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Not at the expense of your own judgement, obviously. Listen to yourself, try what you think works, experiment, explore.

But if you find yourself staring at a wall, or the end of the only road you can think to go down, sometimes it can be useful to get out of your own head and remember that there are other people around you who are remarkably similar things – and guess what? Some of them might know some things you don’t.

For me, it came in the form of music.

I’ve always said I don’t write well with music. Honestly, I don’t do much well with music, other than listening to it; I’ve always found that when a song I like comes on all I want to do is appreciate it, which is great for making a close connection with Taylor Swift, not so handy when I’m trying to figure out whether shadow mages can cast in the dark. I don’t like silence either, so I tend to put a song on a couple of minutes before I start writing and loop it. By the time I actually sit down to put pen to paper, the song has turned into the musical equivalent of white noise, and I’ll keep it looped until I’m done with my words for the day.

But I got stuck today, in spite of my promise to myself that I wasn’t going to get stuck, and I realized that Taylor Swift is lovely, but she really really wasn’t capturing the mood I was working with.

Normally, “the mood of my music” isn’t something I worry about. Music is what I listen to, writing is what I do, they’re different. But since staring at the wall scowling at myself wasn’t helping, I thought back to those dozens of other writers I’ve seen talking about their writing soundtracks. I’ve tried it before, and it didn’t work for me then, but with nothing better to do, I swapped out country pop for Bond, and their epic orchestral awesomeness.

And all of a sudden, the scene started flowing again.

This isn’t to say that I’m now sold on the soundtracks idea. I later tried to get into dialogue and found that I was really distracted by the grandiose noises coming from my computer. Honestly, it was actually a little bit intimidating, I had to turn it off and run away to play with the kitten for a minute and restore my sense of normalcy.

But I will admit that there’s more to it than I originally thought, even with regards to personal applications.

So think about it! When you run up against a wall, maybe instead of wondering what you could change or improve, start trying to think of how other people deal with the problem. It may not always pan out, but it’s not like it’s going to make you any less productive, right?

NaNo Word Count: 13,427

Shapes suddenly appeared from the shadows, four dark, hooded figures that seemed to rise up from the shadows at the base of the wall. At first glance they looked disconcertingly like the priests of Arahal. Their robes were long and black, with cowled hoods that conspired with the dark to completely conceal their faces. There were subtle differences in style and cut from the robes Brenn now wore over his leathers, and he knew without having to check that there would be no line of colored trim at cuff, cowl, hem and hips to denote which sin they worked for.

 They each carried a knife, he saw as well, a long-handled weapon with a blade a hand and a half long made of some dark material that drank in what little light there was and reflected nothing back. Each blade was slightly different in shape, as though they’d been crafted from whole shards rather than worked, but they all bore a cruel cutting edge, slightly curved, and a wickedly sharp point.

 Shadowsteel.

 A misnomer, Brenn thought, even as he flipped himself up onto his feet, keeping an eye on the four figures in his mirror, but he wasn’t going to be the one to tell a group of deadly cloaked figures that their ‘steel’ was about as far from metal as it got. Reevers used obsidian as well, though only the most skilled could use them to refract to the shadowed realms, and Brenn thought he had a fairly reliable understanding of its properties.

 And it was downright unnerving to see blades of the stuff that seemed to cast off light like an otter did water.

 There was no time to wonder why, or how, or what it meant; they were moving quickly, now that they were out of whatever strange shadowy concealment they’d been using. Brenn cast his will out again through the mirror, splitting off four strong cables he sent streaking toward the strangers. The casters jerked, arms pulled tight to their sides, ankles wrapped together. One had been in the process of taking a step when the reeving hit him, and he overbalanced. Without arms to help him he twisted awkwardly, then toppled sideways onto the ground.

 But it was hard to make his will hold against dark figures in the night; their outlines seemed to blur as Brenn looked, and within moments two of the three who were standing began to move again. The gestures were stiff, as though the attackers were trying to move through water or molasses or even mud, but they were moving.

 “I can’t hold them!” Brenn told Gilleth, tying off the cords anyway before looking away from the mirror. It might not keep the three standing men – women? – from attacking, but as long as they had to fight through a reeving it would make Gill’s job easier. “I’m going after the girl. Good luck out here!”

 “Don’t get killed,” Gilleth said grimly.