I’m celebrating a book birthday today! It’s the official pub date for the final book in the Chantress trilogy, Chantress Fury.
I had to work hard for this book. For a slow writer like me, the deadline pressure was overwhelming. And yet there was so much that I truly loved about writing Chantress Fury. With Lucy at the height of her powers, I could finally unleash the Wild Magic of the sea, forcing Lucy to confront wily mermaids, terrifying sea monsters, and a flood that threatens to drown all England. I also had secrets galore to unveil, many of them woven through all three books. And in the midst of all these twists and turns, I wanted Lucy to make a deep emotional journey, one that ends in her understanding more fully who she is and where she belongs.
It was a tall order. Especially under deadline.
Part of what pulled me through was the very thread that had carried me into the trilogy in the first place: music. Singing with my choir, playing the piano, warbling with my family – these gave me energy and perspective to face what was an incredibly challenging year.
But the importance of music went even deeper than that. My childhood was full of music, and much of what I learned then has stood me in good stead with writing, too:
- Practice. My extraordinary high school music teacher used to tell our choir that if he had to pick between talent and hard work, he’d pick the hard worker every time. This made a huge impression on me, and I think it’s true of writing, too. If I’ve learned anything from music over the years, it’s that practice matters.
- Sharing. Making music by yourself is wonderful, and writing for yourself is, too. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that both can be lifesavers. (At least they have been for me.) That said, there is a special magic in sharing your music and writing with others. Both can be terrifying (again, I speak from experience) but there’s something very powerful about sharing what matters to you. And you don’t have to play at Carnegie Hall to benefit. Making music with friends in your living room will do it, and so will sharing a story with a good critique group.
- A Tolerance for Mess. I’m a neatnik by nature, so it pains me to admit this, but music and writing both thrive on a certain amount of chaos. If you’re challenging yourself, you’re guaranteed to hit points where everything feels like a mess. Maybe you can’t hit the weird high notes in your new song. Maybe your poem falls apart in the middle. Don’t despair! Just keep working.
- Judgement. You need discernment to get better at both music and writing, so when your gut tells you that something isn’t working, pay attention. And yet at the same time you must remember that you are not always the best judge of your own work. Especially when you are in the middle of it.
- Loving Your Work. The work is easier if you’re doing what you love. Of course, there comes a point with almost every piece (writing or music) where the passion cools, at least for a while. For me, it helps to pull back and remember what made me fall in love in the first place—those blues chords in the bass line, the character’s voice in the novel—and see if there’s any way to work a little more of that into my daily practice.
What about you? Is there something you love that’s taught you about writing, or about living? I’d love to hear.