FROM THE ASHES

I’m not going to talk about cricket.

Rather, I’m reflecting on the fact that even when everything in life falls to pieces, it doesn’t mean that everything is lost, never to be seen again.

I’ve been dealing with stuff this year which has been a kick in the balls to say the very least and you know what, it’s had an effect on what I’ve been able to achieve. I’ve tried to keep my mind going, to keep coming up with ideas that I can use in the latest novel or for a short story and to keep writing, but for at least the past four months, I’ve had nothing.

Every time I considered the idea of working on the latest book, every time I tried to work out some ideas for another short story collection, I just couldn’t.

Now I’ve spoken about the feeling of writers block before but this time it was so much worse. It wasn’t the sensation of not being able to come up with anything, that I could have dealt with. This time, I was struck by a mental fog which didn’t just shackle my creative process, it wrapped itself around every inch of my motivation and leeched out all of the colours. That fog was less putting up a wall around the ideas, imprisoning them behind stone to keep them from the page, as it was just stripping them apart in a demented dance of brutality that tortured and ultimately unmade them.

All I’ve been left with has been the hollow of nothingness where the ideas and the desire to write once were. That greyness. That void.

But yesterday, something shifted.

Rather than the brute force I’d tried throwing at the problem, all of a sudden, the way cleared itself, at least partially. Rather than there just being a blank space in my head where I usually kept all of my mental prompts for writing, the prompts were coming back. I’ve had a few ideas for stories which I’ve been working on and I’m almost finished with my first short story in a while. Roughly speaking, I’ve started a small counter offensive against the nothingness and the first skirmish has almost been won.

The Phoenix as a metaphor is there to show that no matter the destruction around us, we can all climb back out of the depths of despair. It’s a good story but when you’re in the void it can be tough to keep hold of the thought of escape. It was certainly tough for me.

But my stories have begun to come back. I spent the evening celebrating my mum’s birthday and collectively as a family, we’re trying to clamber out of the pit. Tonight was a good night despite the empty chair at the table but from the ashes ……………

Watch this space.

CREATING MONSTERS

It’s been going on for years and years that authors turn a situation or person from the real world into a monster in one of their stories. Creatures of all shapes and sizes are used as metaphors for any and all eventualities and can provide a level of depth to what’s being written which may not have been as easily accessible without the outside influence.

I’m a fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the different monsters which rumble across the screen each episode represent a different issue that may creep up in the real world. The use or overuse of magic is discussed as thinly veiled disguise for the same issues with drugs. A boyfriend giving a girl the brush off after they’ve got down and dirty together gets redeployed as Angel losing his soul and turning evil.

Now I’ve spoken previously about ways that writers can use their words as a catharsis to cast away pain and trauma but I’ve recently found a great example of an actor doing just that when creating his portrayal of a role.

While filming The Princess Bride, Mandy Patinkin was coming to terms with the death of his father to cancer and found himself able to place the brutal disease as the six fingered man so when he delivered the line, “Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die,” he was able to fight the very thing that robbed him of his father.

I’m doing the same thing in my head at the moment. I’ve managed to start some work on a handful of ideas for short stories and in all of them I find myself putting the death of my own father into different elements to try and work through the grief.

I can only hope that mine are even partially as successful a Mandy Patinkin’s delivery. Thanks to YouTube, here’s the clip for you.

You have to watch to the very end and I can’t echo the feeling enough.

 

VALUES

I’m not talking about right and wrong as such but more what it is that each of us finds valuable.

The value of something is governed by outside forces. The rarity of something means that it becomes more valuable. That said, I could draw a picture of my cat, making a truly one of a kind piece of art, but that would never mean that it would automatically become worth huge sums. The rarity of a thing is vital but in line with if other people want to possess it. If a great many people wish to posses a thing, it can mean the lengths that some will go to to actually get their hands on it will increase dramatically.

But that value of things spreads further than just being for things.

We’ve all seen comments in various media about the value of time with family, of how much good feeling comes from the warmth and love which is the family unit. What about the value of a child’s laugh? Or the silence of a quiet night on a camping holiday? All of these things are great under the right circumstances but as with the thoughts above, the rarity of these things and the number of people wanting them still drives a relative value.

But then there’s the understanding that the diamond the size of my head may be worth gazillions and gazillions but if I don’t like it, I’m going to view it as less valuable than someone who adores the aesthetic. But if I owned it but didn’t love it, the value of it would remain as it had, if it was in the possession of the huge fan.

How we value things, I think, therefore gives us a more reliable way of understanding where our choices come from. The rarity of something is still going to be important to understand why we place value where we do but so often, that rarity is down to just not being able to achieve it. The classic greetings card version of the family unit can become priceless to those who may never have had the experience as they grew up. The sound of a child’s laugh can take on more weight if you’re unable to have kids, and the desire to experience the calm silence of a night alone in a mountain retreat is utterly desirable if everything about your lifestyle is fast paced and loud.

