Category Archives: Inspiration

“To the Man on the Bus…” Pages Matam

Piñata by Pages Matam at the National Poetry Slam 2013. Awesome.

A stunning example of the power of the spoken word. Speaking out against sexism and a really brave personal perspective.

To the man on the bus I overheard tell a woman in conversation – presumably a friend: “you are too ugly to be raped…”  Full text here.

 

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Kafka Gives Me Hope…

It has been a long while since I last posted, many apologies to all. Especially to those who had begun to make reading my blog a habit.  I had a cold that dragged on and on, and by the time it was done, I had completely fallen out of the blogging habit. And so followed the usual pattern of good habits being hard to make, and especially hard to remake, so here I go…

But on the front of the procrastination station of non-blog writing on my writing (which by the way has been moving steadily forward, like an iceberg into the Titanic, but more on that later), my beloved BF sent me this inspiring article in Slate on how Kafka was one of the truly great procrastinators, and it has given me a spark of hope. Procrastination may not be all bad… alternatively, I could try getting the BF to tie me to my writing chair akin to Italian author Vittorio Alfieri, pictured above. I have not yet ruled that one out entirely.

The Daily Routines of Famous Writers

Don DelilloIn furtherance of another article I wrote on Writing Routines, a friend recently sent me an article with several different author’s writing routines. It’s always nice to see that everyone has the same struggles and tribulations with writing.

A couple of the quotes that really struck me were Ernest Hemmingway and Susan Sontag, which surprises me because I (rather sacreligiously) am not really a fan of Hemmingway.

 Hemmingway’s Advocated Routine

“When I am working on a book or a story I write every morning as soon after first light as possible. There is no one to disturb you and it is cool or cold and you come to your work and warm as you write. You read what you have written and, as you always stop when you know what is going to happen next, you go on from there. You write until you come to a place where you still have your juice and know what will happen next and you stop and try to live through until the next day when you hit it again. You have started at six in the morning, say, and may go on until noon or be through before that. When you stop you are as empty, and at the same time never empty but filling, as when you have made love to someone you love. Nothing can hurt you, nothing can happen, nothing means anything until the next day when you do it again. It is the wait until the next day that is hard to get through.”

I think that it’s a mistake I often make: to write until I run out of ideas on where my current scene is going. Although this is a natural break, it does mean that when I sit down again to continue, I have no idea of where to go. It may be time for me to start on some Hemmingway pragmatism.

Susan Sontag’s Planned Routine

(From her diary in 1977)

“Starting tomorrow — if not today:

I will get up every morning no later than eight. (Can break this rule once a week.)

I will have lunch only with Roger [Straus]. (‘No, I don’t go out for lunch.’ Can break this rule once every two weeks.)

I will write in the Notebook every day. (Model: Lichtenberg’s Waste Books.)

I will tell people not to call in the morning, or not answer the phone.

I will try to confine my reading to the evening. (I read too much — as an escape from writing.)

I will answer letters once a week. (Friday? — I have to go to the hospital anyway.)”

This diary entry really struck home, because it looks like it could be an extract from my diary (subject,  of course, to revisions for things like “letters” (What are they again?)). Nonetheless, I saw my own struggles in Susan’s. Writing is a very solitary pursuit, and it’s good to feel that you’re not actually alone in it. The blog helps of course, but so do these lovely little snippets.

Wolfscastle: Art Reflecting Life Reflecting Art

As I was driving on my way home from Wales last weekend, I came across a rather romantic sounding name on the map – Wolf's CastleWolfscastle. A tiny place in Pembrokeshire, Wales that sadly doesn’t quite correspond to this photo. I looked at the map and then  at this stunning view and realised that Wolfscastle is actually the name of a nearby town, not the picturesque pile of rocks that I was looking at.

I really enjoyed the blissfully short while was convinced that this amazing, hauntingly beautiful and wild rocky tor was so aptly named. It’s situated upon an isolated hilltop, surrounded by moss and lichen-covered stones, brambles and heather. Faeries live here, I’m sure of it.

Seeing it, I felt like I had stumbled across a place in Rhye in my book Four and Twenty Blackbirds. My photographic skills sadly does not do the place justice. I’m still not entirely sure what the name of this wonderful faeire spot is. In my mind it will always be Wolfscastle. Colour me inspired. I’m just itching to write.

Murakami: Writing a Novel Is Like Survival Training

Moshin HamidHaruki Murakami isn’t everyone’s fitness guru, but Moshin Hamid, the author of The Reluctant Fundamentalist and more recently How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia (great title btw) advocates Murakami as the man who inspired him to exercise first, write second.

In an interview with The Paris Review, Murakami said:

“writing a long novel is like survival training. Physical strength is as necessary as artistic sensitivity.”

The Atlantic Article where this was highlighted to me informs that “Murakami… transformed himself from nicotine-stained wastrel to marathoning meganovelist, [and] urges writers to prepare for novels like contestants gearing up for the Hunger Games.” Moshin has said that it was following Murakami’s advocation that gave him the drive and energy to move forward with his writing.

This really struck a cord with me, as I find that exercise really does help my mind to work better, so Mr Murakami really does have a point. I have linked the two activities together, but perhaps I should dualise my exercise and writing routines. This reminds me that I really need to get on the case with exercising my body as well as my mind. I only have two weeks left to train for the Where’s Wally 10km fun run, and I am way behind.

