Read to Write

I wrote a few months back about the level of Narrative Immersion amongst different mediums – books, television, film, video games – championing the depth and unique experience that the written word affords. I was concentrating on the effects of these forms when using them purely for leisure, but the specific focus I’ve placed on literature is in part due to reading books not just for diversion, but as an active process, always mindful of ways to improve my craft as a writer and how to remain open to inspiration.

As much as what you’re reading can influence any subsequent writing, I find staying largely within the realm of text helps me to dedicate more time to these distinctly lo-fi pursuits, avoiding being too saturated with moving image mediums to concentrate, or becoming too fixated with games or other highly involving activities. Reading and writing generate imagery from within the individual (although they can be tinged by external events happening at that moment – noise, the weather, people, etc), rather than receiving it from a projecting device.

Of course, I’m influenced by all things, but it’s the more static forms like art, objects, or powerful images from films, seemingly captured with a mental camera, that allow me to visualise them later, tinkering and contrasting with other images for effect. This leads to the composition of a few sentences, and thus a starting point. There’s also direct personal experiences and sensations, particularly specific moments and microscopic details. Sometimes I wonder about the authenticity of material inspired by these sources, compared to the real world counterpart, or what actually happened, but what is creative writing if not rendering what you see and feel into words, which is then liable to be interpreted differently by each reader? Hounding out the truth can sometimes seem pointless – this isn’t journalism, though that includes a fair bit of fiction these days.

Being able to impose your own prism on the world is vital to create original and humane art. It can allow you to feel competent enough to make a mark, and to be compelled to write. Which, as the universal frustration over blank pages shows, is everything.

publishing on demand

Mind, Pen, Page

My last few posts have concentrated on the different effects of various mediums on readers, their output if you like, but, triggered by this eloquent article championing pen on paper featured recently in The New York Review of Books, I’ve been thinking about the effects of various methods of input on writers and their work.

And how systematic terms like ‘input’ and ‘output’ manage to constantly leak into my writing. Bah.

Aside from blogging and more technical project text, I use a pen and several different notebooks in my practice. One hard-wearing pocket notebook for ideas and notes related to projects I’m working on, as well as random thoughts and interesting words and quotes. One tiny notebook for scribbled bits of more creative writing, normally segments of poetic pieces, which are then edited and given form on a computer later, sometimes channeled longhand through paper first. One large notebook for lengthier and more fluid prose writing.

Keeping these separate is an attempt to conjure up the different frames of mind necessary for each style of writing, although inevitably they cross over, as is the nature of human thoughts. Handwriting (if you could call mine that, I exclusively use block capitals for EVERYTHING), instead of typing, is also conducive in my case to articulate ideas quicker and smoother than via a computer intermediary – from mind, to pen, to page. I intentionally left out hand, as a pen seems almost like a natural extension of it, rather than fragmented, systematic typing – even more so as I use only two or three fingers feverishly.

Using pen and paper to create, a screen to edit, then various forms of file sharing (E-mailing text to myself and others, Dropbox) to archive and disseminate material seems to me like a natural evolution of ideas and consecutive output. Like a snowball rolling downhill, accumulating stray threads of grass and loose stones, gradually gaining form and weight, then finally smashing into a multitude of pieces, spreading its essence – if you’ll forgive my poncy analogy.


Drawn In

I’ve been following Julia Rothman’s excellent blog, Book By Its Cover for a good while now, and first heard about the concept behind Drawn In months back, but for some reason its actual release evaded me. I’ve re-discovered it now, and immediately snapped it up from Amazon, as we’re planning a new series looking into the methods and practices artists use to do their work, and also because I featured Ying-Chieh Liu’s exquisite sketchbooks recently.

Drawn In shows the creative processes and personal musings of 44 artists from different disciplines, by opening up their private sketchbooks and asking how they use them. It looks fascinating – I’ve always pondered how artists with industrious work ethics manage to actually get everything done! Can’t wait to receive this.


My visit to Central Saint Martins College

I visited the Central Saint Martins Fashion and Photography Degree Show last night, down over on Charing Cross Road , and I must say what an experience! I have never been to anything like this before so I was really excited to see what was waiting for me.

Firstly I was taken back by the building itself – the dark, old, worn out exterior didn’t reflect the inside. Even though I was also surprised by the interior, the decor behind the exhibition itself, I was very inspired by what I saw and knew I was in the midst of something quite special, especially being in the same space which elevated Alexander McQueen and the likes of Stella McCartney, Zac Posen, Paul Smith and Hamish Bowles – editor at large at Vogue (wow!!!). Knowing this was where such influential people in fashion studied, created such fantastic pieces and walked the same corridors, touched me in a very special way.

As I wondered around the different rooms of fashion filled creative-ness, I was in awe of not only of the clothes made but also student’s portfolios, filled with drawings and sketches and images of pieces that had been made. Each portfolio was different to the next, not just in content but in the way they were presented. Most were the usual look book formats. However some were A3 size, some smaller, some portrait, some landscape. Some were made from different materials. One portfolio which stood and seem dominant over the others was the one made from metal – quite harsh and edgy.

I enjoyed flicking through the portfolios. I was fascinated by the ideas, from initial sketches and drawings to photographs of completed pieces. I can only imagine the hectic process this must have been. Looking at the empty studios as I wandered from one room to the next reflected this, with mannequins scattered around, strands of material on the tables and floor  – a last minute rush of madness it seemed. This was in stark contrast to the exhibition rooms where strange yet beautiful pieces of clothing hung from the ceiling, quite peacefully, wanting to be adorned by exhibitors, portfolios scattered around the sides of the rooms, as well as students themselves, finally getting a chance to relax and enjoy their work. This compared to maybe a few weeks ago, where the environment would have probably been very different!

I left not only feeling inspired but mesmerised by what I saw and the highly fuelled creative atmosphere I had left, back into the normality of the ‘real world.’