Inspirational Writing vs. Music

Oxford Online Dictionary: Inspire: fill (someone) with the urge or ability to do or feel something, especially to do something creative:[with object and infinitive]:his passion for romantic literature inspired him to begin writing


 

I absolutely love finding, sharing, and supporting creative endeavors by people.  A friend of mine recently shared this video with me, and I immediately fell in love with it.  The man who created it is Alaa Wardi.  Here’s a quote from his song description:

The lyrics in this song are gibberish, they’re in Arabic but they don’t make any sense, and the idea behind that is:

-The song didn’t feel like it needed to talk about anything, and I didn’t want to limit it to a specific idea, so I left it open for you to imagine.

This song inspires me to be creative.  And it’s not just the song, but the ideas behind it as well.  (There are more listed on the Youtube page for this song.)

I love how even the musician wants to leave the interpretation up to the imagination of the listeners.  I do wonder, though, if the gibberish lyrics were English/Western, would I feel the same about the open interpretation?  Is it my lack of familiarity with Arabic that helps me distance myself from words altogether, and just view the singing as part of the music?

Then again, perhaps that’s why music can be so powerful and important to people.  It breaks through language barriers and has the ability to evoke similar feelings out of everybody.

People perform songs to inspire, to entertain, to tell a story, or evoke emotions.  Isn’t that also why we write?  Writers want their stories to be listened to, and to serve a purpose for the reader, even if it is just to entertain them on a train.

But when was the last time you read a book that truly inspired you?  That made you want to put it down the second you finished, and start writing, or painting, or baking, or singing?

For the past year or two I focused my reading on contemporary novels.  The books I’ve read have ranged from Fantasy to Memoirs, and Thrillers to Young Adult fiction.  They’ve made me sad, happy, angry, relieved.

Yet, I struggle to remember one that really inspired me to do something.  I spent hours turning those pages, and enjoying the stories, but not one seems to have had a lasting affect on me.

And here we have a song that’s under 4 minutes and I hear it once; then suddenly I’m running around listening to it and actively finding ways to express myself and how this song makes me feel.

I haven’t felt that way about a book since middle school!

I feel like books have more of an indirect affect.  Music reaches you instantaneously, but with books you have to be patient.  Most of them, while not inspiring me to act, inspire to me think, and contemplate over things I had not yet considered. I digest the words internally, while music makes me want to create and do something physically.

So what do you guys think?  Have you ever been creatively inspired by a book? What books, words, or songs inspire you?

Words Pour Like Rain

Ideas roll like thunder,
Miles deep
And full of wonder.

Inspiration strikes like lightning,
All at once
My vision’s blinding.

Words pour like rain,
Down my throat
And through my veins.

I love nature, whether it brings sunny days or raging storms.  This past weekend it has brought both to me.  On Sunday it reached 80°F (27°C).  This was rather startling considering two weeks ago it was still snowing/blizzarding. And then Sunday night there was a huge, raging thunder and lightning storm.  For at least a half hour it was averaging 10+ lightning strikes per minute.  The storm lasted several hours.

Yesterday, Monday, it was again 80°F, and again, last night brought a fantastic thunder and lightning show.  Today isn’t quite as hot, however tonight there is scheduled….you guessed it…Thunder and lightning!   And do you know what’s supposed to happen tomorrow night?  THUNDER AND LIGHTNING!

Have I mentioned how much I love this weather?

The downpour of rain always helps me feel creative.  Maybe that’s because I grew up in the rainy, drizzly, Pacific Northwest.  Or maybe it’s because my mothers name is Raeni.   Or maybe I’m just a little odd.

At any rate, the universe seems to have aligned to promote inspiration for me to write.  Who am I to argue?

What helps inspire you guys?  Is there a certain environment your writing thrives better in?

(For those of you who follow, and posted such kind words in regards to my fathers health: He’s doing much better, and is now out of the hospital and back home with my mom.  Thank you all, again, for the concern and well wishes.)

Creating vs. Using

When writing sci-fi or fantasy, there’s a great freedom you have in way of creating the details of the world you’re writing in.  You can modify the world around you, into what you want it to be.

With fiction, however, there are more limitations to what you can and cannot have the world around you do. (At least, before it starts to turn into sci-fi or fantasy.)  Yet, you still have the ability to create certain, fictional, things to place within your story.

So, the question is, when writing fiction should you invent things within your world, or should you use what real life has to offer?

