Inspiration: A Unique and Extremely Personal Phenomenon

In an interview with The Guardian (found here), Kevin Barry, author of novels such as the Impac Dublin literary award winner City of Bohane, discusses a lot of interesting topics; though none of which peaked my interest as much as where he derived the inspiration to use famous musician John Lennon as the topic of his latest fiction novel, Beatlebone. Barry talks about how his “initial spark of inspiration is always place,” and how for this latest novel he was inspired to write about how “John Lennon is looking for his private island and can’t find it,” when he was “cycling around… Clew Bay” and “remembered that John Lennon owned one of the islands there.” At reading this I began to think about inspiration and everything that influences us when we, writers, are either writing or even just trying to come up with something to write about. In this interview Kevin Barry attributes any time he was inspired to his physical location at the time, but what really stuck out to me about the concept of inspiration is how extremely unique and different it is for every single person. Take myself for instance, being someone whose primary focus in their writing is in their dialogue, most of my inspiration comes from the daily conversations my friends and I have about utterly pointless things (such as if we can make this potato cannon fire beer cans), but I am willing to bet that every person in this class has a different answer. It also wouldn’t surprise me if some people couldn’t come up with an answer, because their inspiration comes from so many different aspects of their lives. I’m very curious as to what everyone thinks. Try discussing it here on the Blawg; and even if you don’t want to actually comment here try taking the time to at least think about it. Who knows what you’ll learn about yourself, and even your writing for that matter.

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Multiple Narrators… How do we Feel?

During my habitual perusing of the information sharing website known as reddit, I stumbled across an interesting thread (found here) that was questioning the use of multiple narrators (i.e. multiple point of views) in books. This reddit user, who goes by the name of veryveryminty, shared that when reading a book they, more often then not, prefer it only to be written through the perspective of one character, because they find it “easier to sympathize with the main character if I can only see the same world they do.” After casually running over some of the other comments in this thread, I began thinking about this through a writer’s mindset. What are the benefits of choosing to use multiple perspectives? Why do some authors choose to do this, while others do not? Do some genres (yes, I am choosing to talk about genres even though I denounced them in my last post) benefit from the use of P.O.V.s more than others? Being someone who very rarely writes in the first person, I myself do not have any real experience using multiple points of view, but it is something that I am very curious about and will probably try writing like this in the future.

What I want to know is, similarly to the original reddit post, why all of you, my lovely readers and peers, choose to write in the perspectives that you do? And if you don’t know, or can’t think of any substantial reason, maybe try writing in a form that is less, for lack of a better word, “traditional.” Stray out of your comfort zones. See what happens, and talk about it here. You may be surprised by what happens.

“Genre Snobbery”: What we as Writers, and even Readers, Should Avoid

In this article found on Wired magazine’s website, author David Mitchell, whose body of work includes novels such as The Bone Clocks, Slade House, and most famously Cloud Atlas, discusses something very common that exists among writers, as well as just fans of literature, and the issues that he has with it. What Mitchell, is calling out is the notion that every piece of literary work written needs to fit neatly into one of the many mainstream genres, and that even if a piece does happen to fit into one of these genres (which he admits is perfectly okay), neither writers, nor readers for that matter, need to limit themselves to, or exclude themselves from, any of those genres as a result of personal bias. This “gene snobbery”, as the article’s author describes it, is a trend that is extremely prevalent in the consumers and producers of essentially all expressive mediums; whether it be fiction writing, music making, filmmaking, or even visual art, this trend exists among it’s user base. When someone decides they don’t like a genre, they are more than likely going to go out of their way to avoid the consumption of anything in that genre or, if said person is a writer, the production of that genre. An example: for arguments sake let’s say that I have decided that I do not like science fiction novels, because I just didn’t enjoy Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy (I know, a completely ridiculous and unbelievable example, but bear with me); as a result of deciding I dislike all Science Fiction because I didn’t enjoy one book that exists within its incredibly expansive genre, I am excluding myself from the enjoyment of a countless number of fantastic literary works that I could very well enjoy, yet I will never get to experience them because, in this hypothetical scenario, I have made the rash decision to forsake anything connected to the broad category of “science fiction.” In the article, Mitchell refers to this trend of “cutting yourself off” in this way as a “bizarre act of self-mutilation,” and, in all honesty, I agree. By classifying our work into these suffocating little “genres,” we are binding both our readers and ourselves to a strict formula, or schematic, for how we produce consume different forms of artistic expression. Consequently, we as writers will never be able to grow and develop to our fullest potential, all because we simply won’t let ourselves. David Mitchell attempts to fight this by working to just “[write] the best books that he can,” and choosing not to worry about whether or not the book he is science fiction, a mystery, or any other generic genre. He simply writes the story in his head.

