I talk about bards more than, say, the normal person. Though I’m far from a skilled bard myself, the importance of music in my writing can’t be stressed enough. Many writers outline, sketch, plot, sit at desks or in parks or at coffee shops and plan, plan, plan, then plan some more. They fill up notebooks with voluminous notes, details, and references. They know exactly what’s going to happen, and when it’s going to happen.

I am jealous of these people inasmuch as, well, that’s not how I work. I’d love to say that I have a Tome somewhere with all the secrets of The Aldersgate Cycle down to which dress Cora is wearing when she… well, you get the idea. But I don’t. I know where the story is going, I have my first draft for that. But the actual details literally, well, appear.

After the birth of my son, I dealt with a lot of uncomfortable issues, postpartum depression being the big troll in my proverbial closet. The world didn’t seem right to me. Creatively I was devoid of inspiration, physically I was exhausted, and emotionally I was numb. It was a scary time. Any person who’s dealt with depression knows it’s a tricky little bastard, and women who’ve fought through PPD know how much of a thief it is. It’s a special kind of cruelty that robs the mother of those months with her child, at least from a mental standpoint, but that’s not my point, exactly.

When Liam was about three months old I started listening to WCPE. This magical station can be heard all the time, from anywhere, but it happens to be located right here in NC. Though I’d always loved Classical music, I don’t think I’d ever taken the time to really, really listen. To notice the variances, the currents, the melodies that meld and grow, twirl and change.

I would drive to my parents’ house almost every day and listen to the station, and during those 20 minute intervals, thing would appear to me. Scenes, conversations, words forming in front of my eyes like some strange spell. And that’s how I’ve been writing The Aldersgate. Although many of the particulars of which composition I was listening to at the time elude me, I know that the words and music are part of the same Source, whatever that Source really is. It’s a bit like going into a trance, but not so deep that one can’t drive. It’s deep, deep thinking.

Sure, it’s a little unusual. But what’s neat is that, over the last few drives, I’ve been thinking about my NaNoWriMo book–and lo and behold, the first few chapters are already written, in between Brahms and Bach; the first scene, especially, is crystal clear. A New England winter, right after the holidays, when the snow is two feet deep, the snowbanks encrusted with salt and grey with mud; you can hear the trees, then, crackle in their frozen state. That’s where it starts.

Classical music has a bum wrap, unfortunately, especially in the younger generation. Many people believe it’s boring, or old fashioned. I tell you it could not be more untrue. The variety of what can be found in Classical music, from period to period, ensures that, somewhere along the way you’ll likely find something that speaks to you. While Bach has always been a preferred composer of mine, I was surprised one day to hear Samuel Barber for the first time–his Adagio for Strings, Opus 12 played on a rainy day as I made my way to Target, and though the details are mundane, the experience was religious. Seriously. I burst into tears.

Just a suggestion. If you’re out there writing, and you’re stuck, and if you’ve not found something interesting, tune in to WCPE. I’m particularly fond of Deana Vassar and David Ballentyne and their shows “Allegro” and “Rise and Shine” respectively. You may find something surprising there between the notes.

I’ve mentioned a few times that my bard, Emry, is most like me of the characters in The Aldersgate Cycle. Well, if there were any naysayers, check this out:

Over the weekend, I inherited two ukuleles, a tenor guitar, and a banjolele. This is in addition to the three guitars, banjo, keyboard, and mandolin. We’ve made our musical instruments into decor here. The pic below shows me with the uke I’ll be playing most (a baritone… which I’m contemplating giving a steampunk makeover) and the mandolin, guitar (Philomena), and banjo behind me.

Not that I can play them all with expert proficiency… but, heh. I love ’em.

Uke, mandolin, guitar, banjo

Uke, mandolin, guitar, banjo

Lady with a luteIf growing up means you can no longer play pretend, I want nothing to do with it. In fact, I’d like to go so far as to that I am, as of right now, declaring myself a professional pretender. I want to be a bard.

What am I on about? I’ve been spending a lot of time pondering my craft, lost in the labyrinth of my own brain, opening doors that have either been shut for too long, or have been cracked open, but not yet fully discovered. Prompted by no small part by some of Matt Staggs’s recent posts at Enter the Octopus, I’ve been waxing pensive (okay and maybe a little poetic) about this “new” age of writing and storytelling. I completely agree with Matt that the Internet has ushered in a new era of storytelling, where writers, readers, and publishers (well, sometimes) are connected on a level never imagined. Not only do we, as writers, have a direct feed to mountains of information (where would I be without Wikipedia or BoingBoing?), but we have direct feeds to audiences, looking for us. It’s no longer a matter of publishing houses telling readers what the next big thing is: they already know!

The thing is, even in this era of technology, gadgets, and ever growing worldwide problems, fiction is needed now more than ever. Fiction functions to keep us hoping, to inspire, to get us thinking outside our mundane little cubicles.

When I was in college and graduate school, my main era of study was the Middle Ages. As such, I tend to have a really backward view of how things work. Once upon a time, in our own world, storytellers, bards, and the like were revered. The Irish bards were a kind of druid, and held the lore and history of their entire culture in their minds (to our knowledge, they never wrote anything down). Sure, stories changed with the telling, but that was part of the fun. In some regions, being a bard was the highest calling one could have; remember, the majority of the population could not read, and certainly no one had televisions (um, duh). People depended on storytellers to transport them out of their dreary worlds into the space of the imagination.

So what’s happened to the bards and troubadours? Where have they gone? Most of us can’t go off to barding school (though, if you’ve been following along in my podcast, you’ll notice I invented one and sent Emry to it). Even if we write thousands of pages and novels and stories, there’s no guarantee that anyone will read them. In most circles, barding or writing or storytelling isn’t a viable option.

That is, unless you make it available.

Because, if you care about sharing your stories with others–if you care about continuing the tradition of storytelling–there are plenty of options. You can publish with a Creative Commons license, you can podcast, you can attend virtual writers’ gatherings and meet other bloggers and writers just like you. Instead of letting your manuscript languish at the bottom of a slush pile (which is still an option, of course, not that it doesn’t occasionally work), you can be proactive.

Sure, we all want to be the next bestseller. But don’t just assume it’s going to happen to you overnight (if at all, says the skeptic part of my brain). Remember, bards had to travel hundreds, if not thousands, of miles to share their stories; modern day writers need to, too. Ours are just measured in bps rather than feet.