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J. J. Brown, Wordslinger

"I Sling Words As I Go Along."

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So, Maya Angelou once said……

……“Everything in the universe has a rhythm, everything dances.” If you go hiking in the woods, or sit at the beach (or wherever your favorite outdoor spot is), and you sit and be still, you can hear nature’s music. By music, I’m referring to the calls of animals and birds, the wind as it whispers through trees and the gurgling of rivers. That is the music of nature and it is that rhythm that grounds us once we stop thinking so much and just allow ourselves to be present in that moment.

I’m thinking about music as I write this. While driving along the freeway home from my favorite getaway spot, I had a CD of the Eagles’ greatest hits on. The last track on that CD is Hotel California, which was the inspiration for my writing a two-act comedy sending up the gods and goddesses of ancient mythologies. I hit Replay on that song several times, because in my imagination, I could ‘see’ the opening scene play out. Due to bits of dialogue and action later on in the script, I knew that these new details established immediately at the beginning would foreshadow what was to come.

Music has been a major source of inspiration for me – I would create soundtracks for my novels and screenplays. This helped me focus on what kind of story I was telling. Is it romantic? Scary? Funny? Dramatic? From groups like The Temptations and the Stray Cats to individual singers like Natalie Cole and Cyndi Lauper, I found my story’s voice. I would jump from rock and roll to jazz to blues to Big Band, searching for that right piece of music that fit the rhythm of my current writing project.

My most productive times as a writer is when I have music playing in the background. This is true for any creative endeavor, whether it’s cooking or sculpture or painting. Even musicians, I suspect, listen to music, to experiment on what they are hearing and give it their own interpretation.

Music is the muse that inspires. How do I know? The word Mus-e builds the word Mus-ic.

Find your muse-ical inspiration and go forth with art in your heart.

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Editor’s Note – this blog post is published concurrently on Citizens Journal VC

 

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So, one of my favorite creative past times…..

……is theater. I grew up acting in school plays, then college productions and local community theater, with an occasional dabble in building sets, costumes and make-up. I even did extra work on a TV movie, which is another story entirely. Theater, like film and TV, is a collaborative effort. You need each person to fulfill a role or task to make the final product work smoothly (technical, sound, lighting, effects, other actors, writers), even if it’s a one person show.

This is true of every creative endeavor. Granted, you are the only one doing your work (whether it’s learning lines or creating a sculpture or any other artistic expression), but the act itself is a collaboration of all that you had learned up to that point. Look at any acknowledgements page in any book and you will find the word “collaboration” or its sibling “collaborative”. There will then be a list of names or groups the author then gives his or her thanks to – because while the act of writing is solitary, the process of putting a book together (from research to final edits to publication) is not.

There is the stereotype of the writer as being an odd creature, solitary, slightly disheveled and not quite fully present in the moment. They are distracted by their thoughts and scribble madly on a pad of paper, relying on copious amounts of coffee (or, in some cases, alcohol) to keep the pace going, finally producing a perfect manuscript. What no one sees is the relentless edits, the hours of researching a particular historical incident, the mapping out of the plot and the creation and naming of characters.

None of this is done in a vacuum – writers groups, editors, beta readers, other writers are there to help give an objective opinion and offer support when the going gets tough. What theater teaches us is that in order for a production to work smoothly, there has to be teamwork. For an author to create her best work, she has to have the teamwork of her editor and beta readers and groups to encourage necessary changes within her story. The same goes for a photographer, her crew and the model. It is all a team effort.

The more creative endeavors you try, the more you’ll realize that it’s this teamwork is where you gain your greatest strength.

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Editor’s note – this blog post is concurrently published on Citizens Journal VC

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