A little music, a little dancing…

Cover for use“You’re my soul, and my heart’s inspiration…” I sing Bobby Hatfield’s part into a wooden spoon. I am not in tune. I am not thin or beautiful or “all that” in any way. I am not musical.

“When we’ve been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun…” I am in church—or not, but when “Amazing Grace” plays, I sing right out loud and out of tune. I am enthralled. But I am not musical.

“I’ve heard there was a secret chord that David played and it pleased the Lord…” The song is Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” and no, I don’t sing this because I can’t keep from crying long enough. I move, though. I, whose lack of rhythm is matched only by my terrible voice, sway and ache and weep with the emotions of the song. But, no, I am not musical.

My husband is a musician. He plays guitar and sings and occasionally writes songs. I have a picture of him when he was in Vietnam in 1970, a Polaroid he didn’t know was being taken. He’s playing the guitar, not wearing a shirt. I love the picture, and when I look at him now I still see the boy he was then, still hear that smoky voice. My heart beats funny and he can make my knees wobbly if he’s of a mind to. I dance so badly I can’t bear to watch myself in a mirror, but occasionally he and I will two-step, laughing, around the island in the kitchen. But I don’t hear the music even if he’s singing it.

My office is in the garage largely because I need silence to write. I don’t know when it happened, because when we first had an empty nest years ago, I used to call a kid and ask him or her to make some noise because I couldn’t write—it seemed they’d taken the words with them when they left. Yes, and the music, too.

So, though I’m not musical, though I need stillness to write, though I have two very, very left feet, it is music that is my inspiration. The Eagles, the Righteous Brothers, the Beatles, Wilson Pickett, and—oh, yes, and Duane Flaherty.

The people in my stories listen to music. They dance in their kitchens and their back yards. Sometimes—with the addition of a little alcoholic incentive—they even sing into their wooden spoons. There are pianos in some of their living rooms and guitars standing in corners, but mostly they trip over their own feet. When they sing with the car radio, they are a beat behind. Because they can’t hear it. Even if they have the mommy kind of audible range that knows a baby is crying from three blocks away, they can’t hear the heartbeat of music.

But they can feel it. So can I. And it is my most fervent wish, as a romance writer, that whoever reads my books can feel it, too.

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A little music, a little dancing… — 39 Comments

  1. I’m totally a wooden spoon singer too. And love belting out songs to the radio when I’m driving in the car – or I did until I had kids and they asked me (kindly) not too!!

  2. Hi, Liz!

    My characters don’t tend to sing–maybe because I don’t or don’t sing well–but they do dance. It was interesting writing a scene in one book where my H/H and were jitterbugging. She was totally amazed at his dancing ability! :-).


  3. I’m more if an air guitarist than a spoon singer, myself. Music’s a huge inspiration for my characters as well. I’ve even found that a song has served as a spring board for an entire story. Best of luck with Jar of Dreams!

  4. Liz, our tastes in music are so similar, I’m now totally convinced we were sisters in a previous existence…well, or maybe we were simply raised in the same generation. 😉 Whatever, never worry–anyone who reads your books can feel the music and the romance! Thanks for all your stories–they’re a joy!

  5. It’s funny how music often impacts writers, but in different ways. I love music almost as much as reading and writing. I’m enamored with brilliant singer/songwriters and inspired by heartfelt or clever lyrics. My music collection is so eclectic it’s hard to believe it belongs to one person. And like you I sing and dance proudly (though badly) a lot. LOL.

    Sometimes I need to work in silence, but usually I’ve got music playing when I write. Each book has its own soundtrack.

    • My friend Kristina Knight always has a soundtrack, too. I have lyrics that often play important parts in my stories, but even then, I don’t play the music. My tastes used to be eclectic, but they’ve narrowed over the years. Thanks, Reese.

  6. So glad to know I’m not the only one who can’t dance, Liz. 😉 I love how you incorporate music into the lives and stories of your characters. It truly is such an important part of who we are.

  7. Music is such a huge part of my life. I always have some of my favorite songs playing while I am writing. Like you, I cannot sing (at least in public) but would love to have that talent. Just finished “A Soft Place to Fall” Wow. Loved it, Loved it! I think I will read “Jar of Dreams” again. I need another Liz Flaherty fix!

  8. Nice post! I’m a sing-in-the-shower, sing-in-the-car gal, but other than that I try to spare people. And although I love music, I can’t have in my ear when I’m writing or I’ll end up singing… in which case, I can’t write. Haha. (Must admit to car dancing as well.)

  9. What a storyteller! We all have a little music inside and it doesn’t matter if we’re a tad out of synch as long as it plays from the heart. Keep writing away! And best of luck!

  10. Great post, Liz! I love singing along loudly while I’m driving. I’m sure the other drivers think I’m nuts, but it’s much safter than putting on lipstick, eating, or texting.

  11. Great Post, Liz. I always was ashamed to sing in public because my parents told be I was so off-key I made everyone else sing badly on Jingle Bells. But then I had kids who didn’t judge and I actually became a sing-alonger with the radio and even at loud levels. Sometimes at work I’ll sing under my breath to the Wag soundtrack and nobody makes fun of me. I may not be the best singer–by a long shot–but it’s nice to let loose once in a while :)

  12. I can’t carry a tune worth beans, though I wish I could. I’m envious of musically talented people like your husband. But never stop dancing, Liz. Or singing, even if you can’t carry a tune in a bucket. Life’s about having fun.

  13. I love your description of your husband in that picture. It must conjure up a thousand memories for you, because from just what you said here, I get a beautiful image in my head. Beautiful post!

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