For such a seemingly simple part of writing, there are so many questions to ask.  Sometimes you make a decision without even realizing it, and in that way, it is natural to the story.  For example, when flipping through DVD’s to watch, my character goes through Moulin Rouge, Boondock Saints, and The Princess Bride.  I didn’t even have to think about whether or not to make up movies.  I was just writing, that’s how the story came out, and I like it.

But when it comes to deciding something as big as the setting and the town your story takes place in, your choice can greatly affect the story.  This is especially true if the town/setting is a big part of the story.

Ask yourself how you want the setting to affect the story and the characters.  Think about the pros and cons of each, and consider how the places you’ve lived in influence the setting you write about.

Naturally, setting doesn’t always have such a huge affect, but perhaps your main character is really into music.  Or movies.  Or books.  Do you want your readers to be able to associate with pop culture references you can throw in?  Or perhaps you want to do a satirical take and create your own reality tv show that the characters make fun of.

Again, I find myself facing these very same questions, and am still considering them.  Some things come easily, and naturally to the story, but when you find yourself stalled on certain details, be sure to consider why, and how it will affect your story.  I find this is especially helpful in the editing stage.

So what do you guys do?  Do you prefer to create your own fictional places/media/products, or do you like to keep things strictly realistic with things that exist in our current world?  Or if you balance the two, how do you decide which will serve you best?

Hand Writing vs. Typing

I am an extreme advocate of hand writing everything.   From my angst-ridden high school poetry, to my more recent short story drafts, to writing daily to-do lists on lined post-it notes, it was all penned down. Perhaps I’m biased to it because when I was 8 years old my dad used to make me hand write, repeatedly, the definitions of words I didn’t know to expand my vocabulary and to help improve my handwriting.  And in 5th grade, each week my teacher made us write a quote 10 times in cursive and in pen, and if we made one mistake we had start over on a new page of paper.  Yeah…my natural handwriting is equal parts cursive and print because of that.

However, now that I’ve started working on my first novel, I realized that I either needed to drastically change my notebook organizational skills, or start going digital with my drafts.  Considering the former would include a lot of tearing out, compiling, stapling, taping, labeling, and paperclipping, I decided to find a program that could do the majority of that for me.

Enter Scrivener.  I downloaded this program about a week ago.  Right now I’m on the 30 day free trial, but I wholly plan on purchasing it after the trial is up because it is actually fairly cheap as far as useful, professional programs go.  To avoid this becoming a program review, I’ll just say this:  If you’re interested in a new program to help organize your writing, try the free trial of Scrivener.  If you aren’t, then continue ahead with this post.

In a handful of days my plotting, drafting, and writing turned from this:

Scribbles and cross-outs included. Had I known this would go public I would've used my good handwriting!

To the likes of this: 

Note the lists, color coding, summaries, and labels.

There’s a clear difference between which one is more organized.  However, that doesn’t mean it’s better.   Scrivener has all these cool functions like color-coding virtual notecards to indicate scenes, chapters, character studies, and ideas.  There’s nifty split screen and full screen functions.  You can make a target word count that tracks your progress on how far you have to go with a color-coded bar.

All these cool features also means that the pressure is on when you write.  When everything is handed out to you, there’s no excuse not to get your writing done.  And the target word counts?  You can make them for each file, each chapter, and each novel/project, all a the same time.  Which means you will always be looking at how far behind you are.

This can be very intimidating, especially if you’re old school like me.  When I sit and write it’s just me, my pen, and the paper.  Put a notebook in front of me, and my mind is classically trained to just go.  Put me in front of a computer and all of a sudden I have five windows open, four of which have nothing to do with what I originally meant to do.

But, as you may recall from the beginning of this post, I’m still going to continue with Scrivener.  Hand writing works very well when doing short stories, flash fiction, and poetry.  It’s good for brainstorming, and doing character studies.  But for working on novel length works?  You’d better have plenty of notebooks, great organizational skills, and a lot of patience if you’re going to even attempt it by hand.

So what are your thoughts on writing by hand?  Do you prefer taking it the digital route, or is it easier to free write in a notebook first?

(Also, I apologize for being scarce this week.  As demonstrated, I’ve been busy transitioning and exploring new fronts with my writing.)

Forcing vs. Flowing in Writing

In my experience there are two ways to write.

