Tag Archives: art

You Must Submit! (to doing your art)

Yes, we’ve got a theme here

lego figure under a glass

Trapped by art! CC image Help! courtesy of fisserman on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

For those of you who saw my last post about submitting (sending out our work to be judged… I mean, for consideration to be published or made public), the topic clearly has more to offer. For one, we didn’t talk about actually making the art.

(Yes, I do things backwards sometimes.)

We think about our art in relation to other people. We want to share our work (at some point). We want to know what other people think (nice things). We think about it being finished.

Every time I think about submitting my work, I feel a mental nod coming on. Yes, that’s a good idea. I should. I want to.

After all, that’s how people are going to read it, right?

Right.

Followed by more irrefutable logic: I will never be published [by anyone other than myself] if I don’t ever submit my work.

Once I sit down to actually, physically take on the task of submission, a lot changes.

I’m not nodding anymore. I’m fighting.

Resistance, in fact, sweeps over me like a hurricane. The winds lash me, the rains drench me, I’m afraid I’m about to be swept away. The best I can do is hunker down and wait for the storm to subside. Then I walk around gingerly, on tip toe, for a while. I don’t want to rouse the demons yet again.

Sound familiar?

Submitting and writing are not the same thing

Art first needs to be made. This submission concept is really frou-frou, like frosting on brownies. Before the frosting can go anywhere, we need to bake brownies. Then we can agonize about what flavor frosting we want.

The act of making the piece, or even editing the piece, is separate from the submission storm, although the storm does bring up writing debris.

The making brings up its own resistance.

Say I am not even thinking about making a submission. I am working on a first draft. Better yet, I’ve just had an idea, and am running down the track after my idea, trying to determine what species it is, what habitat it likes, whether the idea wants the shade or a river, what it likes to eat, and if it prefers the pen or the computer. Even here, I have to deal with a storm of resistance. And dealing with resistance here is much more of a dicey proposition than at the submission stage. If I wrestle too much at the source, I’ll be distracted with my struggle while the idea gets away.

Hop-hop-hop. Nothing doing. Do you know this dance?

Resistance is everywhere

The siren voices of resistance at the writing stage are the usual menagerie of rabid self-judgments. A selection: This is awful. Where is this going? You can’t say that… So-and-so [famous, published and wealthy] would never say that. So-and-so is better than you.  That’s why So-and-so is published, and you’re not.

Sometimes the eye-rolling pedant in me gets a word in edgewise. Example: I also won’t get published if I never WRITE anything until the end…

Storm voice: Maybe that’s the way it should be. No one wants to read drivel.

Then there is the distraction ploy. For example: I’m hungry. My ankle itches. Listen, I haven’t done laundry in a week and I’m running out of socks.

Finally, lest we forget, there is resistance posing as the voice of logic. Actually, this isn’t the best time to be doing this (writing). You should prep for that meeting. Or wash your hair. This isn’t a quiet spot. You’re going to be interrupted. What a waste of your flow! You’ll get started and then disturbed right at the crucial moment. What about going somewhere else? You should choose a quieter time of day. You should choose a more secluded location. You should sit in a chair that doesn’t turn you into the Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Dear Reader, do you recognize this mess? Do you feel familiar with the scenarios I have just sketched for you? Fear not — I have a diagnosis.  The sickness is this:

You aren’t submitting (to your art).
I am not submitting (to my art).

And we must, or we’re never going to be happy. Screw fame, publication, and wealth. Let’s back up to the first step. We’re never going to get out of this loony bin the way we’re going. We are bouncing off the walls: look at us!

This is important— no matter what else we do, we must always, always, always submit to our art.

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What happens when you don’t submit?

Reboot

fine art abstract drawing black and white

Sometimes chaos is better… CC image Order from Chaos by lokate366. Some rights reserved.

I’ve been struggling with this blog since the turn of the year. Which is why I haven’t been able to post anything here, until today.

Of course the end-of-year holidays provided their own source of distraction and time commitment. On top of that, however, a much bigger concern has been looming over my head with regard to what I’m writing and sending out into the world via this wee forum.