Lovecraftian Longings

LovecraftShameful to say, I have never read a single work by H.P. Lovecraft – a classic  master of horror rated alongside Edgar Allan Poe.

According to Stephen King: “Now that time has given us some perspective on his work, I think it is beyond doubt that H. P. Lovecraft has yet to be surpassed as the Twentieth Century’s greatest practitioner of the classic horror tale.” It is high praise indeed. I’ve only ever been mildly into the genre of horror, by why is it that I had never come across the actual works of Lovecraft until I stumbled across him in my research.  Shame on me, perchance. I had heard the name ‘Lovecraft’ bandied about, and like many unknown references, it was one I let lie. In my defence, I have never come across his books while browsing the sci-fi/fantasy/horror shelves in bookstores, or in libraries. Perhaps it was my personal oversight or a defiencies in the venues I frequented. Either way, I feel a little cheated.

His influence is wide ranging, for example the Arkham Asylum in Batman is attributed to Lovecraft. His fans include Neil Gaiman, Jorge Luis Borges and Michel Houellebecq. Not to mention, David Bowie, Metallica and Black Sabbath. An impressive fan base to be sure. So I will presently be embarking on my Lovecraftian horror adventure, I hope it will be as fulfilling as when I first stumbled across John Wyndham. The bonus is that all of Lovecraft’s works are out of copyright, so Project Gutenberg, here I come.

Writing Mood Board

Just a few sparks of inspiration that keep me going. Enjoy.

Keep Calm and Write HemmingwayPlotting

Cummings Writer DefinitionPlan ATwainComfort Zone

There’s No Such Thing as an Original Story

It’s often quoted that there are only 7 stories in the world that all basic plotlines can fall into:

  1. Overcoming the Monster: Hero learns of a great evil threatening the land, and sets out to destroy it.
  2. Tragedy: The flip side of the Overcoming the Monster plot. Ourhero protagonist character is the Villain, but we get to watch him slowly spiral down into darkness before he’s finally defeated, freeing the land from his evil influence.
  3. Rebirth: As with the Tragedy plot, but our protagonist manages to realize his error before it’s too late, and does a Heel Face Turn to avoid inevitable defeat.
  4. Rags to Riches: surrounded by dark forces who suppress and ridicule him, the Hero slowly blossoms into a mature figure who ultimately gets riches, a kingdom, and the perfect mate.
  5. The Quest: Hero learns of a great MacGuffin that he desperately wants to find, and sets out to find it, often with companions.
  6. Voyage and Return: Hero heads off into a magic land with crazy rules, ultimately triumphs over the madness and returns home far more mature than when he set out.
  7. Comedy: Hero and Heroine are destined to get together, but a dark force is preventing them from doing so; the story conspires to make the dark force repent, and suddenly the Hero and Heroine are free to get together. This is part of a cascade of effects that shows everyone for who they really are, and allows two or more other relationships to correctly form.

with this rather limited range, it’s unsurprising to find that ideas are often repeated.  This is something that I’m struggling with at the moment. Whenever I think of a cunning new angle to take on fairy tales for my story Four and Twenty Blackbirds, a cursory amount of research informs me that someone has come up with that story arc already (Thanks Wikipedia).

It’s highly frustrating. But I think I’m just going to have to accept that not all of my ideas are “original”, and go with my best ideas even if some of them are already out there. They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. I can only hope that the angle I take on various folklore will be the best constructed.

Video

Do What You Love Doing

What if money didn’t matter? What would you love to do?

I came across this today, and I think that it’s one that everyone should watch to help refocus and make sense of the world. I’ve found it a good reminder to keep going.

Dark and Brooding Cover Art: Shaun Tan

Outer SurburbiaThey say that you should never judge a book by its cover, but we all know that that’s codswallop. We all do it. The cover can set the tone for the entire book. It can widen an audience, appealing to those who would never otherwise pick it up.

Judging a Book

I feel like I’ve been mentioning 50 Shades of Grey far too much of late, but it is a classic example. On the face of it, with the loosened tie flung casually against the limited blue colour pallette (see picture below, far left), the unsuspecting observer would assume that it was crime-fiction. Judging a book by its cover is the reason that the Harry Potter series begun churning out a simultaneous “Adult” edition and a “Children’s” edition – to appeal to both markets (see picture below, far right). One of my personal favourite set of covers is the original Terry Pratchett covers by Josh Kirby, what a dude (see picture below, second from left). I also recently mentioned a fantastic example of amusing cover art for Fifty Shades of Alice in Wonderland -worth a peek.

Quality covers

My cover artist of choice: shaun tan

As always, my cart is way before my horse, but if I could get anyone at all to create the cover for my progressing novel (or perhaps series of novels), it would be Shaun Tan. Shaun Tan is an awesome Australian illustrator who has won countless awards. He has an amazing dark imagination which always has a touch of humour. I am a huge fan, and am a proud owner of Tales from Outer Surburbia and The Arrival. His illustrations have a real folklore-ish and fairy tale-like quality which I think would match well with my story in Four and Twenty Blackbirds. There is also a touch of steampunk in his work, which is a genre that I really enjoy. I hope my words could live up to his artwork. Ah, to dream.

*The illustration above is from Shaun Tan’s Tales from Outer Surburbia