We place value on different things, a great many of which we share with so many of the population but there will always be the individual things that set us all apart. Now the value of these things can also be driven by the accessibility we have to them. We reach out to chase the things we don’t or can’t have. We yearn for so many things that we don’t have in an attempt to fill that specifically shaped hole in ourselves. Should we be lucky enough to attain it, we savour and cherish it for the mighty value we placed on it.

And the same goes for things we may lose.

It’s only after a thing has been taken from us that we truly get to understand the value of it. Without it, we now identify it’s absence and only then realise just how valuable a thing it really was.

We all have things we value. We all have things that we perceive as the best or the most. We all exist on a continuum of value, running from the things we don’t have and we value highly as we strive after them, through to those things we already possess which we seem to only comprehend the value of once they’re no longer there.

Maybe we should all spend a bit more time appreciating rather than striving.

What do you think?

ART +

Last week I wrote about the importance of the many forms art can take and how one form can never be held higher than another in terms of being a medium to convey meaning between artist and the rest of us.

This week though, I fancied discussing the way different art forms can collide.

‘You can’t judge a book by it’s cover’.

We know the comment and it’s something we have to be aware of in life. We have to be able to maintain a mindset to look beyond the surface and see what may be beneath.Stopping at the top as being all there is is a path to greater disappointment. That’s an important point when actually considering books. An amazing flashy cover won’t be the be all and end all of a book. It’ll certainly help but when the reader then scratches away at that surface, you have to make sure they find more than just more surface.

But.

Now way back when, books just had a blank cover or maybe just the title. There wasn’t the availability of cover design and the need for marketing in the same way as we see today. But times change and today we see more and more choice flooding over us as the number of authors grows and their work is fighting for the attention of all of the readers out there.

And now we see a new step. Now we see the books go from merely having an interesting cover design to that design being more a piece of artwork to be marvelled at. Gone are the days where a bland, featureless cover was sufficient. Today we’re moving from the cover design being there to be the lure to attract readers and towards the book transcending its own art form.

As well as being the domain of the written word, now there are books where they’ve become pieces of art to be looked upon and enjoyed. Not only do they draw people in but now they demand pride of place on so much more than any old bookshelf.  These mighty artworks are recognising the delight that they can bring even without the pages being turned.

Bolder artwork on more than just the front or back cover can be further advanced by daring sculpture where contours and texture add to what is being presented as the receptacle of the word.

The evolution of how we enjoy books has meant that we don’t have to be satisfied with the words and nothing more. Who knows where we’re likely to move forward onto as the way we enjoy books grows? Sound effects?

IT’S ART YOU KNOW

What is art?

For many, art is sculpture and painting which lives in galleries and is to be marveled at in awed silence. For others, art is a more vibrant and modern affair, any and all things that the creator could get their hands on to get their point across.

For so many, the accuracy of sculpting and paintings of days gone by allowed us to admire the skill of the artist in their rendition of a facsimile of the model in whatever medium they so chose. We looked upon the deft brush strokes or the assured moulding and recognise the skill and talent that must have been at play to make the materials bend to their wishes.

In the land of ‘modern’ art, the rigid adherence to the ways of the old are pushed aside and experimentation and wider expression come to the fore. Rather than seeing the work as a direct rendition of the subject, the request is to now look through the physical to examine the true meaning behind the piece. What was it the artist was attempting to say? We look at Tracey Emin and her unmade bed as a great example of the meaning being beyond the bounds of the piece itself.

Now this can mean that there are more areas where there can be disagreement in terms of the value or skill on display.

I could look at a given piece of work and see something very different as the message compared to almost anyone else. Even knowing what the artist was trying to say may not remove the stumbling blocks.

So I ask again. What is art?

Art is an expression of a theme. An idea given form. It doesn’t matter what materiel that may be, paint, clay, light, ice, sound or all of the above and none, art is that most beautiful of things that allows the thoughts, feelings and experience of another to reach out and touch you. We can all glimpse inside the mind of another through the myriad portals that are offered for all to experience. Paintings and sculpture. Music and Film. Fireworks and architecture. And literature too.

My books do just that. They give the reader the chance to experience a tale where the characters go about their lives but it’s there to give everyone a snippet of me too. The pages hold a message that I want to convey which is beyond just the words. They hold my hopes and dreams for the narrative but years of hard work as well. Effort and desire coming together to create a whole that I wanted to share with the world.

There’s an artist in all of us and the ability to draw a convincing nose doesn’t always have to come into it.

It’s just trying to be heard.