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?

Letters of Note

On which Hemingway puts the beatdown on Fitzgerald in a letter.

If you are like me, then you love hearing what people have to say to each other.  Admittedly, I have on several occasions turned the music off on my headphones and listened to conversations around me.  (Really, the things people say in public are astonishing!)  I also belong to the small group that laments the downfall of good old-fashioned snail mail letter writing.

Which is probably why I fell in love immediately with Letters of Note.  From the website itself:

Letters of Note is an attempt to gather and sort fascinating letters, postcards, telegrams, faxes, and memos. Scans/photos where possible. Fakes will be sneered at. Updated as often as possible; usually each weekday.

So far there are 752 letters on the website, and I’ve yet to reach 100, I’m sure.  Several letters appear by fantastic writers including JRR Tolkien in regards to being English,  Kurt Vonnegut on being a POW at Schlachthof Fünf (Slaughterhouse Five), and most deliciously Aldous Huxley to George Orwell on 1984(Orwell) compared to Brave New World(Huxley).

All of those are interesting reads, as well as plenty others on the site that don’t involve authors.  However, there is one letter in particular that I wish to share with fellow writers.

Ernest Hemingway to F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald had requested Hemingway’s opinion on his novel Tender Is the Night, and boy does Hemingway let him have it.   However it’s not all about put-downs or insults.  Hemingway gives Fitzgerald some very sound writing advice.

And if I haven’t convinced you to read this letter yet, here’s just a small excerpt:

For Christ sake write and don’t worry about what the boys will say nor whether it will be a masterpiece nor what. I write one page of masterpiece to ninety one pages of shit. I try to put the shit in the wastebasket.  -Ernest Hemingway

(So stop reading my blog and go read Hemingway’s letter!)

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?

Stories Within Stories

I have quite the addiction to stories.  Which is probably why I love movies, books, or plays that are centered around storytelling.

The most recent of these treasures came rather unexpectedly.  I was meandering through the lines of movies on Netflix, looking for something to entertain me while I ate lunch.  A rather surrealist movie cover caught my attention.

The FallDescription via IMDB:

In a hospital on the outskirts of 1920s Los Angeles, an injured stuntman begins to tell a fellow patient, a little girl with a broken arm, a fantastical story about 5 mythical heroes. Thanks to his fractured state of mind and her vivid imagination, the line between fiction and reality starts to blur as the tale advances.

What I love about this type of plot, is the blending of fantasy and reality.  These stories especially capture my attention when in the form of film.  The visual aspects of blending realities is much easier to follow than in books.  Although I must say I haven’t read too many books like this.  Inkspell by Cornelia Funke, being the only one I can think of off the top of my head.

As far as movies go I can think of  The Fall, Big Fish, The Science of Sleep, Pan’s Labyrinth, MirrorMask, The Wizard of Oz, The Pagemaster, and Alice in Wonderland, as well as many others I’m sure I’m missing/haven’t watched.

I think what draws me in most to these stories, is that when I was little I so wished I could become a part of a story.  I wanted all the fantastical things to be true, and happen to me.  So when I see a film where the characters have become a part of a story or another fantasy world, I can’t help but enjoy it.

What kind of stories draw you in?

 

And Down Goes My Sinking Heart

As some of you may have noticed I haven’t posted much of my fiction lately, which is mostly due to me throwing myself headlong into a new novel concept. I’ve been so excited that I haven’t even talked about it to anyone!

The premise is that a daughter and her recently divorced mom move from Nebraska to Otter Rock, a small, unincorporated community on the Oregon Coast.  They buy and start to run a Bed and Breakfast there, in hopes of starting fresh.  It explores coming to terms with your past, and who you’ve become, as well as the intricacies of relationships, especially between a mother and daughter.  The oceanic setting weighs heavily within the book.  Tentatively titled “We Are The Tide”.

I was just browsing books on my kindle and came across an upcoming book that’s on pre-order called The Inn of Rose Harbor.  Here’s what the description says:

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Debbie Macomber comes a heartwarming new series based in the Pacific Northwest town of Cedar Cove, where a charming cast of characters finds love, forgiveness, and renewal behind the doors of the cozy Rose Harbor Inn.

Jo Marie Rose first arrives in Cedar Cove seeking a sense of peace and a fresh start.  Coping with the death of her husband, she purchases a local bed-and-breakfast- the newly christened Rose Harbor Inn-ready to begin her life anew.  Yet the inn holds more surprises than Jo Marie can imagine…

There is more to the description on amazon, so I know our novels start to differ quite a bit after that. So I guess it is a bit comforting knowing that only the beginnings are similar.  Still, I had this moment of woe, and if my boyfriend wasn’t sleeping I’m sure I would have cried out, “SAY IT AIN’T SO!!!”

They’re both set in a small Pacific Northwest town on the coast, and a woman buys a B&B to try to get over her former husband, and start afresh.

I realize there are plenty of similar genre-books out there, and things like this just can’t be helped.  Characters, writing style, and the mood of the books will always be different and unique to the writer.  But it’s still so disheartening to see it for the first time when you’re completely gung-ho about the new project.

But you know what? I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing.  I’m confidant in our differences, and if my gut tells me to write a story, then you can bet I’m going to damn well write that story!  I won’t even touch that other book until I finish my novel.  I would hate to see it influence me, or dissuade me from certain elements in my writing.

So tell me, have you guys ever encountered an eerily similar idea to yours?  How did you handle it, and did you end up tweaking your idea to differentiate yours?

 

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?

%d bloggers like this: