NANOWRIMO Mix by Electric Literature
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It’s National Novel Writing Month and all across the country (ok, in maybe in studio apartments mostly in major cities) novelists are cranking away at the keys. But writing is difficult, often lonesome, work, and writing a novel is an endeavor that brings even the most experienced writers to the edge of surrender or worse.
Consider how Adam Haslett describes the experience of writing his first novel: “Well there was depression, anxiety, horrible stomach problems, horrible back problems, loneliness, horniness, dread, fear, and recurring radical doubt as to the worth of my endeavors, but other than that it was all quite effortless.” And that was after writing a short story collection that heaped up accolades like mashed potatoes on Thanksgiving (National Book Award and Pulitzer finalist, Time best book of the year, et al.).
To drive you on, to inspire you, to sustain you, to help you break through writer’s block, and to simply keep you clattering away at the keys, the staff of Electric Literature and The Outlet offer you a literary Eye of the Tiger: a NaNoWriMo mixtape. Listen to it all the way through, or find a track or two you like and pursue that creative thread.
“Gerdur” by Sigur Rós — After you’ve been cooped up all day writing in your attic bedroom that has no windows, this song tricks you into thinking you’re the best kind of genius. — Halimah Marcus
“We Insist” by Zoë Keating — I like to write to music that is either absent of words or is completely full of them. I’d describe this brilliant modern cellist as ‘Alternative classical.’ She creates deep, layered, non-verbal spaces and I’m guilty of listening to her albums over and over again while writing. — David Ohlsen
“In the Fall” by Future Islands — It works well on repeat, and it makes you feel like you’re 16 and Things Are Important. — K. Reed Petty
“Residential Love Song” by KC Accidental — Before there was Broken Social Scene, there was KC Accidental. This song came off of 2000’s “Anthems for the Could’ve Bin Pills,” which is filled with gems just like this one — quiet and non-distracting, but still completely lovely and inspiring. — Julia Jackson
“2 Rights Make 1 Wrong” by Mogwai — When I’m writing well, or at least when I have the feeling of writing well, it feels like this. There’s distortion, fizzling static, and plenty of feedback, but if you can filter through it all and there’s this exalted feeling of clarity that bursts through. — Benjamin Samuel
“Raga Lalit” by G.S. Sachdev — I let this music wash over me while I’m writing, so it’s there, but not there, kind of how I see myself when I can get into the heightened state of mind or sensitivity that yields my best work: present but unobtrusive, i.e., it’s not “me” writing but the writing comes through me. The same can be said for Sachdev and his music. — Jesús Ángel García
“Glósóli” by Sigur Rós — Because just like writing, it’s nice to know all that plodding can lead to something big. — Charles Logan
“Running Up That Hill” by Kate Bush — Lots of ’80s synthesizers? A weird video with dancing in shadows? Yes, please! Kate Bush will keep you running up that hill of prose, with “thunder in [y]our hearts.” — Julia Jackson
“Where’s My Money (Caspa Remix)” by TC — This is one of my fav songs for taking a writing break like a boss. Crack the whip, cut the excuses, get the money. The bassline is perfect for those moments when you haven’t even bothered to get dressed. Bosses work from home all the time. — Judith Ossello
“Won’t Let You Down” by Chamillionaire — It’s fun to put on epic songs and challenge your writing to rise to them. The message here is practical and fiercely motivating- go hard in the paint, because what else is there to do? Plus, “Gotta get that paper” works as a metaphor for writers. — David Ohlsen
“Shakey Dog” by Ghostface Killah — This is my favorite Ghostface song — the storytelling here is truly masterful. Way to write an entire song in-scene, Mr. Ghostface. He should probably run a writing workshop. — Molly Auerbach
“Sabotage” by Beastie Boys — When I stare at the blank page and wish for a lobotomy, a vise, anything to pry the sentences out of my gray matter, I throw on some Beastie Boys. They remind me that sometimes you just gotta put on a fake moustache, fuck shit up, crank it out, and have fun. — Cassie Hay
“There, There (The Boney King of Nowhere)” by Radiohead — You can’t hide from Phil Selway’s drums in this song. I often use this track to transition out of whatever I’ve been doing and into writing, sort of like Pavlovian conditioning. — Benjamin Samuel