For the first time ever, I think, I took the changing of the year as a springboard to look over my work and creative crises. What I saw did not fill me with glee — but then, I’m not known for being particularly kind to myself. Recognizing this, I decided to take the opportunity to re-set in the new year with a fresh outlook and retooled goals.

The fresh outlook and goals covers every category of my life, including this blog. I had an idea of what I wanted to say when I launched it, and this past year I’ve felt more and more confused about my message. What story was I telling, after all?

Like a lot of people who start blogs and then go freelance, I had grandiose ideas at first. Alas, the ideas were a hodgepodge of themes, and so I found myself facing the same questions over and over each time I went to post content, only they got louder and in a bigger typeface each time:

  • Does this fit with my overall theme?
  • Wait — what IS the overall theme? There are at least two.
  • No, three.
  • If so, it’ll definitely fit. Because it hits at least one of the themes. Right?
  • …Won’t this just look like a bigger mess as I go along?

The crux of the matter was my obstinate attempt to be practical and useful with my blog. To be Above it All, and Wise. Except whenever I sat down to write, I found myself sinuously winding along a whimsical, playful, sometimes painful personal creative vein.

I didn’t share all of that. Because it didn’t fit.  And partly because sharing is hard (with deference to Havi here).

And my inner self wasn’t letting me get away with it. My inner self threw creative tantrums.

More and more, I wanted to talk about thoughts and ideas and inspirational nuggets and dream-babies of mine that had NO OBVIOUS PRACTICAL PURPOSE.

That’s right! About Art with a capital A!

Shocking. Downright provocative. I know — a blog about creativity and art that was — playing with creativity and art?

Say it ain’t so.

Truth: I need to find harmony with myself, and I need to find honesty with myself also. I’m simply not getting anywhere cutting out a part of myself and pretending it doesn’t exist. I signed up for a Voice & Speech class at the start of the year, which is known to be a place where people become blubbering emotive puddles, and I became a blubbering emotive puddle during THE FIRST CLASS, trying to say this out loud.

I can be practical. I can be. Just like I can be organized. Periodically. And I can be logical. In a crisis, when you need a cool head, that’s me.

The fact is, though, that my personality test results tell me I’m intuitive, feeling, and perceiving. Did I need a personality test for this? I am a stereotype. Everybody knows this about me. I am a sensory being, putting on intellectual armor over my creations before I sally forth.

I’m tired of trying to make this blog fit some preconceived mold. I’m not 100% sure what it’s going to look like, but I know what it’s NOT going to look like. It’s definitely NOT going to look like a thesis outline. More like a paint splatter. Because the point of creativity, writing and art is that they are FUN. And gosh darn it, I’m going to have fun talking about them here.*

Do you have fun stuff? Share in the comments!
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*Because I am nothing if not ambitious, I might be pursuing the more “serious” ideas in a more “serious” forum. No promises.

This movie coming soon to a bookstore near you!

considering book trailers

black and white of a group of children covering their eyes

Gasp! it’s a movie! about a book! CC image “children of horror” courtesy of wolfgangfoto on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

Did you know you could make movie-like trailers for books?

I didn’t.

I’m not talking about a trailer for a movie that was based on a book. I mean a trailer that was shot exclusively to promote a book. As part of that book’s publicity.

This may not be as new for the world as it is for me. I only discovered book trailers this week. The first one was utter serendipity — a link in an article I was reading. I was intrigued by the concept of making a film to advertise literature. Since then, I see links to book trailers everywhere (it’s like little red cars; see the post I wrote about Attentional Bias for more info on that).

I think this is an awesome idea.

Admittedly, I can see the trailer concept working better for some genres and types of stories than others. The link that opened the world of book trailers for me was for a kind of thriller. That type of story structure lends itself to excitement. A very interior storyline might not — for what it’s worth, that’s what I think tripped up the movie version of The Hunger Games. That book was a page-turner for me; I stayed up at night because I had find out what happened next. So much of it — and much of what appealed to me — lay in the protagonist’s reaction to the world around her: her thoughts; her ideas. The movie, in comparison, was bland. You and I could make a lot of arguments about how and why that was… one of them, for me, is that the movie failed to cash in on the first-person, interior landscape of the book, lingering instead on the easy, outside paraphernalia.

Still, I think that if you’ve got a good storyline, no matter what the genre, you could create a book trailer for your book. What a way to capture audience — our social media sharers these days are absolutely video-obsessed!

Seriously…

I mean, really.

In fact, creating a video could be a great benchmark for figuring out if you do have a story, and how interesting that story is. In a way, a trailer is kind of like an abstract of the book, or a pitch letter. You have to be able to capture the essence of the story and the interest of the audience in a short amount of time — hook them, leave them wanting more.

I don’t want to say the book trailer replaces the book, however. Film and literature are different media, and need to be imagined differently. Which I frankly regard as another advantage of the book trailer concept — cross-media play is a tried-and-true recipe for breaking into the creative zone. Our brains are forced to be dynamic, considering artistic problems from different angles. I wrote a little about this, too.

If you’re creating a book trailer as a test for the story’s viability, there’s no reason your film efforts ever need to see the light of day, though. Like my drawings, the video can be just for you…

…but if you do make a book trailer that you want the world to see, let me know. And long live the story!

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What do you think of the book trailer idea? Blessing or curse?

The Myth of Originality

"Wanted" poster featuring hero of Life of Brian

CC image courtesy of dangerismycat on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

There is an unforgettable scene from Monty Python’s The Life of Brian, in which Brian addresses a crowd of people.

Brian: You are all individuals!
Crowd (in chorus): We are all individuals!
B: You are all different!
C: We are all different!
Bystander: I’m not–
C: Shhhh!!

For anyone working in creative industries — or, let’s face it, technology — there is an incredible pressure to produce something new, original, unique… and the problem then becomes, is there, in fact, anything new under the sun? Or are we all just working on a better mousetrap?

Influence versus Imitation

In the history of literature (or music, or movies, or TV shows), how many love stories or coming-of-age stories have already been written? In the smaller universe of personal development and self-help, how many different ways can we think of to say “No fear!” and “Trust!” and “Try!”? How many rock songs or blues songs or operas already exist? How many pianists are brilliant and how many artists know how to paint or to sculpt or to draw or to photograph?

I’m a member of several online music communities. In addition to the specific musicians in whose name(s) the communities have been created, members often discuss other musicians whose music they enjoy. These other musicians might have taken a lot of musical influences from Musician or Musicians A. Periodically, community members would get into vociferous disputes with each other about these other musicians, and whether the musical similarities (outlined in technical detail according to each arguer’s musical instrument of choice) were really just INFLUENCES, or if the musicians were actually IMITATING Musician A, without contributing anything unique or original of their own.

These were scorched-earth battles, and I saw a lot of them rage online over the years. Occasionally the situation would become so extreme that one or all arguers would be banned from the online community or would leave in a huff of their own accord, spewing profanities.

The question began innocently enough in each individual’s mind, and is close to my own mind today: what is originality? Can we define it? Shouldn’t we strive for it?  … Or, as I increasingly believe, is originality the wrong goal to aim at?

“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken”

Artists often struggle with this. Influence and inspiration have a central place in the development of any artist. We all started by admiring the work of others. When we began, our influences could sometimes be painfully clear. In my early days of story-obsession, I just about oozed Mary Higgins Clark. I had no difficulty answering the question, “Who’s your favorite author?” Neither did anyone else.

We are influenced by our predecessor artists, just as I for a time strove to write mysteries and thrillers featuring a plucky heroine facing personal challenges. Sometimes, we consciously copy our inspirations. Both forms of practicing our art are valid.

On the other hand, as Oscar Wilde points out with his trademark razor-sharp wit, it’s no good trying to be them.

We already have a Hemingway, a Charlotte Brontë, a George R.R. Martin, and a Maeve Binchy.

If I simply rewrite what Stephen King wrote, no one’s ever going to remember any of my work. They’ll (rightly) remember Stephen King. I might even help them to remember him. But am I not doing a disservice to my audience?

What if my audience is there for me?