Example 1. You frantically scribble away on the nearest napkin as inspiration strikes you at a very inopportune moment, and you’re left with a smudged copy to store away for the next month before you’re inspired enough to revisit it.

Example 2. You sit down at your desk and stare at the computer screen until your fingers begrudgingly begin to type.  Before you know it you have a very, very, rocky draft that vaguely resembles the scenery you meant to describe, and is left as such until you force yourself to edit it.

Pretty obvious which one is ‘going with the flow’ writing as opposed to ‘forced’ writing.  What isn’t so obvious?  Which one produces better writing.

I have arguments for both styles.  Ultimately I think it’s up to the writer to decide a certain combination of the two that works for them personally.  But- here are my thoughts on the matter.

Flow.  Everyone has had that lightning bolt of inspiration hit them.  It doesn’t even have to involve writing!  There’s a moment, where all of a sudden, things become clear, and you know what you have to do and what you want to do.   So you go and just do it.  That’s what happened to me when I went and saw the movie Hugo.  It inspired this short story.  And I’m pretty happy with the result.   The words just seemed to flow from out of my fingers, and I barely had to think about what I was writing.  I believe it’s this natural, raw inspiration that produces the most fluid and honest writing.

But if you only write when you’ve caught the lightning bug, those spurts can be few and far between.  Even if it produces some of our best work, we can’t completely rely on it.  Sometimes we have to hunker down and treat writing as what it really is: hard work.

Forced.  This is where we struggle, as writers, to produce our stories.  Every decent writer needs to spend time on their writing.  It’s like clocking in hours at a job.  Even if you don’t want to, or don’t feel like it, you need do it.  Why?

Because you can’t edit and perfect what isn’t on the page. 

This is especially true when you’re in it for the long haul.  Short stories and Flash Fiction are wonderful for the strikes of inspiration.  But when you enter novella and novel territory, more often than not there will be days when you force yourself to write the story, even if it isn’t flowing out of your fingertips.  It might not come out exactly as you want, unlike some of the spur of the moment stories, but you can always go back and edit.

So, if you’re like me, and just starting to realize you want to be serious about writing, then find that balance.  Be ready to find inspiration in unlikely places.  And if that fails, don’t be afraid to sit down and write against the current.  Take your own writing seriously.  Don’t let if fall by the wayside just because the words are struggling with you.

Paige: An Introduction

This piece is quite different from what I usually write.  It’s one of many short writings that I plan on eventually accumulating into a novel of sorts.  The story of Paige is loosely based on myself, even her name coming from what my parents almost named me.  So, I write about Paige when something significant or striking happens, or almost happens, to me.  This has been left unedited intentionally because I wish to preserve the short stories as they are until I finally compile them and can edit them as one.

Also, I realize the majority of people, aka, everyone who has subscribed so far, who read my blog, are pretty much the opposite of my intended target audience for this.  But on the off chance you like it, feel free to let me know. 🙂

**********

There is a rumor that your life flashes before your eyes when faced with death. For Paige Macintosh, however, that time came sooner. Although she was in no real danger of dying, life as she knew it was indeed ending. Paige was sitting on a ratty brown couch picked up while dumpster diving. Her soon to be ex-boyfriend was currently pacing a hole in the carpet in front of the couch. His ranting words were lost on the girl who was preoccupied by her own life story.

Age 4: She watches enviously as her brother gets to hold the puppy on the ride home. Age 9: The room is filled with laughter as her cousins make fun of her. Paige would never care for them again. Age 15: She’s sitting on the curb with her mom, watching the tow truck pull the car out of a ditch. Results of her first driving lesson. Age 18: The dorm room is impossibly small to be sharing with the wild room mate she just met. Age 21: Looking at the letter of dismissal from the college. Enter depression. Age 22: Paige’s boyfriend gives her a big hug after they finish moving boxes into their new apartment.

Now: She’s getting dumped. Again.

“I don’t know what more I can do Paige. How am I supposed to keep looking after you when you won’t let me and refuse to do it yourself? I thought things would change but apparently I was wrong,” Alex said, finally standing still and looking at her. The movie reel of her life ended. Everything culminated to this very point in time and she wasn’t even paying attention. She didn’t need to. Paige knew full well what was about to happen, why her mind replayed every significant memory. Realizing this, she faced Alex for the first time since he started talking. “Well? Aren’t you going to say anything?”

“I’m not sure what to say,” her voice was quiet and timid. Alex looked at her incredulously. Paige averted her eyes. “What? What do you want to hear from me?”

