How Music, Literature and Film Helps Me Overcome Writer’s Block

After seeing some great lists, chock full of ideas to help boost creativity, I thought I’d share my own list of great tracks, books and movies that help me get over writer’s block to close out 2016.

Whether I’m writing copy for a new website, crafting a PR release or working on one of 30 different fan fic stories in different fandoms I’ve got going on, I can sometimes get stuck on writing the next sentence or get boggled down on trying to edit as I go along.

These are the artists, the films and the books that have helped me get out of that rut for years. So, without further ado, here’s the list to close out 2016.

1) Simon-Lifehouse

One of the best-if not, the most underrated tracks off Lifehouse’s debut album, 2000’s No Name Face, this is a song that’s been a positive influence for over half my life. Every time Jason sings, ‘fulfillment to their lack of strength, at your expense. Left you with no defense, they tore it down. And I have felt the same as you, I have felt the same as you,’ I’m reminded that I’m not alone, that he understands, that he’s always understood and that no matter how stuck you think you are, no matter how hopeless things seem, there’s always a way out and for you to be strong.

2) The Pursuit of Happyness

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I’d say this film is probably the most poignant and inspirational film of Will Smith’s career. As a lifelong fan of his from his Fresh Prince & DJ Jazzy Jeff days, the one sequence that really spoke volumes to me is where he’s sitting inside the subway station bathroom with his son, tears pouring down his face as strangers pound on the door, not realizing that he’s in fact living with his son in the bathroom. It’s an amazing movie, a reminder that we all have the strength to keep us going, no matter how exhausted we are, no matter how hopeless things seem. It shows us who we really are and what we’re truly capable of.

3) Always Looking Up, The Adventures of an Incurable Optimist-Michael J. Fox

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As a long time fan of Michael J. Fox and his sense of humor, this is the ONE biography that I’ve read in recent memory that can make me laugh and make me cry all in 200 pages. As I was reading, I could honestly hear him actually saying the words inside my head, like we were having a conversation. It follows the days after his departure from the amazingly awesome Spin City in 2000 after he made his Parkinson’s diagnosis public and how he founded the Michael J. Fox Foundation. It’s a great read-inspirational, hilarious and heart breaking all at once.

4) A Density of Souls-Christopher Rice

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As a major fan of his mother Anne Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles, I picked up Christopher Rice’s debut novel on a whim and I was automatically sucked in. Every time I crack it open, I find myself getting sucked in again into the tragedy, the love, the coming of age and the darkness that can come from growing up, growing apart and realizing things about yourself that you never knew were there. The four central characters of Stephen, Meredith, Greg and Brandon and the one outside observer who comes home in Jordan really craft a recognizable and relatable journey. The fact that it’s set in New Orleans, a city that’s historically been divided by money and class and yet finds itself floating on water that could wash it all away is both poignant and fitting. I can’t recommend this book enough.

5) Be Somebody-Fort Minor

Track #14 off of the debut solo album of Linkin Park’s rapping maestro, the incredible Mike Shinoda; this track forces you to sit up and listen, to fight for what you believe in and to not let ANYONE and ANYTHING hold you back from doing what you want to do. As someone who has been beat down, belittled, discouraged and actively disrespected when it comes to what I love, this song absolutely gives me the strength to power through all of that and everything ahead of me. I do what I do because I believe in what I love and that’s all there is to it. Special shout out also to the first single “Remember the Name” and “High Road”-a great collaboration with the multi-talented John Legend.

6) Decisions-Jim Treliving

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As a freelancer and a long time customer of Boston Pizza, I’d heard great things about Jim Treliving’s biography and ended up getting a copy as a birthday gift. It chronicles the story of how Jim went from being an RCMP officer to owning the first Boston Pizza and the decisions that he’s made every step of the way as a business owner. What I learned from Jim is that every decision is neither good nor bad, it’s simply a decision. What influences whether it’s a good or bad decision depends on the situation that happens next. Definitely pick this book up if you’re struggling and stuck on where you want to go next for your projects or your business. I love the case study of the risk Jim took during Expo ’86, makes me wish I could’ve been there myself to support him.

7) Saw 2

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It might seem odd to put a horror film on this list-and even more odd that I saw this one (on New Year’s Eve, no less) without ever seeing the first Saw film, but this one definitely struck me. For one thing, it’s pretty rare to have a horror film with a moral to it and yet it’s a simple one: either you appreciate your life or someone will take it from you. Doesn’t that relate to all of us in some way? We’re all guilty of taking something for granted, whether it’s a new platform, new tool, our loved ones-or just that fact that we’re seemingly coasting through life. Not only that, but the scene with the pit of needles continues to haunt me to this day *shudders*

8) Snow Garden-Christopher Rice

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Continuing some of the themes from his debut novel, the characters in his sophomore effort, this time in college, definitely discover some really harsh truths about themselves and the people around them. Certainly the desire to feel valued, to be accepted, to find those like you definitely plays a part in the story but the climax was totally delicious. I’d say every time I pick up this novel, t forces me to dig deeper and get down to the bedrock of what I’m really looking for and what I’m willing to do. Yet another one on my list that I can’t recommend enough.

