Instrumental Music is Instrumental

Mini Marshmallow – 30 March, 2015

Instrumental Music is Instrumental

In the previous Mini Marshmallow, I talked about my favourite writing tool: Cold Turkey. I pair Cold Turkey with some instrumental music or nature sounds. I usually need some kind of background noise when I work. It’s just too quiet otherwise.

Background noise keeps our subconscious mind busy. If we give it has something to listen to, we can focus on writing.

This week, I’d like to share three of my favourite pieces with you (all links go to YouTube videos):

1 Hour Meditation Music (103) by Yellow Brick Cinema. One hour of softly flowing piano music. I never thought a piano could sound so gentle and soothing, but it can.

Ocean Breeze (long playlist) by Relaxdaily. A two-hour mix of the composer’s original instrumental melodies. I especially love the seamless transitions between the songs. You get a lot of variety, which makes your subconscious mind happy, and without any sudden changes, which makes you happy because it doesn’t break your concentration.

Bamboo Water Fountain by Relaxing White Noise. There’s nothing like the sound of moving water to make me feel like I’m home. The splashing of the water in this video is understated, so you don’t get overwhelmed.

If these are too relaxing for you, look for videos that are more suitable. Here are some search terms to get you started: instrumental music, background noise, white noise, study, focus, ambience and soundscape.

Combine the above words with the kind of music or sounds you would like. Some examples include beach, waves, rain, coffee shop, wind in trees, dolphin, whale, summer, guitar, piano and flute.

And remember the number one rule of using YouTube: don’t read the comments! Just enjoy the videos.

Have fun and happy writing,


Mini Marshmallow 16 March (Procrastination)

Hi everyone!

This week’s Mini Marshmallow features one of the most helpful writing tools I’ve ever encountered.

Cold Turkey ( is a programme you can install on your computer to block distracting sites so you can get to work.

You enter the sites you want to block and for how long, and then activate the programme. That’s it.

What I especially like about Cold Turkey is that it’s very kind to you if you forget and visit a blocked site. Instead of a harsh reminder, you’re presented with a pleasant outdoor scene and an uplifting quote. Here’s the one I just got:

‘Either you run the day or the day runs you.’
– Jim Rohn

Am I ready to get back to work or what?

If you use a Mac, there’s a similar programme called Self Control (

We’re human. We have days when it’s harder to focus than others. Procrastination doesn’t mean we’re bad, wrong or lazy. It just means we need a little extra help getting to work. That’s all.

Happy writing and until next week,

Writing Lessons from ‘The Simpsons’ (II)

Of all the characters on the show, Lisa Simpson should be the one most capable of writing a book. Even though she’s only eight, she’s smart, academically gifted and she has a good command of language. When the time comes, though, and she has her opportunity, things don’t go as expected.

In the episode The Book Job (season twenty-three, episode six), Lisa and her father, Homer, discover that publishing agencies use ghost writers to churn out best-selling books, mostly in the young-adult genre.

Homer immediately sees dollar signs and he puts together a team, promising them a cut of the money. Lisa is appalled at both the manipulation of the readers and Homer’s mercenary attitude. She decides to write her own book, believing that a person should write for the love of the story, not money. While Homer’s team is busy writing, however, Lisa does the following:

• Puts on music for inspiration;
• Organises her CD collection;
• Plays game after game of online Boggle;
• Goes to write in a coffee shop, but instead spends her time setting up the wi-fi and buying coffee;
• Builds an intricate structure from wooden pencils;
• Watches cat videos;
• Obsesses over a smudge on the window before cleaning the entire pane, inside and out;
• Watches all five seasons of Friday Night Lights.

I love this episode and laugh every single time because I very much see myself in Lisa. How many excuses and distractions did I come up with to avoid writing? How many pointless activities did I pursue instead of sitting down and writing? Too many, I’m afraid. My all-time favourite is abandoning work to try and find out what dust was made of. The runner-up is writing my name on the underside of my stapler with white correction fluid…because then if someone broke into the house and stole my stapler, they wouldn’t be able to sell it? I don’t know, it seemed important at the time.

The lesson of this episode is two-fold. First, the only way to write is to sit down and write. Homer’s team did just that. Yes, they were purely motivated by profit. Yes, their story was basically a by-the-numbers supernatural mystery. But they did the work. They created their characters, put together a plot, and then sat down and wrote.

Second, we need support, especially if we’re writing on our own. Homer’s team did have it a little easier, and not just because Neil Gaiman brought them food. They worked as a group, and were able to keep each other focused and on track. I do wonder whether Lisa would have written her story if she’d had just one sympathetic person to support her.

You might write on your own but you’re not alone. Turn to someone if you need help or a sympathetic ear. You can even write to me if you want. I’ll help if I can and be honest if I can’t. And remember that if there’s one constant in this world, it’s that there will always be distractions. They’re not going anywhere. If you ignore them and write, you’re a success, whether you make money or not.


This week’s prompts

Use the following prompts to start a new piece, continue an existing one, or to just have fun with words:

1. A wooden stake…
2. “What’s that on your head?” said…
3. The staircase spiralled…
4. Colourful cushions galore!
5. The pond wasn’t filled with water but…

Questions? Suggestions? Feel free to drop me a line at You can also follow or contact me via Facebook, Linked In, YouTube or Tumblr.

Pick Two

The audio version of this newsletter can be found here.

Pick Two

All of us, no matter who we are, want our products and services to be three things: good, fast, and cheap. It’s not possible. So we pick two.

This applies to writing as well. We all want to produce high quality texts in a short amount of time and while expending the least amount of energy. It’s not going to happen. Thankfully, the solution is easy: pick two.

Fast and cheap: This is a good option for first drafts, when you’re overthinking the writing process, or when you’re procrastinating. Choosing ‘fast and cheap’ means you are going to sit down and write without worrying about quality. In this way, you can complete a piece relatively quickly and without expending too much energy. Once you’ve got that first draft, then you can revise it so it meets your standards.  At this moment, though, your focus is on getting results.

Fast and good: This option is for the writer’s equivalent of the final sprint towards the finish line. Your piece (or a section of your piece) is nearing completion and you want to get it done as soon as possible. So you set aside a block of time for revising and editing, during which you will do nothing but focus on quality. It can be a very intense experience and it requires a fair amount of energy, which is why it won’t be cheap. But it will be worth it.

Cheap and good: Slow and steady wins the race. This is the option most suited to medium- or long-term projects. Time isn’t of the essence, but consistency is. You achieve results by doing a small amount every day. Writing this way will require patience and dedication, but it’s an inexpensive way of producing a text. That small amount you do every day will add up to so much more. Since you have the time to craft the piece, you can relax and focus on getting the words right, instead of getting them done right now.


Whenever you’re feeling frustrated with your writing because you want it all this instant, just remember that the solution is easy. Pick two. Then get to work.


This week’s prompts

Use the following prompts to start a new piece, continue an existing one, or to just have fun with words.

1. Oh no you did just not
2. “This will require the removal of my earrings,” said…
3. The purple blanket covered…
4. The system stalled…
5. Time flew by and…

Questions? Suggestions? Feel free to drop me a line any time at You can also follow or contact me via Facebook, Linked In, YouTube or Tumblr.