Category Archives: Inspiration

Monday’s Musings: Futurism and Creativity

“…I urge you to get to work with all your heart, resolute on being bolder, crazier, more advanced, surprising, eccentric, incomprehensible, and grotesque than anybody else in music. I urge you to be a madman.”

-F.T. Marinetti, to composer Francesco Pratella

Marinetti

I took my second of two senior seminars this past semester, and in it we spent a good chunk of time focusing on Italian Futurism, the movement spearheaded by F. T. Marinetti in the early 20th century. Futurists, put simply, had a strong desire to move away from the safety and sameness of past art and literature and dive into more dangerous and unexplained territory. They had a love of speed, danger, and violence, and some of the things Marinetti spoke out on in his Futurist Manifesto made him seem more than a bit unstable. He wrote about the need to move away from cliches (which I mentioned in my post on Dan Wells’ Partials a while back), away from the things considered “safe” in art, things guaranteed to please the masses, and away from the simple retelling of past stories (seriously – how many versions of Romeo & Juliet are out there this point?).

 

But there is one quote of his I find very relevant to anyone who hopes to pursue an art form, be in painting, writing, singing, etc. He believed that, in order to be seen as an innovator in art, in order to stand out, you must tap into your inner madman and find the good material hidden there. This bit of advice that he offered to composer Francesco Pratella when he joined the Futurist movement was intended to aide him in his pursuits in the Parisian and European art world. But it holds true for anyone who hopes to become successful in art. Don’t focus on what everyone else is doing; be an innovator, do something new, and don’t be afraid to stand out, because otherwise, how will you ever get noticed?

 

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What’s Up Wednesday: Working on Writer’s Block

Now that my schooling is done and I have more time to dedicate to writing, it seems I’ve gotten stuck. Whereas while I had a lot of classwork to do in addition to writing my blog I was able to come up with material fairly easily, now that I’ve got more time I’m experiencing a severe case of writer’s block. It’s an unavoidable fact of life when it comes to writing, but it’s still frustrating nonetheless.

So I did what I always do when I get stuck or have a problem. I Googled. And wouldn’t you know, there is a TON of information out there on the causes of writer’s block, how to combat it, ways to stay creative when you’re not writing, etc. One infographic in particular stood out, so I thought it’d be worth sharing for anyone else experiencing this same frustration. It’s one of four listed in an article by Sunil Jain, and can be found here.

Writer's Block

 

This might be my favorite infographic to date because it has so much useful information. It opens with one of my favorite things – quotations! Professional advice from those who have experienced the brick wall that is writer’s block. My favorite is Agatha Christie’s: “The best time for planning a book is while you’re doing the dishes.” It’s the truth – I get hit with ideas at the most random times, most often when I’m laying in bed half asleep. The notepad app on my phone has been a lifesaver for times like these because I don’t think my husband would be too happy if I turned the light on each time I needed to write something down.

The personal goals section has inspired me to create a goal of my own. I’m not sure what that will be yet, but I think that goals in writing can be very helpful when trying to keep up the habit and create something great. It’s also comforting to see some of the big names that have experienced writer’s block – Samuel Coleridge, Ernest Hemmingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, etc. It indicates that writer’s block clearly has nothing to do with a lack of imagination or originality

But most important is the section on tips for avoiding or overcoming writer’s block. They’re all great tips, but I find numbers 7, 11, and 14 most helpful. Coffee, a good book, and a notebook can all be great ways to decompress while getting the creative juices flowing. If I sat down and went through my notebook, I’d almost definitely be able to come up with something that I could put toward the book I plan to write someday. But coffee and a great book – those are the things of beauty. I’ve gleaned so much inspiration from well written books, and not necessarily just from the story itself. When I read a book where I can feel the author’s excitement and emotion come through, that’s when true inspiration hits. I’ll finish a book and immediately want to sit down and write whatever comes to mind. Sometimes it makes sense, other times not so much.

So now as I finish this I realize that I’ve spent 15 minutes writing this post, whereas the three I attempted before this barely got halfway finished over the course of about a week. Oh, the irony.

Here are a few more places to look for info on battling writer’s block, if you’re interested:

Writing Tips: Strategies on Overcoming Writer’s Block

“The 10 Type of Writer’s Block and How to Overcome Them” 

Purdue Owl (this one is also super useful as a reference for writing styles)

New Yorker – “Blocked” 

“Get Unstuck” 

“The Art of Being Still”

Happy writing!

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Monday’s Musings: Speaking of Inspiration…

blake   
Inspiration seems to be a theme of mine right now, so in carrying on with that I thought I’d pull something from William Blake, who wrote some pretty fascinating things. His poem “Auguries of Innocence” is a great depiction of his love of contraries, and the opening stanza has some pretty deep ideas hidden in its 4 short lines.

To see a world in a grain of sand
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour. 

One of my favorite movie scenes is the very end of Men in Black, where our galaxy is shown to be nothing more than a marble in a bag belonging to aliens in some far off place. This scene demonstrated to sheer vastness of our universe and just how little we know about it. Yes, yes, I know it was pure fiction, but someone was able to look at something as benign and ordinary as a Cat’s Eye marble and see a small galaxy within it. It just demonstrates how randomly inspiration can hit and how important it is to always be on guard for it.

