An Aspirational Writing Playlist for the New Year!


Hi everyone. The theme for this month is to create a playlist that relates in some way to writing. This playlist is not what I actually play when I’m writing (but maybe I should). It’s more of a thematic journey through my writing process. It also demonstrates that I am very OLD!


This being a new year, I am filled with resolutions! I’ve made lists of writing projects I’d like to begin. I’ve ordered research materials, some of which have arrived. Given that I’ve written almost nothing during the pandemic, the first resolution is to write. Write every day.


So the first song on the playlist is Everyday I Write the Book, by Elvis Costello. I can sing it to myself on mornings when I wake up and feel discouraged, like perhaps on that particular day I will not be able to write the book. It will encourage me.


The second song is Lady Writer, by Dire Straits. Maybe I can be on TV, like the Lady Writer in the song. I do know something about history, as she does. Even though the song seems to be comparing the Lady Writer somewhat unfavorably to another woman, she’s still a writer. So that also should encourage me.


Third, we have Paperback Writer, by the Beatles. How could I leave that out? I would like people to read my book! It did take me a long time to write!


Moving on, we should probably address the issue of actually getting the book published. Querying agents. Querying publishers. It’s enough to make a lady writer despair. What do I need? RESPECT! Cue Aretha Franklin.


So there I am, writing the book. And often I struggle to make the plot work, or the characters work, or the tempo work. Days go by and it still seems wrong. Until one day, something clicks into place and I stare at the computer screen, amazed. It’s actually working! It actually seems…dare I say it…good! And the appropriate song for that feeling might be You Are the Best Thing, by Ray LaMontagne.


Of course, then a few minutes later my neuroses creep back in, and I think, well, it’s not really that good, is it? Maybe I need to change it. Maybe I need to go for a walk.


Then there are times when the characters take off and do things I never expected them to do. Like in one of my middle grade books, when a character walks into the chess club meeting who I never had imagined would walk into the chess club meeting. A total surprise that made me realize this character had a lot more to him than I’d realized. My characters move in Mysterious Ways, as U2 might say.


And then one day, after writing and revising and revising and revising, I get to the point where I might actually be done. I question myself, but I realize it’s time to show this fledgling manuscript to my wonderful family and friends. An appropriate song here could be At Last, by Etta James. The relationship between myself and my book does represent an odd sort of love, doesn’t it?


I’ll end with a word of caution. There are days when I feel the need to do some errands and leave the computer behind (at least in the pre-pandemic days. Now I mostly order things online). Errands can be a good way to procrastinate. If you live in Montgomery County, Maryland, where I’ve lived for a good portion of my life, the odds are that you might do some of those errands in Rockville. In fact, I spent some time yesterday in the Curbside Pickup line at Best Buy on Rockville Pike instead of writing this blog post. So the best song for this phenomenon would be (Don’t Go Back to) Rockville, by R.E.M. I don’t want to waste another year.


Thanks, and happy new year!


--Deborah Kalb


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