I can’t help what inspires.
For the most part, it’s the usual old poets,
The budding new writers, the ancient great thinkers
And war hero fighters
Who help me form and shape my thoughts to words
With creative sticky-tape.
But, for the other part, it’s the absurd
When my writing is born and spurred in bacteria-sized moments
That are gone in an instant if not written when potent.
Like when I sat underneath the garden heaters
Outside the spring canteen
When the air was thick and warm
In tasteful coffee and kerosene.
If there was music to accompany a country writing session, where you write on an oak table in a cosy cottage planted on a lush green field, it’d be from Johnny Flynn. He’s soft, melodic and a lot of his music – like the feature below – have buoyancy and flow to them.
The Water is a favourite and while the subject matter is perhaps slightly sombre, there’s an enormous amount of peace and tranquility to the song. It’s packed with great imagery, too, and quite often the aid to my scribbles.
Although the writing is fantastic, it doesn’t do the song justice to simply read them – find his version of the song below, featuring the lovely Laura Marling.
The water sustains me without even trying
The water can’t drown me, I’m done
With my dying
Now the land that I knew is a dream
And the line on the distance grows faint
So wide is my river
The horizon a sliver
The artist has run out of paint
There’s a lot of amazing music from Flynn and while I’d love to share it all, here’s another favourite. It’s the title music to BBC’s The Detectorists, which is a warming series about metal detecting. Here’s a link to it – I don’t think there’s a person on Earth who won’t like it!
From The Mountain Goats’ This Year, this song really speaks from the heart. Their music is a continuing source of inspiration; they’ve got consistent brilliant imagery with a rustic, woody feel to it. These two verses are a favourite – make sure to give the song and their other pieces a listen, they’re great!
I played video games in a drunken haze
I was 17 years young
Hurt my knuckles punching the machines
The taste of scotch rich on my tongue
And then Cathy showed up and we hung out
Trading swigs from a bottle, all bitter and clean
Locking eyes, holding hands
Twin high maintenance machines
Stories have been and forever will be manipulated in structure for a taste of originality. The basic beginning – middle – end formulahas been expanded upon, rearranged, reversed and altered countless times. They’re the basic blocks of story telling and they’re all necessary for a well developed piece to entice the consumer.
Similarly, classic symphonies are often composed of three or four movements. For example, it may look like this:
Allegro – Adagio or Andante – Menuetto or Scherzo – Finale: Presto or Finale:Allegro.
Like a story, these can change for impact and gesture but all are generally considered needed for a complete piece.
While the structure is played around with and is most likely different for any piece of music or fiction, the duration of these pieces is equally important and shouldn’t be left untouched.
This is when Beethoven comes in. In his first and second symphonies, he stuck to the rules, more or less. A gentle introduction to grab your attention, to entice you into the piece, to let you hear what he had put together for your enjoyment. What followed were lengthy sections of melodies for each mood of the palate. However, in the third symphony, he did something different. He kept the structure but what he modified was the duration. Note the introduction…
That’s it. It’s two notes, two sounds that rush you into the melody of the exposition. He doesn’t just grab your attention, he takes it. At the time, this broke the rules but what’s important is the maverick decision worked. This reflected his ambition to stand out and now he’s globally recognised, for your attention has been caught and now you’re listening.
Writing needs to do this. In the same way people came to dance to the melodies of Beethoven, people pick up a book or watch a film for the story. They read the blurb or watch the trailer and think that that’s what they want to see. The details given in an introduction, most of the time, can be left out and will be told naturally by the rest of the story.
It’s the classic example of show, don’t tell. You don’t have to tell us about how little Timmy grew up to be a strong, brave boy who was emotionally crushed when his father died in the boating race he initially protested against. Show us in his reaction, show us in his interaction with others, show us in the substance of the moment.
Like Beethoven showing off his talent, he just got to the music. No faff, no fluff, no waffling. Be like Beethoven.