 

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What’s Up Wednesday: The Riskiness and Humiliation of Writing

Last week, David Gordon of the New York Times wrote this really cool blog post entitled “Writing is a Risky, Humiliating Endeavor.” When I saw the title, my first thought was, “Huh?” But as I read, I found it fascinating that he put into words exactly what I feel each time I jot down an idea for a story, scene, or character, which is, “What will the people I know think of me if I actually published this?”I suppose it isn’t surprising that I’m not alone in feeling this way. Maybe it’s silly. If I write a story about a teenage girl with an abusive boyfriend, does it mean I’m modeling that off of my own experiences? No, of course not. But will my mother question whether I or someone I knew had an abusive boyfriend in high school? Maybe. This, along with the examples Gordon uses, such as the mother in his stories being killed off and his friends’ concern over his emotional health, made me realize two things:

1. This is an unavoidable side effect of writing, especially fiction.

2. I need to accept that, get over it, and move on.

Very often what writers write can echo their own experiences, making it difficult not to psychoanalyze as you read. Some take events in their own lives and use them in a story, like J.K. Rowling did when writing the Harry Potter books (as I mentioned in last week’s Monday’s Musings). Other authors, like Stephenie Meyer, might have a bizarre dream and think, “that might make an interesting story,” and write an entire series around it. Or some, like Suzanne Collins, draw inspiration from stories that have been around for centuries and combine them with modern fads.  Inspiration varies from person to person. Dreams, emotions, pop culture, and history are just a few examples of where ideas can emerge, unexpected. The important thing is to write what you enjoy and not what you think will cause the fewest amount of friends or family to question your sanity.

 

 

 

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What’s up Wednesday: So what makes a book successful?

As I mentioned in yesterday’s Tuesday Review Day, I’ve recently completed my Bachelor’s Degree in English. It’s been a long time in the making, but it was important that I finished it. I love to read and write, and being able to study multiple genres in depth has made me not only stronger in both areas, but more confident.

I’ve got dreams of becoming a published author, and one of the things I’ve been questioning in depth more recently is why those authors who have such vast success succeed the way they do. Why have series such as The Lord of the Rings, The Hunger Games, and Harry Potter gained such cult followings? Harry Potter and The Hunger Games topped NPR’s 100 Best-Ever Teen Novels list, with The Hobbit and LOTR coming in at 5th and 7th places respectively (see my post on that here). What is it specifically that makes them so successful? I came across this infographic on the News Watch section of National Geographic’s website that explains some of that.

NatGeo Hiptype-DNA-Infographic-Final-600

Starting from the top, we have the averages for what men prefer vs. women prefer in a protagonist (male and female, respectively), average number of pages, and which group is more likely to finish a book (women). The second section, Genres, shows that literary fiction and science fiction are nearly identical in terms of popularity for men and women, respectively. The final section, labeled Readers, gives an idea of what readers are looking for in terms of price and shows some stats relating to completion rates for different age groups and total pages.

While this may not give a person a cut and dry answer as to how to write a book or what to write about, it gives a good picture of what readers are doing and looking for and can help determine a list of questions to ask when finally approaching the task of writing a book. One of the most important pieces of advice I’ve received from professors over the years is to know your audience, and this bit of information here demonstrates the accuracy of that.

On our final day of class, my last professor gave us one last bit of advice. He advised us to take risks and do something outside of our comfort zones. For some that might be taking a leap out of a plane, but for others, like me, it might be sitting down and tackling that dream of becoming an author. If I write a book that I’m happy with and it ends up being unsuccessful, will I be disappointed? Sure. But will I still be proud of myself for doing it, for finishing what I started? Absolutely. And in my mind, that’s what’s most important.

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Monday’s Musings: August 11th

Ok, ok, so I’m on a Harry Potter kick big time and felt a quote from good old Severus Snape was in order. I hated him throughout the entire series, but once I got to the end and was able to look back and see all the good he did it was impossible not to shed a few (ok maybe more than a few) tears.

The mind is not a book

The reason I chose this quote is because it’s such a powerful statement. The mind isn’t something that can be shut off, no matter how much we sometimes try. It is in perpetual motion, invisible yet full of ideas, thoughts, dreams, emotions, fears, and desires. It is not “a book to be opened at will;” rather it is a book that is always open and often running amuck inside your head. It is important to take what it offers, find the good parts, and use them to build strength and character.

For those who want to write or who already do, using the written word as an outlet for intense emotions is one way to try and make heads or tails of things that aren’t easily vocalized. J.K. Rowling used her grief over the loss of her mother, to help her write the Harry Potter series, and as anyone who has lost someone knows, grief is not something that can be easily spoken about or easily put into words. The emotion behind her words was so raw and accurate it was impossible not to be moved by them, and that outpouring of the mind is what truly makes a great story.

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Monday’s Musings: Get away for a bit

I love reading for a while different body

 

 

Take a break to read a bit each day, even if it’s only 15 minutes, to clear your mind of all the clutter of the day-to-day.

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