Now I’m not a hypocrite- or at least not in this specific situation- I admit that I am just as guilty of this as any of you who are actually taking the time to read this class blog may be, but after reading this rather short article I couldn’t help but really think about the concept of genres and how they influence both our writing (as in the final product) and our actual writing process. That being said, what I am going to start applying to my every day life, whether it be in my writing or even just my enjoyment of expressive media (such as what music I listen to), is the conscious effort to ignore any and all genre classifications. They are not important, and the most they will do is give me an inaccurate and overly generalized opinion of whatever it is I am reading/watching/listening to/writing/written/about to write. I challenge you, my extremely small audience, to do the same. The next time you sit down to write something, anything at all, throw away all notions you have, or have ever had about genres, and just write the piece in your head. Don’t limit yourselves to any “rules” or restrictions posed by one set genre. If you’re work is good, that’s all that will matters. If you want your piece to be about a time traveling crime solving robot named Sylvester Dorkathamon, who is stuck in Victorian England and also doesn’t know that he is a time traveling crime solving robot, then by all means do it. I’m sure it will be awesome. This goes for what we choose to consume as well, because nothing influences us more then the work of others. So if you don’t like mysteries, go read a mystery; and if you don’t like period pieces, go watch Pride and Prejudice; and if you don’t like heavy metal music… well then you’re fine because heavy metal music sucks (joke). Hopefully through the loss of what I am choosing to call “genre goggles,” we will all be able to flourish as writers, in ways that we would have never thought possible.

Long Hand V.S. Typed: Author John Irving Shares Some Insight

In his interview with author John Irving (embedded above), which took place on the November 3rd episode of “The Late Show” that aired earlier this week, host Stephen Colbert raised a very interesting question and potential topic for discussion, all the while still retaining the lighthearted and humorous tone that both he and show have become known for. To be more specific, Colbert brings up how Irving is known for writing his novels in long hand, avoiding typewriters and computers at all cost. He explains to Colbert that he choose to write by hand because it is significantly slower paced then typing, which he claims is a more conducive to his writing style. Furthermore, Irving says that due to the slow and systematic pace that writing by hand forces him to work at, he is able to write more comfortably and with fewer mistakes.

My question is this: While the reasons put forth by John Irving, an extremely successful novelist, are interesting in their own right, what are some other benefits of writing by hand? And while we’re at it, what are the benefits of typing? Which do you prefer and why?

With regards to typing, I’m curious to know reasons other then the obvious ones (such as “you can save”, “easy to distribute”, etc.). I want you to think from the perspective of a writer, not just a computer user.

“The Man in the Basement”

Poetry and Prose are the two gods and I can’t really differentiate between them. Sure I know an epic from a novel but extremes are easy in comparison and easier when my tenth grade english teacher (who was also my friends mom- we’re no longer friends) has had us deconstruct each over and over again. The poems that I have begun to read now and the prose that I am reading has bled together to form something that makes me feel certain ways and think certain things. This bleeding is evident in stories like this piece of flash fiction “The Man in the Basement”. It is flash fiction, so analysis or summary sort of defeats the purpose, but in under a thousand words I am able to feel so much for the character here. I also encourage anyone that reads this story and enjoys it, to read all of the other short stories on this website “Flash Fiction Online” that makes up for its name with very clever and good pieces of flash fiction. And you could be the next contributor. They are always accepting submissions and they are nice about feedback and response time. If you get a story published, it is also 60 dollars that they pay you. Not bad for a thousand words- one picture. The picture in the story underneath is of smoke and roaches and I think you all will like it. Plus it’ll take about 60 seconds to read.

 

Here’s the link: http://flashfictiononline.com/main/article/the-man-in-the-basement/

On the subject of keeping a journa

Before I was even interested in writing, I kept a journal of observations. Or, maybe it wasn’t before, but because I kept a journal of observations, I became interested in writing. It started off as a way for me to put the ideas down from my head that I couldn’t afford to keep in there any longer. They were observations about people, about interactions, about trends, about society, about girls, about assignments, to-do lists, projects, jokes, and sketches. I don’t remember how exactly I started, and I don’t believe in God, but I thank the past consciousness that was myself, that I was able to keep this journal.

Spontaneous combustion does not exist and neither does creativity. There are events, and they may be small and they may be invisible, but somethings gotta ignite and the flames look more beautiful if they’re mysterious. The notes in my journal have helped me immensely in faking creativity and making mediocre fires. I suggest everyone write in a journal. The observations haven’t just served me as a second-hand memory but their writing has served as training for my brain. Having these observations become a part of my life has, I believe made me more observant, and a better writer than I would be without it. Along with observation comes introspection, and a journal has also helped with this, pushing my own thoughts about consciousness and the self into the graphite on the page so that I can;t force them back into half-hearted desires. But you shouldn’t take my word for it because I have not written anything of substance-yet. Walden is undoubtedly something of substance, so take the advice instead from Thoreau and others. Here is an article about keeping a diary.

