Getting it done

When I return to the writing process after being away from it for awhile, the first part of it always is being honest with myself: What am I into right now? Is it rock bands and guitars, is it noise, is it dance beats and electronics? Is it space, is it clutter? — Trent Reznor

When I finished writing my first novel, I never asked myself what interested me at that moment in terms of what could be my next novel. I wondered what I could write for a next novel but I never purposefully connected it to my interests. And I guess I assumed they would come out of whatever interested me at the time.

I can’t even remember specifically when the characters for the second novel charged into my life. I remember working on one idea when my boys burst in and demanded my attention. Who am I to say no with the kind of entrance they gave me?

Anyway, I never did a self-evaluation, as it were, to see what interested me or obsessed me. It just happened. That’s about as much as an explanation as I can provide.

As a writer, I haven’t asked myself what authors have I read whose work intrigues me. To be honest, I don’t read books these days. I read, but not books. Too much on the go. The times I have tried to make time to read a book I find interesting, I have failed to finish in a timely manner. You don’t want to know how many books I have not finished reading. Some folks would call the number of unread books shameful.

The things that do interest me are music and films. Most of my ideas are born out of that combination. But I do have non-sequiter moments. These are things I’ve touched on in previous posts.

The bulk of the music I listen to, isn’t what most folks would consider to be Top 40 stuff. I hardly listen to that at all. Doesn’t interest me. It may have something to do with my age but I don’t think that’s necessarily the case. I don’t care for a majority of what’s considered current.

I prefer contemporary instrumental, classical or orchestral. Although, I have to admit I have been listening Smashing Pumpkins’ Ava Adore and The Glitch Mob remix of The White Stripes’ Seven Nation Army. The White Stripes tune is conjuring up imagery and ideas for a third novel.

I figure if I’m actually toying with an idea for a third novel, then I must be close to finishing the first draft of the second novel. You know what that means… I’d better get my ass in gear and finish the first draft so I can figure out the third novel.

I’m approaching the final leg of the draft. I’m pretty chuffed yet mildly disbelieving that I might actually be this close to completing the first draft. It is frighteningly exciting. And I’ll be more excited when I’m actually finished. Although my definition of finished might be a little different than most folks. We’ll see how it goes.

Gotta double down and get ‘er done.

Emotive space

I think it’s almost a law of nature that there are only certain things that hit an emotive space, and that’s what was always special for me about music: it made me feel something — Kate Bush

If you were to ask me who is my favourite female singer, I would automatically respond with Debbie Harry of Blondie.

But if you were to ask me which female singer has been a strong creative influence on me, I would have to say Kate Bush.

For those who like to keep track of shit like this, most of my creative influences are men. Ramin Djawadi. Ludovico Einaudi. Luca Guadagnino. Guillermo del Toro. Francis Lee.

They have influenced and still influence how I want to tell stories. For those who are not familiar with Djawadi and Einaudi, they are music composers. Yes, they influence how I see and tell stories. On a number of occasions, their music has evoked imagery and feelings that have informed the way past and present fictional characters behave and why they behave a in a particular manner.

There are a few ways for me to access the emotive space Bush talks about. But none have been as profound as music.

Music conjures imagery and feelings that pop into my head and give me something that is an equivalent to an epiphany. Canadian jazz musician Michael Kaeshammer’s version of St. James Infirmary was a catalyst in the creation of the my first novel.

My current playlist is always in a state of fluidity but Djawadi’s and Einaudi’s works are mainstays as I work to finish the first draft of the second novel. Other artists have a presence in my writing process, like UK singer/songwriter Jono McCleery.

I suppose I should mention the names of the pieces of music that make up part of my playlist. But I won’t do that simply because the music might give away the relationships between my characters. They are not so much spoilers as they could reveal the tone of the story I’m telling. I may share the playlist when the book is ready for public consumption.

But there is one piece that has landed on my current playlist I am willing to talk about beyond two sentences. That piece is Bush’s Running Up That Hill. Arguably that song may be the most used piece of music in television shows. C.S.I.: Crime Scene Investigation and Warehouse 13 are two shows that I know of, who have used the song. However, it’s not the original version by Bush that was used. Placebo’s cover was used by C.S.I. and a band called Track and Field did their own version of it for Warehouse 13.

As a side note, there is a band called Track and Field, based out of the UK. But they don’t seem to be the ones who covered the song. There is speculation the band was created just to record the song for Warehouse 13. I think the word used to describe this band was that they were a “project.”

I only discovered the Track and Field cover last week while I was wandering through YouTube trying to satiate my latest obsession. I’m not going to say what or who that would be. But I will say there is a theme linking my latest obsession to the characters in my second novel. I’m just going to leave it at that. I may talk about the theme but I will not name my obsession here.

Anyway, I heard the cover, figured out who performed it and wanted to buy the song. But, of course, the damn song is only available on the U.S. iTunes. What the fuck, folks? But I did find it on Soundcloud and I have no idea how many times I’ve listened to it.

Listening to Track and Field’s cover of Running Up That Hill took me to another part of the emotive space I regularly inhabit. I only access that area when the song/piece, characters and where I’m at with the writing, collide to give me a eureka moment. I don’t access it all the time and I have no way of knowing when it will happen. It just does. It has produced a collage of imagery and moments for the novel that I will be adding as I get closer to finishing the first draft.