9) I Will Get There-Boyz II Men

As a huge part of the musical fabric of my childhood, Boyz II Men’s soulful R &B harmonies permeated my earliest memories, thanks in large part to my brother’s influence. Today, I still listen to them when I’m looking for a particular musical feel while working on a story, trying to let go of a less-than-ideal relationship or looking for inspiration. This track, found on the Prince of Egypt soundtrack (still one of my favorite animated films, by the way), really exemplifies the journey that we all take to get to that destination. Maybe that destination is a new home, a new job, embarking on higher education or trying to build a healthier life, free of substance abuse and negativity. Whatever it is, the boys always tell me that I’ll get there, no matter what. You have to have faith and believe, no matter the twists, the turns and the obstacles-there will always be a way.

10) Undone-Lifehouse

To close off the list, I’ve got a track off of the band’s 2005 self-titled album. This track is like the one close friend that we all have, the one that we love more than family. When your world is falling apart, when you’re at rock bottom and you’re in the worst pain imaginable, that friend will be there. They may have some hard truths and tough love and choose to force you to see the light rather than just paying lip service, but they love you nonetheless and they’ll never leave you. Once again, Lifehouse is one of the biggest musical influences in my life and I carry every one of their albums with me, no matter where I am.

Here’s to a great 2017 to everyone and a Happy New Year! I’ll be returning with some great posts on how PR works in film and insights on new marketing tools!

Music as Evolution: Spinning the Soundtrack to Life

If you stopped someone on the street and asked him why he liked a particular song, there’s a higher likelihood that the response you’d get would simply be something along the lines of “because I do.”

Unfortunately, I’ve found a limited number of people who actually spend time thinking about why they enjoy the music they do, let alone someone who is willing to talk about it. Music for me is not just about listening to notes and lyrics as entertainment.

Music is about each beat, the rhythm, the movement and the way the actual sound makes you feel. Music is a collaboration of the artist’s instruments, beats and lyrics all united for a single purpose: to tell a story. The story can be humorous, tragic or inspirational, but it’s this combination of elements that I look for in a good song.

A good song can entertain you; a great song can make you feel alive. With a potent mixture of fantastic instruments playing notes of the right fit, the correct beat allowing you to feel as though your footfalls match the same, and lyrics that speak to your heart, a great song can be the greatest high you can ever experience, greater than any drug you can find.

Above all, a good song is a true testament to the artist’s ability, for those who write their own songs, it tests their ability as producers to find and arrange the correct class of instruments, as songwriters, not only to find exquisite lyrics that will convey the story they wish to tell, but above all, to find the correct flow of notes onto the sheets.

To truly immerse yourself in the music is to ask yourself each time you listen to a song; what is the artist trying to say, what message are they trying to make sure you understand, and how does it make you feel? Are you able to connect with the picture the lyrics paint in your mind, does it relate to your life and your experiences?

Over the years, from Michael Jackson to Evanescence, I’ve encountered a lot of music, from all genres across the board that I would deem to be songwriting and producing perfection. The tireless hours, blood, sweat and tears that a competent artist spends on his/her or their craft cannot be made up for by manufactured so-called ‘image’ music.

What I refer to as ‘image’ music refers to the names and the celebrities attached to the art of songwriting, those who make more money in sponsorship deals and tabloid headlines. There are those, without naming names, who ride the coattails of their parents, or on their images of being sex symbols in order to sell their records.

Quite frankly, the state of much of the music industry of the 21st century disgusts me, and I choose instead to listen to artists that the majority of their music does not receive mainstream airplay. For those artists, it is not about image, it is about blood and tears, and a God-given talent to place what they feel, what they think and what they’ve experienced that they can’t forget, onto the page. What airplay they receive comes from niche stations and publicity off official websites, social networking sites and fan generated appreciation.

It is these artists that create the soundtrack that is my everyday life. Each note from a guitar, drum or cello brings inspiration; each word paints poetic ideals in my mind. Much of what they share with the world I have also felt in my life.

I feel as though my relationship with music and song comes full circle. The artist(s) shares his/her or their vision with the world, their thoughts, feelings, experiences and inspiration, and in turn it is inspiration for me to write my own interpretation of their words and the pictures they paint.

The soundtrack of my life does indeed have different artists from genres I would have never previously taken an interest in, but each one serves as inspiration and serves to melt reality and make ideas that much sharper in my mind.

Music is something that can lift you higher than you’ve ever been before and yet simultaneously bring you back down to earth when it’s over. Music is the only thing in this world that I believe continually is being re-interpreted and re-invented and that lasts through all ages.

For every manufactured tabloid image in the music industry, there are those who spend years of blood, poverty, tears and pain to achieve even moderate success. And it is to them that I send a salute and let them know to continue honing their craft because there will always be one person drawing inspiration from their exceptional abilities.