The kind of elixir I enjoy

I see only one requirement you have to have to be a director or any kind of artist: rhythm. Rhythm, for me, is everything. Without rhythm, there’s no music. Without rhythm, there’s no cinema. Without rhythm, there’s no architecture — Alejandro González Iñarritu

Considering there is a lot on my plate around this time of year, discovering the music of Italian pianist and composer Ludovico Einaudi is the last thing I should be indulging in.

But here I am, listening to him on Spotify when I can, wherever I can. The man has a profile there and he compiled a ‘Best of’ of his work. I cannot tell you how his compositions have added fuel to the creative fire that burns relentlessly in my soul. Not that the fire will ever be in danger of burning out.

I am forever humbled and blown away when my senses, combined with an already overactive imagination, are stimulated to the point that new scenes, ideas and concepts for my writing start throwing themselves into an already volatile mix of storytelling elements ready to transform into a novel. Christ, that was a long sentence. Maybe too long. Well, fuck it, I’m leaving it. That’s what Einaudi’s work has done to me.

He’s managed to seduce my imagination and, in turn, seduced me. That’s one way to burrow into my heart. Music. Talent. Mad skillz. Passion. The images his music evokes are cinematic in scope and nature. Just the kind of elixir I enjoy with unbridled want.

Einaudi’s work has been described as meditative and cinematic. I discovered that description somewhere online after a couple of days of listening the music. It had me at cinematic. That would explain the images freely swimming in my head — the chaotic kaleidoscope of shapes and colours swirling in my mind, waiting for me to dip my hand in to pull them out and arrange them into something beautiful and hypnotic.

What is so enticing and engaging about Einaudi’s work? For starters, he has simple leitmotifs that he uses to build complicatedly beautiful layers of sound between the piano and strings. His solo piano work is stunning, too. But the sound of strings and piano together is tantalizing to my ears. I’m not sure what it is about that combination of instruments, but whatever it is, Einaudi uses it to full effect. His musical sensibility is so alarmingly in tune with the way the creative part of my brain wants to function. Kinda a scary, to be honest. But so thrilling at the same time.

I think discovering Einaudi’s work is another sign that the storytelling ambitions I aspire to, are the right ones for the tools and skill set I’ve been trying to hone and sharpen in the last several months.

While I tend to my book design commitments, the creative fire will continue to burn. At low intensity, for now. But there are things I can do, such as re-examine the trajectory of the characters and make adjustments where necessary. Let those thoughts and ideas grow.

Once the commitments are done for another year, I will go back to stoke the creative fire so it can burn as brilliantly as Einaudi’s compositions.

Following your instincts

Your mind knows only some things. Your inner voice, your instinct, knows everything. If you listen to what you know instinctively, it will always lead you down the right path — Henry Winkler

When you pursue something that has become a passion for you, there will be days where you question your instincts.

Most likely, the question of why you want to follow your passion isn’t in doubt. But maybe discovering your voice, your vision, and finding the best way to express it, is what has you stalled in the process.

It can be a struggle trying to find your voice. I’m still finding my voice. Although I am a lot closer to knowing what that voice is and letting it resonate with anyone who will stop and listen. In the last six months, what matters to me, what resonates with me as a writer/novelist has never been more clearer. And it comes back to what I fundamentally believe in. That and I’m arriving to a point in my life where I couldn’t possibly give a shit what people think about my choices or my opinions on any given subject. I’m not here to please everyone. Is anyone here to please everyone? Pleasing everyone is fucking impossible.

Last week, I sent my writing mentor the first 13,000 words of the next novel for his reaction. What I hadn’t expected was how quickly he read those 13,000 words. And I hadn’t expected him to be so effusive and positive about so many things regarding the novel and my growth and ability as a storyteller. It’s not that he’s stingy with the positive remarks. He always has something good to say and the constructive criticism and ideas he offers is always insightful, wanted and appreciated. He’s one of the best people in my life. There were so many great observations he made that my head is still swimming.

To be honest, having anyone say complimentary things about my storytelling abilities is humbling as fuck. I’m not one for accepting compliments easily due to the fact I naturally default to feeling more than embarrassed as soon as one is given to me. And I also have the nagging feeling the person (depending on who that person is) is trying to butter me up and weasel something out of me.