I have always loved Kate Bush and her music. And I appreciate any well-executed cover of Running Up That Hill. Placebo’s cover of the tune was the first to blow me away. It just spoke volumes to me. But it’s funny that that cover wasn’t the one to give me my epiphanous moment last week. Hearing the simple combination of vocals, piano and drums in the Track and Field cover did it for me. It quietly opened another door in that emotive space and I was stunned.

Listening to it had me falling in love with the song all over again. Its lyrics and lietmotif evoke a myriad of intense emotions. It speaks to, or better yet, encapsulates the dynamic that exists between my three main characters. It asked me a question and I answered it. That answer is the key to finishing the novel.

It thrills me to no end that my writing process works no matter how far along I am in the story. No need for warming up. No faltering. Just rolling along with the scattered moments of genius. My genius is low level genius, but it’ll do. Happy to have any kind of genius. Period.

Now, back to that emotive space, my happy place. Back to feeling something.

So taken with the melancholy

Music is a great catalyst for emotion because it gets to your core — Chris Milk

Last week, I discovered a piece of music I would dare to describe as the definitive theme, the musical blueprint that speaks to the relationship between my two main characters, my boys. The lyrics don’t speak entirely to the true nature of the relationship between my boys. It is the emotions the music evokes that simmers between them.

It happened by accident, to be honest. I follow a website called Nowness on Facebook and Twitter. It’s a great little site. So, I spotted one of their postings and because of the blurb and the image, I had to click and watch. What I clicked onto and watched was a dance video (if you want to label it as such) called The Idea of Us, directed by Geej Ower.

What adjectives can I use to describe this film (because it’s more than just a video)… heartbreaking, melancholic, breathtaking, tender, brilliantly simple in terms of its visual language and the body language belonging to the two characters, and just drop-dead beautiful. Yes, I’m a little obsessed with it, at the moment. I’ve never experienced before, a music/dance video, that basically put me under its spell the way this one has.

After seeing the vid, I was wondering what the fuck happened. The visual storytelling was clear. No ‘ifs, ands or buts’ about what it was about. That definitely didn’t confuse me. But I was left in the wake of the emotions, the intentions, the struggles of the lead character. They stayed with me. And that was pretty powerful.

You may watch the video and wonder what the fuck I’m talking about. I’m fine with you not understanding why this visual and musical manifestation of pain, loss and the struggle to move on is a masterpiece in my eyes and my heart. I’m also fine with you not reading this post anymore for whatever reason pops into your head. Later, dude. Make sure the door doesn’t hit you in the ass on the way out.

Movement, music and visual language are my holy trinity. Get the mix just right and it is beyond sublime. Ower’s video/film does that for me. I could spend days looking at that video, examining the details. Every. Fucking. Detail. I would go at it scene by scene, frame by frame. I’m such a geek.

You’d think I was looking for secrets. Secrets to what? I haven’t a clue and I don’t know what you’re talking about. But, if you insist, I’m looking for revelations and affirmations about my own artistic sensibilities — defining or redefining it by dissecting the sensibilities of others. Who are the kindred spirits? Who inspires me without even trying? If I met them at a bar, would we end up sharing a bottle of whisky or mezcal? I’m always up for new drinking buddies, especially when they make you think, in a good way.

I want to talk about the music as much as the visuals and the movement. Sometimes it’s so hard to separate them and talk about them in isolation from one another. It’s possible but it would be so wrong. So, I’ll start off with the music and weave everything else into it.

The song is This Idea of Us by UK singer-songwriter Jono McCleery. I don’t know what to say other than the combination of acoustic guitar teamed up with a string quartet and McCleery’s vocals has given me nothing but all kinds of intense feels. The kind that gently takes you by the hand and takes you on a slow burn journey that leaves you stunned and breathless at the end.

As an side, I have to say this: As much as I love the piano, I’ve become a sucker for string instruments. Their sound brings texture, complexity and nuance to a piece of music and to the sound of other instruments. I never thought to pair a string quartet with a guitar but it was done. McCleery’s friend, Matt Kelly, wrote the string quartet part for the song. He refers to Kelly as a wizard. I would have to agree. The layers of sounds he wrote for the strings, blend so seductively with McCleery’s voice. It really is sublime. Yeah, it’s definitely one way to seduce me. How do I know Kelly wrote the music for the strings? McCleery told me when we were chatting via Twitter. How did that happen? Well, I tweeted about being obsessed with This Idea of Us and we ended up having a small discourse.

So, back to that slow burn journey. That journey is manifested in the two characters in the film. Without a doubt, the two characters are portrayed by dancers because of the quality of their movement. While it’s not quite dance, the interaction and struggle is expressed in contemporary dance movements. The choice of particular movements enhance and magnify the music, the story and the characters’ motivations. And vice versa.

The visual choices the director makes, brings out the bittersweet melancholy of the song. Overcast skies with no hint of sun. Ambient light pouring into a home where its four walls, if it could talk, would tell you stories of a love that once lived there. The light is not harsh, cruel or dim. You’re just stuck in the grey. Nothing bright and colourful except for the rich blue sweater the lead character wears in most of his scenes. The memories of the past clashing with the need to move forward bleeds in the softness of shadow and light.

I don’t even know if what I feel when I listen to the song has been appropriately conveyed. Sometimes words are not enough or they can’t do justice to the intangibles. I think my words fall somewhere in between.

And I’m going back to play the crap out of that song again because it’s not done with me yet. It probably won’t ever be done with me. So enthralled. So taken. So under its spell.