“I don’t know…something! You sit there silently, as if this doesn’t even matter to you anymore.” He waited for her to reply. When she didn’t say anything he threw his arms up in defeat. “I give up. I’m done with this. Paige, you’ve become impossible to deal with. I’m leaving.” With that Alex grabbed his jacket and headed for the door.

“Wait! Alex…are you breaking up with me?” For the first time in three weeks she actually cared about what the outcome was.

“Yeah, I guess I am,” he said, before slamming the door behind him. Stunned silence followed.

All her hopes, dreams, and happy memories shattered like a wine glass in the wrong place on moving day. Paige could see her fragmented thoughts imbedding themselves into the carpet, where just minutes before her boyfriend had stood. Time didn’t stop, but Paige’s life was stuck on this singular frame. Minutes passed into hours as she sat unmoving. Her mind was numb, unwilling to process what just happened and what it meant for her. Instead, she sat there, going over all the now broken memories she shared with Alex. What were once beautiful scenes were reduced to shards, threatening to cut through her heart if she dared tried to put them back together. She didn’t dare.

Her life was sitting before her in ruins, and she didn’t have the will to put it back together. Was there even a point to try and fix things? She was estranged from her parents, didn’t have a job, and had dropped out of college. Not only that, but her boyfriend just walked out on her and the apartment they shared. How would she pay for it? If he came back and kicked her out then where would she live? Paige suddenly imagined herself selling all her possessions, moving to a big city and either becoming a crazy homeless person, or a prostitute.

The horror of her prospective future catapulted her mind back to the present. It was almost dark out, and had been at least an hour since Alex had stormed out of the apartment. He had to come back at some point, and when he did, Paige would be ready. She started rehearsing what she would say to win Alex back. Becoming a crack whore was not an option.

Book-based Movies vs Movie-based Books

Has anyone else noticed that there are a plethora of movies based on well written(or not) novels, while the number of well written books based on movies is disappointingly small?  Then again is there ANY new movie these days that isn’t based on a book or play, or heaven forbid, another movie?

I wouldn’t mind reading a book based on another form of media.  In fact, I’ve considered searching out the books based on the video game Assassin’s Creed, most people play that game for the story anyways.  What’s stopping me though, is that the very few books I’ve picked up that were based on movies, have either been mediocre or down right terrible.

I believe there are several main reasons that all contribute to these mediocre re-tellings.  And honestly, I think they could easily be overcome if a bit more hard work is applied.

First off, I don’t think companies spend enough time looking for an author. Perhaps they think any old writer will do, or they don’t want to shell out the money for an outstanding author, or maybe the writers they approach refuse the job because they aren’t inspired enough by the story.  You have to find someone who’s really passionate about the story.  It’s like the difference between Peter Jackson’s take on The Lord of the Rings, vs the terrible rendition of Eragon.  The same in writing, you need to feel the passion for the story from the author- something that goes way beyond hiring a decent writer.  A good writer doesn’t always make a good story.

Secondly, readers prefer novels because they have the ability to go more in depth into the story and the characters.  Movies have a lot of material to work with, and they don’t have to spend time describing the details of the world-because we see them visually.  That’s not at all the case in books though.  And somewhere along the line, lost in translation, is all that flavor and depth that books have.  Most books based on other media are flat and dull, the world/scenes just don’t jump off the page because they’re more focused on the plot than the world building.

Lastly, I think the book versions generally try to take the story too literally. (This excludes the series of Star Wars, Star Trek, and the like which expand on the original source.)  In movies dialogue is mostly re-written, plots are changed, and in some cases a character is left out/merged with another character.  What I notice about direct movie to book writing, is that they try to perfectly emulate the movie.  There’s hardly any deviation from the source material, and although that can be seen as dedication, it can really water down the representation of the source when switching mediums.  More time should be spent on figuring out how to create the story as a great novel, as opposed a screenplay without parentheses and brackets.

It takes a lot of work for a movie to come together to represent a book.  If only the same amount of time and work went into translating a movie into a book.   Although, thinking about it, maybe as writers it would be a great exercise to re-tell a story from a game/movie/tv series.   I think we could learn a lot about the craft and how we write by attempting to translate into writing a story we’ve visually taken in.

Why do you think there’s such a difference between translating the two mediums?  And what are some of the books you’ve read that are based on other media?  If any of them were good, please send me in their direction!

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