I find it easiest to write when I'm inspired or when I'm bored. If I've thought of a really cool/interesting scene, then I have to write it as soon as possible or I risk forgetting about it. If I'm bored, then my brain goes into thought-overdrive and comes up with a bunch of scenes and ideas, and since I have nothing better to do, I might as well write them down.
But what about when I'm not inspired or bored? What about when I need to write something, but the words just aren't coming? How do I make myself write? What's my secret?
Most of the time: music.
The right music can help put me in the “mood” of what I'm writing, which makes it easier for me to fall into the world of the story. A few months ago I was working on a fantasy short story* and I found that listening to the Lord of the Rings soundtrack made it much easier to find the tone of the story, which made it easier to write and edit.
Music is also great in helping drown out the voices – I mean, distracting my brain. Sometimes I find it difficult to focus, so I need to distract part of my brain so that the other part can concentrate. That's why I need the right music, because the wrong music will distract all of my brain and nothing will get done. It's also why I can never watch TV or movies while I write (the visuals are super distracting).
The music changes for each story, depending on the plot and the characters. One story works best with Muse; another Imagine Dragons. Another story requires a mix of Joan Jett, Garbage, Pat Benatar, Hole, and Nine Inch Nails. The fact that each story uses a different playlist actually helps me focus on one particular story and not want to jump around to something else.
The downside to this process is that it might take a while to get the playlist figured out. Sometimes the music is obvious, but other times I might spend more time than I should trying to find the right sound – time that could be spent writing. Although I'd probably get just as distracted by the internet or Netflix or even making a family tree. (I definitely spent 2 hours working on an Erikson family tree last month, just for a casual one-line mention in something I was writing. I regret nothing.)
It can take a bit of effort, but that one moment when you find a song that fits perfectly with a scene or a character... It's the best**.
*This story can be found in Fantasy From the Rock, launching April 2017!
**There's a scene in Chapter 18 of The Six Elemental which is set to “Run” by Snow Patrol. The song has to be cut a bit, but I've got the movement and lines all timed perfectly. So if this book ever gets made into a movie, someone had better work on getting those rights.