that’s usually when I’m writing fiction, I have the “Ambient Music” station, which I’m listening to right now as I write this blog. I’ve always liked “space” music. Back in my graduate student days, I listened, and still do, to quite an eclectic mix of music. At one point, I even took up the gu-zheng (古箏 - Chinese zither). It was the only instrument that I could actually play a tune on! Nowadays, they wrap it all up as “world music.” Pandora hasn’t gotten there yet. I wrote and asked and they said that they were working on it, collecting the music and getting it programmed takes some time. When they get that up, I’ll also have a “world music” station.

But back to ambient music. For me, for fantasy writing, there’s nothing like it. I enjoyed hearing Tom Southwell, Production Illustrator on Blade Runner, muse about his listening to Vangelis’ “Chariots of Fire” and “China” albums when he was doing the drawings for that movie. The final cut DVD of that great movie is now available and there is a special features disk with a long documentary on the making of the movie. They touch on just about every aspect of the “making of” – it should give us writers, frustrated with the glacial progress of the publishing industry regarding our works, an infusion of courage to “keep on keepin’ on” when you see what director Ridley Scott had to go through to create one of the greatest SF films.

Southwell reminisced how he would put on the Vangelis music and within five minutes be lost into the world of Blade Runner, lost in that jianghu, and more intimately experience the actors’ emotions as he drew the sets that made up that physical world. And you all know how well that worked!

I do the same. The right type of music propels me deeper into my story. I guess its sort of a transportation mechanism taking me further than I ever could have imagined in a “normal” state of mind. Of course, you can get the same sensations if you practice meditation or martial arts – it’s that one pointed mind focus that carries you deeper into mind – whether you choose the jianghu of imagination or some more profound path. Regarding the latter, my Buddhist teachers never used music. I think some of them would feel that it was just a distraction; that strengthening the mind should be done without “crutches.” But then each circumstance is unique and calls for unique applications and techniques.

I love using music when I write fiction and Pandora seems to be a good route for me. As the music is played you can “vote” as to what you like or don’t like. Gradually, the system will adapt to your choices. And if you want to take the time, even offer you information on music that is similar to what you’ve picked thus allowing you to expand your musical horizons. I think it’s great and now have my Ambient Music Station well programmed for streaming along the peaks, crannies, and waterways of the jianghu.

So if you like using music to write and you have an Internet connection that can handle streaming music, give Pandora a try and you’ll find it’s packed with music and information. You can even exchange stations with friends. It could be a lot of fun and, hopefully, be productive in your writing. Let me know how you make out.

Oh, almost forgot as I’m streaming along here far above time and space, 新年快樂

Xin-nian kuai-le!!! HAPPY NEW YEAR, may your productivity amaze you!


The Innkeeper


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