All writers have days when the ideas just won’t come, or they are flat-out not in the mood to write. Or some days we are just stuck at a spot in our story where we can’t figure out where to go from there. I call it “writing myself into a corner.” What seems to be a great idea flows out of us and into an exciting story, but sometimes we fail to consider how that particular event or decision will affect the rest of the book.

        No matter what the problem, I often find that listening to my “mood music” often pulls me out of whatever has slowed my writing. When I listen to music like the theme songs from Lonesome Dove or Open Range, I can so easily “see” the magnificent western landscape, and seeing it and feeling it through music instantly brings up new ideas and the desire to write something grand and memorable. It helps me describe that beautiful mountain view or the wide-open grasslands with endless horizons. That, in turn, creates new ideas, an inspiration to write a story that fits the bold panorama of the American West.

        Listening to the theme song from The Big Country brings up visions of Jake and Lloyd Harkner herding cattle over yellow grass and the vast slopes of J&L land, with the Rockies in the background. I can stand on a high ridge and look down at the sparkling water of a stream below. I can scan the horizon for miles, looking for stray cattle or rustlers. Such big country helps me envision the big men it took to tame it, and the strength the women of such a land needed to survive it. Then, of course, there is Native American music, which I use to help me envision warriors and villages and herds of buffalo. I can “see” a band of painted natives in full regalia and riding painted horses across the expansive spaces of the high plains.

        I don’t know what I would do without my mood music. I used it a lot in Dancing Beneath You, because the hero, Ben, is trained in professional singing and dancing, and he founded a youth group that he molded into a song and dance group much like Glee. I can see Ben or the youth group singing every song I list in my book, and it makes me eager to tell more of their story, which I will do in the sequel, Walking Beside You.

        Another story I want to write is called. If I Loved You. It is based on the song of the same title from the musical, Carousel. Most of my mood music is theme songs from great westerns, as well as songs by Josh Groban and David Phelps. The list is long. I have over 600 songs in my phone. I get them through Apple Music. They are constantly playing when I drive, and I keep earphones in my office and at my bedside so I can listen whenever I am in the mood. When I listen to If I Loved You, sung by Josh Groban and Audra McDonald, I see a young pioneer girl who has fallen in love with a young Cheyenne warrior. Her father finds out and forces them apart, and during the song I see her wagon pulling away with the wagon train, the young girl sitting on the wagon gate crying and watching her Cheyenne lover ride away with a band of other young men. They disappear over a rise, both thinking they will probably never see each other again. I cry every time I picture that when I am listening to that song.

        Whenever you are feeling low, or are sick of boring TV shows, and even sicker over today’s news, try listening to songs you love. They can be up-beat songs that make you want to get up and dance, or simply soft music that relaxes you, or songs that bring up visions of things you love most. I know music has been a big part of my writing and always will be.

        Listen and imagine. They are the two major keys to writing.




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