Falling on Black Days -- Jen Doktorski

I apologize is advance because this blog post is going to be a bit all over the place. I have to admit, sometimes I struggle to come up with something relevant and interesting to say with respect to our monthly topics. But when we picked “music” for May, I was psyched. I could go on and on about what music has meant to me and my writing.
Music has helped me through dark times and has been there for me to celebrate the light. Writing about music changed the entire trajectory of my life at a time when I desperately needed a new direction and is the reason I met my husband. (Our wedding favor was a mixed CD.) I have found musicians and the musical community to be among the warmest most welcoming group of people out there (next to writers) and seeing live music has been as much a part of my internal life as reading. Music unites. Music heals. Music gives a title and melody to our emotions. Music incites change.
This week music came under attack.

My heart breaks for the 22 people who lost their lives and the scores of others who were injured, some critically, at the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England. I imagine it was the first concert for many of the girls and boys who filled that arena. I hate to think that because of one evil, soulless coward, it was or will be their last.
I’m praying for the victims and their families and the people of Manchester. For them, these are certainly very dark days, but I’m hoping they all eventually find their way back to music and the light.

Last week, music suffered another kind of loss. I’m also praying for the family, friends, and fans of Chris Cornell who are experiencing a different darkness. Addiction and mental illness in all its forms are diseases, just like diabetes or heart disease, and like any disease, these conditions could turn deadly. We all need to be aware of the places we can turn to for help.
The main characters in my forthcoming book deal with addiction, anxiety, and depression over the death of their friends and music plays a huge role in their healing. It’s called, August & Everything After; named after one of my favorite albums of all time by the Counting Crows. This book, like all my others, could not have been written without music. I use playlists to mold my characters and get inside their heads. I don’t necessarily listen to music while I write, but I always listen to songs before I write, usually while I’m running or taking a long walk. Music gets me to the right emotional place I need to be in order to create. (“Liminal space,” thank you Bill Cameron!) Entire scenes and large chunks of dialogue come to me while I’m listening to music. For this novel I relied heavily on the song Fix You by Coldplay to create a pivotal scene in which the band in the novel records a fictional song about the last time you see someone. (I call it a fictional song because unlike Patty Blount, I wasn't brave enough to write it!) You can check out the entire playlist for this novel, as well as my other books, here.
I had originally planned to write an entire blog post about this book, but in the coming months, I’m sure I’ll blather on and on about it as its release date approaches. For now I’d rather stop writing and leave you with a song. YouTube is overflowing with gorgeous vocal performances by Chris Cornell. There is sad and painful irony in the fact that his soaring vocals uplifted so many. It was hard to choose which performance of his to include with this post, but this one made me cry. In it, Chris sings a duet with his daughter, Toni, at the Beacon Theater in New York City. The apple didn’t fall far from the tree and I love how Chris restrains his powerful voice and lets hers shine.


  1. Thanks Jen. Powerful stuff here and I look forward to your book. Way back before getting sober, I was known to hide in closets for days when depressed and listen to the Moody Blues.

    1. Thank you! The Moody Blues seems like the right band to get you through those times. Hope they helped.

  2. This is an amazing post, Jen. Thanks for sharing it.


  3. "Music unites. Music heals." Amen.


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