To Soothe The Savage Beasts

Memory can be false. I always remembered the quote as “music can soothe the savage beast.” William Cosgreve, English poet and playwright, actually said, “Music hath charms to soothe a savage breast, to soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak.”

What do writers do when the words won’t or can’t come? When the words are ‘puked up’ as one of my poems evoked.

Some of them turn to music. To inspire. To advise. To evoke.

I once read an article about Dean Koontz, one of my favourite writers, that described the music he played compulsively while writing Intensity. A novel about a serial killer that, as I remember, travelled around the USA in a Winnebago killing randomly. It scared the crap out of me. But not as much as the first novel I read of his myriads of novels. That one was Whispers, a novel about twins who were stuffed in a hole in the ground by their parents. Ugh! It haunts me still.

When I am blocked I find the first, most useful steps for me: 1) turn off distractions — Begone Facebook, 2) Close my eyes (again distractions), 3) Ask my self, quietly in my brain, what do I need to write, 4) Pick the music that will inspire me, 5) WRITE, WRITE, WRITE till I am done.

Oh, and the most important is step zero. ADMIT that I am stuck. Sounds easy, peasy. For me it is not. After all, I am The Unsticking Coach aren’t I? But, I do get stuck. Sometimes for days. Sometimes weeks. And, I find the first step is like an alcoholic to ADMIT that I am powerless. When I do why the words begin to flow.

About the music I play: mostly it consists of a few albums I’ve loaded to my iTunes library. As I write this I am listening to Beth Nielsen Chapman‘s Greatest Hits. One of the albums I listen to most frequently when I am writing my memoir CRASH! is Enya’s Amarantine. I listened to this CD compulsively when I was in the hospital recovering from my car crash and listening to it evokes the smells, sounds, and people of the units.

One final tip. My other favourite writer is Diana Gabaldon of Outlander fame. She compulsively edits (my words not hers) as she writes. I find when I do that I just stall. One of the best pieces of advice I got was “First get it down. Then get it good!” When I can heed that maxim I find my writing flows. That advice came in a business writing course I attended in 1986 given by my former friend Andrew Vujonic. I violate this ‘rule’ from time to time. Because, well, all rules are meant to be broken. I typically break this rule as I am writing and a word I have just typed doesn’t feel right. Words are meant to evoke feelings. And, I want just the right feeling evoked.

So, may you write words that soothe the savage breast.

Copyright 2018 Lyle T. Lachmuth, All Rights Reserved.