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?

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Writer Vs. Person

I’ve always had a fear of sharing my writing with others.  As I’ve found, this is a fear shared by most creative people when putting forth their works into the world.  You pour your heart and soul into a physical, tangible thing, and suddenly there is nothing left to hide behind.

I’ve talked before about how a part of myself is imprinted in every character, setting, and subject in my writing.  So when I’m in a dark place in my life, my stories will take on a darker theme, and the same can be said when I’m doing well.

But what makes me hesitate sharing my work with close family or friends, is that I don’t want them to read too much of me into my writing.  Which is an utter contradiction to the fact that I admitted to pouring my heart and soul into my writing.   Bear with me!

I want to be able to bring my own experiences and thoughts into my work.  For better or worse it can take quite a dark turn.  And that bitterness is what I will write about.  However, in expressing myself in that way, it will be the only side of me people are seeing.  A mere hand full of puzzle pieces in a 1,000 piece puzzle.

That is definitely not my goal in imparting myself into my writing.  I almost feel like I need a disclaimer before sharing with my friends and family.

DISCLAIMER: The views, opinions, and themes expressed in this writing, are not necessarily a lens in which to view the writer.  Please keep in mind, there is a difference between Aly the writer and Aly the person.

And yet, I sometimes feel that it’s almost an insult to try to separate my personal self from my writer self.  Because in reality, there is nothing to separate. They are one and the same.  I am writer, hear me roar!

I guess it’s just a matter of trying to explain and find common ground with those close to me, who don’t understand the whole ‘writing thing’ that I do.  Out of my family, I am the only creative type.  My brothers and my parents are more logical and realistic.  The majority of my friends are that way as well.  It’s hard for them to understand the nuances of me in my writing, but I won’t hold it against them.

It’s the few friends, and many friendly bloggers I know, that encourage me to continue being my creative self.

Do you guys distinguish between a writer vs personal self?  Do you think it’s bad  to try to separate/downplay a side of you that close friends or family don’t understand?

Classic vs Updated Novels

I’ve never been crafty or witty enough to pull off April Fool’s jokes.  So this will be just another Sunday Vs.  Sorry to disappoint!

The topic of the week is Classic Novels vs. their Updated counterparts.

Example:  Pride and Prejudice vs. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which is a re-telling of sorts, with some zombies thrown in.  Another example would be The Trials of the Honorable F. Darcy, which is an updated version setting it in the 21st century.   Or Pride and Popularity giving the story a modern high school twist.

Think the 1996 movie Romeo + Juliet with Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes.  Or even the BBC show Sherlock, a modern take on Sherlock Holmes.  And contrary to the rest of this post, I cannot praise Sherlock enough!

I haven’t read many updated novels of classics.  Although I did read the graphic novel of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.  (Which was really entertaining, but perhaps part of it was because I deeply enjoy graphic novels.)

Generally, I try to stay away from updated novels because there’s a stigma that goes along with them.  I suppose some of them can be likened to fan fiction, even, which trust me, will be a whole other post!  And to be honest, I rather like reading the originals, both for the style of writing, as well as an intricate look at another time in history.

However, I’m not against the occasional retelling of a story.  But I find that most of the ones I’m drawn to are fairy tales.  (I grew up re-reading Just Ella and Ella Enchanted, interesting takes on Cinderella.)  There’s something about their old, magical feel that I love. And yet, for some reason, it’s difficult for me to get through modern spins on classics.  Perhaps I feel that modern takes lose their historical or magical appeal, so I only really enjoy re-imaginings during the period in which they take place.   Or maybe I’m just really picky.

So what are your thoughts about updating classic stories?  Have you read any good (or terrible) re-tellings of a story?  Or do you do you avoid them like a plague?

Series vs. Stand Alone Novels

Hollywood isn’t the only industry about to be scrutinized for its sequels.  Let’s take a look at how books deal with the standalone vs series approach to story telling in this week’s Sunday Versus.

Whether you feel it while you’re writing or not, there is a pressure when publishing to separate a long story into a series.  Famously JRR Tolkien never intended to publish The Lord of the Rings as a trilogy.   And we were lead to believe that the Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini was to be a trilogy, but upon the announcement of the third book, it was also revealed that there would be a fourth.  (And to be honest, I only read the first book and a half of that series.)

But you know what? Fantasy isn’t the only genre taken over by series.  What about The Millennium Series (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo & sequels for those unfamiliar with the formal series title), or Dan Brown’s novels with Robert Langdon?  Well, let’s not limit ourselves to fantasy and thrillers.  I for one have not forgotten the Little House on the Prairie series or Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery.

In fact, sometimes I feel like stand alone novels can be so short in comparison, that I hardly remember what happens in them.  They’re like a small blip on my reader’s radar when larger series take up the majority of my attention.  And most of the series, I admit, are deserved to be so.

However, I think there comes a point when even we have to set the books down and ask ourselves if it’s really a good story, or if we’re just attached to the characters at some point.  I like to think of it as the Jack Sparrow effect.  I’m not entirely sure the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean movie would have been made if Johnny Depp hadn’t been so in love with playing Jack Sparrow.

A prime example, for me personally, is the Anne of Green Gables series.  Now, the first two-three books were some of my favorites as a school-girl.  And I was in love with Anne Shirley!  But by the time I got to the fourth, fifth, and sixth, I was about done with her shenanigans.  And from what I hear, there’s a seventh, eighth, and ninth book as well.  I think, when one has literally written and chronicled a character from the ages of 10-50 or so, it’s about time to end it, unless you plan on doing it in one novel.

One factor that can weigh in on this, is whether or not a book is character or plot driven.  I realize there’s a huge grey area between the two, but for the sake of this topic I’m willing to find a split in them.  I tend to feel that character driven novels should be singular.  Mostly because the point of the story is watching the character grow and change, and although people are never done growing, if a character isn’t wrapped up by the end of the novel, then I’m not very likely to keep reading another.  However, with plot driven novels I’m more invested in the actual story and what happens.  I’m compelled to keep reading because I want to know how things are resolved, and I surely won’t be satisfied if they’re rushed through in one small novel!

Overall I’m not opposed to series, but I do think if a writer is considering a sequel, especially a previously unplanned sequel, they should ask themselves if it’s really necessary.  Do they really need to use the same characters?  Are there loose strings to tie up, and how can they develop the characters more?  Will people still care after an already resolved story line?  Just some things to consider before venturing past a novel.  Sometimes I feel like a stand alone novel can be a bit underrated, especially the shorter ones.  If someone can tell a compelling and powerful story in a 120 page book, then more power to them! Stories don’t have to be long to be good.

Have you guys ever read a series that should have stopped after the first book? Or perhaps there’s a standalone novel that would serve as a great beginning to a killer series?  Let me know what you think!

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. 🙂

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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.

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