“Like a Friend” by Pulp — It’s tempting to try and jump-start the process by putting on something frenzied, but I have better luck keeping up with the slow build on this song. Plus it’s all about regrets, self-pity, imbalanced friendships, and making bad choices — in other words, the perfect cocktail for a novel. — Kristopher Jansma
“Fate to Fatal” by The Breeders — According to Kim Deal, “The lyrics about being a loner, feeling on the outside and not understanding what moves people.” Or in other words, writing. But the song’s tone is motivational. — Halimah Marcus
“Sawdust and Diamonds” by Joanna Newsom — I say write to anything that makes you feel, and Newsom’s poetry in this song gets me every time. Take these lines, for example: “There’s a bell in my ears / There’s the wide white roar / Drop a bell down the stairs / Hear it fall for evermore.” Now to sit and try to translate the roar into words… — Charles Logan
“Twin Falls” by Ben Folds Five — This one has been a reliable starter since college if only because the childhood recollections are so sharp and then it ends so abruptly. What’s the rest of the damn story, Ben? The only way to get satisfaction is to write the rest yourself. — Kristopher Jansma
“Forgotten Places” by Alif Tree — I chose this track from Alif Tree for the mix because I think it’s pretty all-purpose. The beat and flow are good for character movement and dialogue. The words kind of console you during those rough moments on the page. I listen to a lot of DJ mixes when I’m trying to get a story written down for the first time, particularly Chris Norman and DJ Pozessed, but this track is like a scooby snack. — Judith Ossello
“Serene” by Eric Dolphy — “Bass clarinetist and alto saxophonist Dolphy was a John Coltrane contemporary whose music still astonishes. Like Trane and Ornette Coleman, he was a bridge from bebop to the “New Thing” of the ’60s avant-garde. This is one of his sweetest (and more mainstream) ballads. The melody is deeply romantic — sorrowful and sumptuous — while the solo is all old soul and open wound. Check out the far cry, then the bird call, then the wtf!… from about 2:55–3:25. Sounds like this remind me that everything is possible.” — Jesús Ángel García
“Gun Street Girl” by Tom Waits — Because every eight words in a Tom Waits song is another complete story. And because listening to Tom Waits keeps you virile. — K. Reed Petty
— Molly Auerbach is an Assistant Editor at Electric Literature. She also works as a manager for a bookstore called BookCourt. Most importantly, she plays bass in a band called Thrillington. You should listen to them: www.thrillington.us.
— Jesús Ángel García is the author of the transmedia novel badbadbad (New Pulp Press). A writer, musician and filmmaker based in San Francisco, García toured the U.S. this past summer, logging 12,000 miles in two months to appear in more than 30 live events. He blogged most of his tour for The Outlet and some day he may finish writing about it. His fiction has appeared in The Nervous Breakdown, Monkeybicycle, HTMLGIANT & other literary venues.
— Cassie Hay is a regular contributor to The Dish.
— Julia Jackson is the editor of Electric Dish. She writes fiction and has an MFA from Brooklyn College.
— Kristopher Jansma is a writer and teacher living in Manhattan. His debut novel, The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards will be published by Viking Press in 2013. He has studied The Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University and has an MFA in Fiction from Columbia University. He is a full-time Lecturer at Manhattanville College and also teaches at SUNY Purchase. Recently, his short story “A Summer Wedding” won 2nd prize in The Blue Mesa Review’s 2011 Fiction Contest, judged by writer Lori Ostlund. His essays and fiction can also be found on The Millions, ASweetLife.org, The 322 Review, Opium Magazine, The Columbia Spectator, and The (Somewhat) Complete Works of Kristopher Jansma. You can also find him on Facebook.
— Charles Logan is an Assistant Editor at Electric Literature.
— Halimah Marcus is the Managing Editor at Electric Literature. Her favorite season is perpetual autumn.
— Judith Ossello currently lives and writes in Portland, Oregon. Find her at www.writerloop.com.
— David Ohlsen an LA native, is a thoughtless product of UC Riverside’s Creative Writing program and is a regular contributor to Electric Dish.
— K. Reed Petty is a writer from maryland. You can follow her on twitter @pettykate.
— Benjamin Samuel is the Online Editor at Electric Literature. He is most productive when he’s procrastinating.