 

https://www.brainpickings.org/2014/09/04/famous-writers-on-keeping-a-diary/

Interview with David Foster Wallace

I am not a great David Foster Wallace fan, maybe, yet. I have not read many things by him and I don’t really think that I will ever read Infinite Jest because I don’t at this point want to for some reason. But more than the characters on the page that he creates I am interested in who he is as a person, and being a person that wrote a book that is said to be in the top 100 English language books since 1923, I think he is at the very least a person worth examining. When I went to his bio, I found little, but when I went to his interviews, I found a lot. I’m sure I would find a ridiculous amount in his books, but I have not been able to fit those years into my schedule. From my readings of this one interview that he did in “The review of Contemporary fiction” in 1993, I learned just how thoughtful and eloquent and knowledgable he was. The way he talks about society, the way that he speaks about literature lets you know how much this man has in his head; and that is all I ever hoped to glean from the interview. I know little about literature theory, I dont know jack about math, and my notions on society are narrow in scope and not fully formed but from this interview I saw what I could ever hope to be in terms of knowledge and control of language. I won’t understand all of the theories he has on literature for a while, but in my endevour to read about David Foster Wallace, that is never what I wanted to do. I wanted to see what someone so devoted to the craft thinks like, what they choose to speak about, and a little glimpse at the type of person they are. I highly recommend reading it and seeing what you take from the interview. What I took from it was a renewed sense of anticipation and excitement at honing craft and expanding knowledge, so I’d like to thank this interview.

 

Heres the link: http://www.dalkeyarchive.com/a-conversation-with-david-foster-wallace-by-larry-mccaffery/

Random Plot Building

For me, when I want to write my problem is with plot. I have ideas for certain emotional issues, or political ideas, or situation that I want to explore, but I have no plotline to bring these characters out and make the piece a narrative. I have before relied on those rare moments of inspiration in class or at home that have given my fully fleshed out plots, but now that I am writing more, I feel that I need to have a more consistent format to follow when I want to write but I have no narrative. So I started using a random word generator.

A random word generator is a good name for what it does. The specific site that I am linking to here is even better than it’s name suggests because it gives you the choice of how many words you would like to randomly generate.

My method for using this creatively, is as follows: I will ask this website to conjure for me three different words. On one occasion this meant that I got the words train, brass, mime. Then I say the words over and over again in my head and see what comes to me. Then I write out sentences that have the three words in them as plot summaries. In this example I wrote out the story of a young father who is with his son at a train station and they are watching a mime perform. That’s two of the three. Then I wanted to figure out how brass fit it, and I thought of brass knuckles. So, the plot was that as the father and kid talked and admired the mime, a man would brandish brass knuckles and smash the mimes face in, destroying the kids innocence. That’s how the plot was made, and it has worked for me on various occasions.
Try it out! : http://creativitygames.net/random-word-generator

Reading Rec: “To Rise Again at a Decent Hour”

The Joshua Ferris story that we read in class “The Dinner Party” really piqued my interest in him as a writer, and I enjoyed how he dealt with these situations he set up. I read some more short stories by him. Then, in class, everyone was gushing about Joshua Ferris because he had recently done a reading at a Writer’s Here and Now event (I was not able to attend because I was at work, and also barely knew who Joshua Ferris was). Now my classmates, you all, were telling me all about this author and how confident and clear and interesting he was to listen to. I had to read more about him. I read his biographies and some interviews with him, and eventually decided to take the plunge and buy a book by him. The cheapest that I could find was “To Rise Again at a Decent Hour” so I ordered it on Amazon. I accidently had it mailed to my parents house and I couldn’t go to get it, so I panicked, wanting to read it and procrastinate, and I went to Mckeldin and took it out. I finished it in a week. You should read “To Rise Again at a Decent Hour”. It is a very human book, that tells the story of a dentist, who becomes embroiled in a clandestine and fringe religion that he doesn’t know exists. In the book, we are fully immersed in his head and it is just a fascinating look into religion, obsession and love. I really really enjoyed it, and I think you guys will too.

Discussion: “The Pelican Bar,” Karen Joy Fowler

Please use the following questions as a starting point for your response to the Karen Joy Fowler story “The Pelican Bar”. You don’t need to answer all of the questions, or even answer any of them in full, but please keep your response focused and relevant.

  • How does tone function in this piece? How would you characterize the tone, and how is it created?
  • This story skips over large amounts of time. How does Fowler manage this, and what effect does it have?
  • Is this a “realist” story? How do you know? Does it make a difference one way or another?