Sunday, 31 March 2013

The Padded Room

There is a famous quote by Einstein... "There is nothing that is a more certain sign of insanity than to do the same thing over and over and expect the results to be different."

Many people are familiar with this quote - it has been around for a while and been paraphrased, reinterpreted, misinterpreted, and even popped in the middle of an Usher song. So why does it endure?

As a writer, who is trying to hone a particular set of skills on my path to publication, there was a penchant for me to live in my own head a little too long and to establish a routine or a style that may not be conducive to my goal of continual improvement and the eventual cracking of the 'professional writers code.' It dawned on me a little while ago that I needed to find a balance between staying true to my own voice - and changing things up in an effort to break from the above definition of insanity.

This has been quite liberating, and surprisingly so. Now, I write at all different times of the day (when I can), I attack brainstorming and the editing process is ever-changing ways, I listen to music while writing, go for a run before sitting down to write for the day, and generally find new ways to get under the skin of my protagonists in an effort to breathe life into proceedings. This may not sound like much, but to a fellow writer who may read this, shaking one's routine can be enough to send your axis spinning out of control.

But that's the entire point. If nothing changes, then nothing changes. What is there to lose about trying to mix things up and trying to shape the clay in a different way? I'd rather break free and play rather than rock back and forth in the padded room of my writer's mind.

Happy writing!

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

The Music on the Page

Original Motion Picture Soundtrack – One of my favourite phrases in my writer’s toolbox. When I see those words, I automatically equate it with emotive music that deftly portrays specific scenes – key emotional moments, up on the silver screen. Turn the volume down, or if it was possible, watch the same scene without the orchestral accompaniment and see what would happen…
I’ve done exactly that. If you’re anything like me you’ll find that the previously powerful (read: gut-wrenching; ominous; light-hearted; soul-crushing; action orientated…) moments in the film becomes rather less satisfying (and formulaic) than its former whole. Scenes that had you blubbering into your tissues, or howling with laughter, or even gripping your armrest in fear, all becomes an obvious exercise in storytelling that is blatantly evident to the viewer and thus removes them from the epicentre of the action. Once you are aware that you are watching a film - or reading a book, you are no longer emotionally invested in it, and with that, any chance of empathy or a raw emotional response is destroyed.

As a writer, I find it extremely beneficial to pop my headphones on and cue specific soundtracks in order to establish a mood. This tends to be during the rewrite where I am trying to inject realism into the world I’m creating – not when I’m doing a technical rewrite. Initially I was dubious about being distracted by the music, but once I’m in the throes of the scene, I find the orchestral rhythm very helpful in establishing a sense of place and tone that influences the words that come bubbling forth from my brain.

At those crucial points in the story, where you want to reach out and grab your reader to make them feel – and make the experience as real or as visceral as possible, such a tool is a welcome addition to the writer’s arsenal.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Aussie Icons

Since joining the blogging-set I have had the pleasure of interacting with people all over the world, which has been truly enjoyable. A few of the conversations have come from people who live clear on the other side of the planet, and some of who view Australia as an exotic outpost at the bottom of the globe. Perhaps in some way it is. To Australians it is simply home, and one that has many cultural similarities with the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and New Zealand to name but a few. As someone who works in the aviation industry and has traveled somewhat, going to these countries feels very familiar.

There was one particular person who asked me whom I admired or looked up to. Once I responded with my well-worn list, the reply I received was ‘What? Isn’t there one Australian man you look up to?”

I had never thought about it that way. In truth, I love my country very much but I’m not into die-hard nationalism. Nor am I into looking up to other men for the simple fact that they share my gender. In truth, the others on my list were mostly female. But it got me thinking, that as a male, which famous Aussie ‘blokes’ align with the man I consider myself to be most like. There are proudly quite a few to choose from. May I add, that the reason I am narrowing this conversation to admiring ‘famous’ people for this exercise is simply for their instantly identifiable name. Giving an obscure name to someone across the planet will not elicit as much understanding as perhaps the following names will. So without further ado…

Patrick Rafter – as a tennis fan I was pleased to see that nice guys can finish on top. When he won the US Open in 1997 & 1998, climbed to the top spot in the rankings and contested some wonderful matches against some of the greats of his generation (some he won, others he lost), I watched as a teenager with pride that Aussies were being so wonderfully represented by such a hard-working, fair minded and genial sportsman. In the world of competitive sports (really, any entertainment industry), where the stakes are high and to be monstrously self-centered is to be expected, even exalted, it was refreshing to see that you can squeeze the best out of yourself and not lose yourself in the process. That has stayed with me.

Keith Urban – simply put, what’s not to admire about a person who has achieved an insane level of success in his chosen field, has married and fathered children with his soul mate (who happens to be a talented artist in her own right) – and remains a genuinely humble and grateful man who is down-to-earth and relatable. In an industry where people pretend to be magnanimous for public adulation, you can spot the real thing. I’d like to think I share his genuine nature, easy humor, kind temperament and his loyalty and protectiveness over those most dearest to him. That to me is the epitome of being a gentleman.

Hugh Jackman – as a film lover (and someone who once loved singing, dancing and acting up on stage), how can you not respect someone who (like Keith) puts family and loved ones above all else while fashioning an enviable career in Hollywood without succumbing to its infamous trappings? To be talented, be able to make fun of yourself (which is a uniquely Aussie characteristic), enjoy life and simply be a nice person…these wonderfully grounded traits are ones that really should be emulated more than they sometimes are.

Thank you gents, for standing so tall.