Writing, Twizzlers, and the Music

I write. I revise. I eat Twizzlers. I write some more. Recently, I realized there’s another thing I do when I’m in the writing zone, I listen and sing poorly to songs that inspire me. Now, as I recently confessed to a classroom of fifth graders, I sound a bit like a dying frog when I sing. But, I love it! So, I can’t seem to stop myself from belting out the the music when I’m cooking, driving, or on a run. So, if you happen to be nearby, I truly am sorry.

A while back, while in the kitchen making meatballs and singing poorly and dancing with my sauce-splashed apron on, I realized the song I was singing over a killer tomato-basil sauce, had less to do with dinner, and more to do with my current work-in-progress. I was right in the thick of a first draft. To me, this is the part of the process where I fear everything.  I’ll never come up with a gripping plot. Even if I have a good plot, I’ll never be able to construct a whole story. Even if I can construct a story, it’s going to stink. So naturally, I found myself singing Brave by Sara Bareilles, loudly and out-of-tune, while slicing and dicing. There I was in all my first draft glory singing along with Sara like we were old friends. “Say what you want to say. Let the words fall out. Honestly, I want to see you be brave.”

So after a delicious Italian dinner, I jumped back into my work-in-progress with purpose, and to my happy surprise, I eventually completed a draft of my new story. Woot! Let the celebration begin! I was super excited until I read the whole thing over and realized it stunk. I mean no-one’s-going-to-read-this kind of stunk. I knew I needed to summon the courage to reconstruct the characters, the plot, the pacing.  So, I popped in my earbuds and listened to The Fight Song by Rachel Platten before I dug back into all those words on the page.

Once I finished, I mean really finished, a process that included several bags of Twizzlers and many many drafts, I sent my newly revised story to Trish, my agent. And, I waited for her thoughts while I jumped back into all the things I had put on hold while revising. The music of choice – The Waiting by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. And then, Trish called. She loved it! So, I popped in my earbuds and went for a run to Happy by Pharrell Williams!



IMG_9552 Elly Swartz is a middle-grade author. Her debut novel, FINDING PERFECT (FSG October, 2016) is a story about a twelve-year-old girl named Molly, friendship, family, OCD, and a slam poetry competition that determines everything. It took thirteen years, numerous drafts, many Twizzlers, loads of hugs, and much unconditional love, to find her way to YES. Elly lives in Brookline, Massachusetts with her husband, two sons and beagle named Lucy. If you want to connect with Elly or learn more about what she’s working on, you can find her at www.ellyswartz.com, on Twitter @ellyswartz or Facebook.















Filed under Celebrations, Happiness, Writing and Life

14 responses to “Writing, Twizzlers, and the Music

  1. So true, Elly! Music inspires us in so many different ways. I can’t write while listening to music, though, so I love your process of listening before you start writing. I’m going to try that!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m the same! I love to belt out songs (in my bad singing voice). Like Andrea, I can’t write while listening to songs, but I do have an “Inspiration” playlist I listen to when I need a jolt of courage. Brave is one of the songs. A few others are: Where You Lead, I Will Follow (Carole King), Living in the Moment (Jason Mraz), California 37 (Train), Crazy Dreams (cast of SMASH the TV show), Beautiful (Eminem) and Unwritten (Natasha Bedingfield. I keep adding to the list, too, but the ones above are my usual go-to’s to get me going. YAY you for your new ms and Trish loving it! GO GO GO!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Elly Swartz

      I am adding those songs to list, now. We should do an Emu Debut inspiring songs playlist on Spotify! Good to know I am not the only one singing loudly and poorly : ) Just another thing we share! xoxo

      Liked by 1 person

  3. mariagianferrari

    I can’t listen to music and write at the same time, but I do love to sing (and Becca doesn’t seem to mind 🙂 ) Does Lucy ever join you in song?? Write on!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hayley Barrett

    I listen to music too, Elly. Often the same song on repeat. Often something wildly inappropriate and in stark contrast to my PB WIPs. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Elly Swartz

      Oh, I replay the same few songs, too. It makes everyone else nuts, but I love it! As for your song choice, do tell : ) xoxo


  5. I love that you dance and write to your own tune, Elly! Like Maria, I typically can’t write to music, though I occasionally find an even-toned instrumental that doesn’t distract me. I can’t wait to read your book!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Elly Swartz

    Huge thanks, Donna. The music just kicks off the process. Gets me inspired when I need that extra push. These songs get me to that place where the emotion is right on the surface and I can tap into those feelings.


  7. Oh, I love this story. You keep singing!

    P.S. I sing more like a constipated toad. It is only a problem when small people I’m appearing before want me to sing my picture book (which, yes, is based upon a song).

    Liked by 1 person

  8. The Waiting is the Hardest Part. Truer words were never spoken, or sung.

    Liked by 1 person

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