I’m a nice person. But nice doesn’t equal doormat.

Anyway, my mentor’s positive reaction to the novel (aka my writing project) means that my instincts are right with regards to wanting to write this story and to work with these characters. This is a confirmation that I am on the right path with the kind of stories I want to tell.

And to be honest, the story chose me. The characters chose me. Why? I don’t know. But it is a story I want to tell. If you’re wondering what the story is about, I’ll have to disappoint you by only revealing that the story seems to fall into the genre of crime fiction. Really don’t want to say anything more until I’m done writing the first draft… well, maybe until it becomes an actual book. I have no timeline for when that will happen.

When I started working on the story, I wasn’t concerned with the genre. I am more concerned with telling the story. Slapping a genre label on it has never been a must-do at the start of any writing project. Now that my mentor has plunked it into the graphic crime fiction genre, I have more research to do. For now, it just involves reading. And hopefully, more field research which I’ll get the chance to engage in if I team up with the right individuals.

There is a lot more work to do for this novel. Most people cringe at the thought of more work, period. But when it’s something that won’t let you go, something that you can’t let go, something that fights for your attention even when life tries to get in the way, and something that says you — and only you — are the best person to tell the story, how can you ignore it? I certainly can’t. And I won’t.

Whatever it takes to tell the story.

Imagination with a cool soundtrack

I love music, I make films with music, I eat with music, I sleep with music, I think with music. Music makes me dream; it strengthens my creativity — Bahman Ghobadi

It’s no secret that music plays a big role in my writing when it comes to my projects.

I can’t write in complete silence. I may write in silence if there is something I need to concentrate on but once it’s figured out, the music goes back on. Music inspires me. I know there are people who need the quiet to flesh out their ruminations. And I know there are people who can’t quite figure out how to include music as part of their writing process, uncertain as to how it imparts inspiration upon a person.

Music as a source of inspiration for any creative endeavour I take on, is an intangible in the sense that I couldn’t possibly explain coherently, how it affects my writing. Having something speak to you in a meaningful, bone-deep way goes beyond words in any language. Trying to describe it will only leave me grunting, growling and swearing in an attempt to convey how powerful music has been in my writing process.

The music I listened to when I was writing the first book is vastly different from what I am listening to for the current writing project. Obviously, it has a lot to do with the storyline and the characters. And by the time I finish writing the first draft, the playlist, the soundtrack — which is always fluid — will change again. Not drastically, but enough to be noticeable.

My characters heavily influence what I listen to. I do not deliberately decide what song ends up on my writing /playlist soundtrack. It’s organic. A lot of it comes from accidental discoveries. You know the scenario — you hear something either on the radio, in a store or in a restaurant, etc., that grabs your attention and you need to know the name of the musical piece and the artist who performed it.

Glimpses of the characters’ personalities and the scenarios they find themselves in, are reflected in the music. It may also reflect secrets they keep that are yet to be revealed or may never be told. In their own little way, the characters tell me what they like, what moves them. No, they don’t tell me in fully-formed sentences what kind of music they’re in the mood for, what music best represents how they roll or what they’re about to roll into. That would be too easy and no fun. If my ears perk up, it’s because my characters’ ears have perked up, too. Their reaction to a piece of music is all the information I need on whether or not it becomes part of the playlist.

Kinda like tuning into their brain wavelengths through osmosis because you don’t see a dial anywhere that you can adjust.

In the last three weeks, aside from writing and figuring out what additional research needs to be conducted, I’ve started listening to Spotify. It’s not an endorsement. No money has been exchanged to mention them. Spotify is just a way to discover music and artists I haven’t heard before or rediscover music I had long forgotten.

It’s great because I get to be more fluid with the writing playlist. I’ve created a playlist on Spotify where I can create a ‘soundtrack’ for the book. I like to amuse myself.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I think cinematically. But I don’t know if write cinematically, I think I do. But that would be for the person who reads my stories to decide. First and foremost, I am a visual person. And I guess it makes sense that the stories I want to tell, play themselves out as movies in my imagination.

An imagination with a cool soundtrack.