Writing the threads of my reality


There's another thing I have to wonder about. Why is some music so shockingly bad, and some truly brilliant? It is a knotty problem indeed.

I've been listening to a few different bands lately. One in particular is Snow Patrol, which you have probably heard of. I was initially drawn to them after hearing a song called "Take Back the City", and decided to investigate further. But I found that most of their other songs that I could find were average at best; they didn't have the same powerful quality that "Take Back the City" had. There was something missing.

On initial hearing, they sounded alright. It's alternative rock, apparently - how you can have mainstream rock, I have no idea. But they didn't stand out. They were like background music, something to have on while you do something else, competent but certainly not catching. But "Take Back the City" had something indefinable that leapt into my mind and sent my pulse racing, and kept me humming it all day.

I have no idea how to pin this down accurately, although I expect if I could I'd make several fortunes. It's something ephemeral and amazing, and it's different for every person. Somehow a musician will strike upon just the right combination of notes, just the right instrument and riffs, and will create something that speaks to our souls. I expect that that, like writing, it is the music that the musician feels strongly himself that shouts the loudest; after all, the mass produced stuff is so instantly forgettable that it's almost not worth the effort of making.

I wonder if the people who buy it simply have never heard the more powerful tunes?

Art and Emotional Involvement

I've always thought that the act of creation requires a certain amount of emotional investment. You begin a story, and immediately you must feel something; your characters are not robots, and in lieu of actual existence you must feel their emotions for them. So for a writer, the despair of the tragic heroine or the harsh cynicism of a villain are just as real as your own mundane feelings.

I think people can tell when a writer or artist has no real emotional investment in a piece, especially in art. For writing, your work becomes dull and lifeless; how can you write about that which you don't truly feel yourself? And art becomes meaningless or irrelevant. Picasso's Guernica is a powerful piece of art because you can't look at it without feeling something. It is relevant all over the world, and does not need to be explained - although knowing the background to it is additive to its value. Yes, it's surreal, and very odd to look at - but I can only imagine that Picasso witnessed the tragedy of the bombing of the village of Guernica, and felt something that he had to express to the world. He invested something of himself in his creation.

I was looking about a while ago, and I heard about David Hirst and his artworks. His latest "controversial" piece is called For the Love of God, and it's a skull, cast in platinum and studded with diamonds. His own words on this:
'I just want to celebrate life by saying to hell with death. What better way of saying that than by taking the ultimate symbol of death and covering it in the ultimate symbol of luxury, desire and decadence? The only part of the original skull that will remain will be the teeth. You need that grotesque element for it to work as a piece of art. God is in the details and all that.'
I look at David Hirst's artworks and I feel nothing for any of them. There is no emotional commitment from him, and likewise there is nothing I can offer in return. Why should I? He's just making a statement, and he's doing it in a way that needs to be explained. For the Love of God, for all that it took £50 million sterling to make, is worthless in comparison to Guernica.

The motivation for Writing

I guess everyone has found themselves in work at some point, staring at their computer screen or across the counter at the next customer, and thought, "Damn... I'd rather be writing..."

That, today, is my motivation. My boss has inadvertantly demotivated me completely in the space of a single phone call from actually wanting to do my job, which I normally enjoy a lot because it's creative. But right now, at this very minute... I'd rather be writing. And so here I am, blogging while I should be doing the thing I'm being paid for.

I justify it that I need a few minutes to do something else, something non-work related. Hopefully I'll get out of this funk and get back to it soon enough. I'd still rather be writing, but at least I'm not hating everything that isn't writing.

Let's go to Brenda to get a pick-me-up:

It is so conceited and timid to be ashamed of one's mistakes. Of course they are mistakes. Go on to the next.

Wise words indeed.

Why does anyone start to blog?

I've read a very interesting book today. It's called, “If you want to write,” and it was written by a woman who was born ninety years ago and half a world away from me. Her name was Brenda Ueland, and she died when I was four years old. I wish I could have met her.

The book is about writing, of course, but it has more than that in it. She talks about imagination, creativity, and the path to producing really great works of art. I picked it up on a whim in the de Young Museum in San Francisco last year, and this morning I finished it (having forgotten about it for months).

She has inspired me in so many ways. Everything I read in this one small book was true, and it spoke more powerfully to me than any lecture on creative writing could. I just looked at a piece that I'd written – part of the first chapter of the Novel (more on that later) – and immediately I thought, “Oh my! Brenda is right! I know how to make this better!”

Even what I'm writing at this very minute feels better, truer, more honest. I can't believe that this one book could change how I feel about writing, and how that change is for the better. I've looked for other books, and read them, and thought, “Yes, that's right, I should try that,” but nothing ever comes of it. They treated writing as a work, a chore – something to be analysed and edited and considered from every angle, with plots planned out and characterisations written and backgrounds examined. To Brenda, writing was an Art – it was expression and joy and discovery all in one, and she taught her students how to bring out their own expressions of that Art. I think she's teaching me the same thing now.

I'm starting this blog in honour of her. One of the things she talks about in her book is keeping a diary, but I'm sure she would have lauded the invention of the weblog. I'm going to talk about... anything, really. Mostly writing, because that is my passion. I hope it's yours too, and you can get to San Francisco to buy a copy of Brenda's book.