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.)

StoryCorps: You’ll Laugh, Cry, and Want More

So last week I posted about how I enjoy stories of all kinds.  This week I’d like to share with you this wonderful organization called StoryCorps.  If you haven’t heard about it yet, well, prepare to be enthralled.  Here is what their official site has to say:

StoryCorps is an independent nonprofit whose mission is to provide Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share, and preserve the stories of our lives. Since 2003, StoryCorps has collected and archived more than 40,000 interviews from nearly 80,000 participants.

Along with recording all of these stories, they also put several animated versions of interviews on YouTube.

I cannot put into words how much these personal stories have touched me.   Whether they make you laugh, like the interview about a Sunday School teacher, or make you cry, like the story of a loved one lost on 9/11, these stories are worth listening to.  They’re captivating, heartbreaking, touching, uplifting, and inspirational.   Stories at their finest.

I whole-heartedly recommend that you guys check out their website and YouTube channel.  But beware:  I hardly ever cry, but half of the four minute animations make me start bawling by the end of them.

Exhibit A: The story of Danny and Annie.  This is my favorite of their animated stories, and it’s so touching, I cry every time I watch it(which is a lot).  So grab the tissues!

Could You Live With No Imagination?

For those of you who have been actively reading my blog, you’ll have noticed I’ve mentioned We by Yevgeny Zamyatin several times.  It is by far my favorite book for reasons that I cannot fully explain.

All I can say is that, it is powerful enough to have been the book that inspired George Orwell to write 1984.  It is the dystopian novel to read.

And here is my favorite quote from the book:

But it is not your fault: You are sick.  The name of this sickness:

Imagination

This is the worm that gnaws black wrinkles onto your forehead.  This is the fever that chases you, and you run off into the distance even though this “distance” begins where happiness ends.  It is the last barricade on the path to happiness.

But be glad: It has been detonated already.
The path is clear.
The most recent discovery of State Science is the location of the Imagination: The pathetic cerebral nodule in the region of the Pons Varolii.  Cauterize this nodule with X-rays three times and you are healed of your Imagination.

Forever.

Can you even envision a future where they find a cure for Imagination?

 

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.

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!

Road Trips and Why They Make Novels

I have never been a huge fan of driving, let alone long distances.  It was to my greatest surprise the first time I did my 6 hour long road trip by myself.  Despite my worries and stress, it turned out to be one of the best six hours I’d spent to myself in a loooong time.

As an introvert I relished the time alone.  It was just me, my thoughts, and the open road.  I immediately began to see what was so addicting to bikers zooming up the winding roads on their motorcycles.  Admittedly, I probably didn’t look as classy in my ’01 Pontiac Bonneville, but a girl can pretend!

Have you ever hit the road solo for a long drive?  Was it as boring as you thought, or were you pleasantly surprised as well?

To be honest, it would get boring if I did it often.  I don’t know how truckers do it.  But sometimes, we writers need complete isolation in order to sort out our thoughts, our feelings, hopes, dreams, and-you guessed it- plotting ideas.  I can’t say I mind spending 6 hours focusing on myself and my ideas.

And the best part?  You can freely imagine without having the pressure of putting your words onto a page yet.   There’s no limits to what you’re thinking.  There’s no caution that makes you scrap an image because you can’t describe it properly.  And there’s absolutely no bar on how big your ideas can grow.

To sum up: I’m about to fly solo for 6 hours, and I plan on enjoying every sweet minute of imagination exercises.

Cheers and happy plotting! 😉

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