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?

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!

Story Ownership: You vs Your Readers

Obviously you are the writer, the creator, the teller of the story.  And there are various copyright laws that give you the legal rights to owning it.   However, once your story is out there for the world to read, is it still yours?

There are several posts similar to this one, sitting out around on the internet. Who Owns A Story, which I read after already typing my post, is eerily similar.  You wrote it, but you don’t own it, by Daniel Dalton, who mentions the Death of the Author theory.  (Also, I’m a huge fan of his.)

Most of them definitively informing you that after your writing leaves your hands, it belongs to the readers, not you.  The prominent argument is that readers take away different things from your writing.  Everyone interprets it in their own way, and the message/importance they receive will be unique, differing even from your intended message while writing.

In this way, the story has shifted, changed.  It is no longer the same story you wrote.  It is now the story as the readers perceive it.  Which is not your story.

Art and beauty are all subjective.  Who are we to say what the correct way to interpret something is?  We’re just the creators.

And yet…we are the creators.  Have we not a say in how our work is viewed?  When people start to take meaning where it was not given, do we point out that that’s not what we meant?  Perhaps not, because part of the beauty of reading and sharing our writing is that people can find meanings we weren’t even aware of.  If we tell the honest story, there will be themes we might not discover until afterwards.

But what happens when people take away the opposite message of what we mean?  If we write about the fall of a corrupt government, and people start saying we’re promoting anarchy, do we correct them?  Or leave it to others to start a discussion, or just leave them to their tainted views?  Perhaps there really is a wrong or right way to interpret messages in writing.

I think, overall I do agree with the idea that a story belongs to whoever reads it.  However what I would like to ask you is, where is the line drawn on the ownership as far as taking meaning from a story?  Do we, as creators and artists, have a right to guide readers through our intentions of the writing, or is that considered imposing on their rights of uniquely interpreting it?

Planning vs Stalling

Some people plan their stories for years and years and years before finally putting it down on paper.  Others start from nothing and build their way up through words on the page.

I like at least a little bit of planning before writing.  Sure, sometimes I’ll do a free-write to get the juices flowing, although rarely do those turn into more than just snippets of plots.   But when you plan so thoroughly ahead and map it all out, there comes a time when you have to ask yourself, is it still planning or are you now stalling?

The snowflake method of writing (if you’re unfamiliar, here’s a link to a more in depth talk on WritersCafe.org ) is all about planning.  You start off with a one sentence premise, then branch it out into a summary, then go more in depth with the summary, and branch out into chapters, and scenes.  With each level you write more details.

For me, I feel like that takes away a lot of the flow from my writing.  Even if you don’t follow the snowflake method as in depth as it can go, you’re still taking the time to completely map out the novel.  I would be itching to just write before I even finished expanding on the summary!

Which makes me think that perhaps too much planning can lead to stalling.

There did come a point when mapping out my current WiP, that I realized I was suddenly just stalling the writing process.  I tried and tried to plan out the novel, but I kept changing things, and became very indecisive.  To that, I had only one solution.  Just start writing it out. There was no way I could plan the details until I got my hands dirty and experienced them.

But of course, every writer is different.  We all use different methods, and get into our own unique writing rhythms.  We just have to keep being aware of what is working, and what isn’t working with our own writing processes.  What was stalling me, may be beneficial to another.

So I have to ask, would the snowflake method help or hinder you guys?  And have you ever found yourself stalling at some point in the writing process?  How did you change your process after that?

Birthdays, Lincoln City, and No Sunday Versus

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Yesterday was my dad’s birthday, he turned the big 6-0!  In celebration we rented a beach house big enough to fit four families.  So our family and friends all travelled from western washington, eastern washington, central oregon, northern california, and southern california to Lincoln City, Oregon.  Because we literally live all up and down the Pacific Coast, it’s very rare that we get together like this, especially for an entire weekend.

I’ve managed to snag a few minutes to myself to type this out, all on my phone which is very tedious.  But I’ve been absent the past few days after making a 6 hour drive to my parents house, then another 2 1/2 hour drive to the coast.  And I probably won’t have a substantial post on here until thursday of next week, when I’m back in eastern washington and not distracted by family functions! 

As such, I’m not going to have the time to post a Sunday Versus, unfortunatley, but I do have next weeks planned already.  Next week I’ll be talking about Planning vs. Stalling in the writing process.  So thats something you guys can look forward to!

Anyways, my thumbs are getting tired!  I hope you guys are having a fantastic weekend, and to those I follow, I look forward to reading all of your blog posts when I get back home next week!

Happy writing 🙂

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