I went to a meeting of the local chapter of the National Speakers Association this month. The keynote speaker told the audience: “Nobody is there to hear your content. Even if you are a content speaker. I’m sorry, they can find that for five dollars on Amazon, or for free on Google. They aren’t there to hear your content. They are there for your performance.”

Setting up a new goal

Which is why people who like love stories or coming-of-age stories will continue to read the new stories of this kind that we create… even though they’ve read other stories before. This is why people who love paintings or sculpture or photography will seek out more, although they’ve seen other photographs, paintings, and sculptures. It’s why people still listen to music, although they’ve heard other music before.

The question then, isn’t about originality. The question is, what is it about me that I can bring to my art?

That’s what we are here for.

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Do you struggle with being “original” in your art?

Writing with IPA (and not in the snow)

We got your Shakespearean OP -- Yeah you know me!

confused-looking woman holding a notebook

CC image “Confused” courtesy of CollegeDegrees360 on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

M paused as he explained the definition of the word. “You know that weird string of letter-like symbols when you look it up in the dictionary?” he said. “Do any of you have a clue what that’s all about?”

The nerd in me took .02 seconds to pipe up. “That’s the International Phonetic Alphabet,” I said, equal parts proud and embarrassed.

“Of course it is,” said M.

The International Phonetic Alphabet, or IPA for short (not as tasty as certain fermented beverages that also go by the same name, but at least as interesting, in certain circles) is a kind of symbolic spelling that linguists use to represent how a word is pronounced without stumbling over spelling conventions. The IPA applies across all known languages or dialects. IPA spelling shows up immediately after the boldfaced entry of every word in the dictionary, between two backslashes, as with this example from Merriam Webster:

dic·tio·nary: noun \ˈdik-shə-ˌner-ē\

Since I was a somewhat nerdy child, and did use the dictionary while I was growing up (going through the pupae stage of my bookworminess, I guess you could say), I had long wondered about those symbols myself. Although I supposed they were related to pronunciation, I was never quite sure how until I took my first phonetics class.

The sounds of language

Ahh, phonetics. The study of the sounds of speech. Typically, when we’re talking about how a writer renders a particular dialect or language, we’ll say “s/he wrote that dialect phonetically” to mean that the spelling evokes sound rather than writing conventions. “I’m gonna” versus “I’m going to,” for example. The thing is, every author has his or her own idea of what that dialect actually sounds like, and all kinds of spelling variations can be used. How do I know what I’m hearing in my own head is what the writer intended?

This poses a problem just among English-speakers. Try to get an American English speaker or a Welsh English speaker to write “phonetically” for an Aussie or a Kiwi. They will just look at each other curiously. The vowels for all our varied English dialects are totally different.

Enter the IPA. Every symbol is assigned one sound. Additional notations known as diacritics add details such as whether the sound is voiced or voiceless, aspirated (followed by a puff of exhaled air) or not. Although based on the Latin alphabet, IPA contains plenty of other funky symbols to keep digital transcriptionists busy.

To the layperson, IPA looks like a bunch of hieroglyphics. Learning IPA is the equivalent of learning a new written language. It’s most useful in academic circles and for students of language. (I did say I was a nerdy child, right?)

IPA in daily life and in Shakespeare

We could use it to represent the sounds of English today. All of us, native speakers or not, have at one point complained about how English spelling and pronunciation don’t seem to have ANYTHING to do with each other sometimes.

But there was a time when English writing was much more “phonetic” than it is today. And scholars say Shakespeare captures a lot of that language.

The fruits of research into the language of Shakespeare have even taken the stage at The Globe Theatre in London, where a number of productions were performed in what is called OP, “original pronunciation.”

Original pronunciation, you say? How do they know what Shakespeare’s compatriots actually sounded like?!

For a fuller discussion, watch this video. In brief, according to the noted historical linguist David Crystal, there are three main types of evidence researchers use to determine the pronunciation of historical dialect. First, they look at what people writing at the time have to say about how their language is spoken. Second, they use the written evidence (since English used to be much more phonetic, spelling gives us helpful clues). And third, researchers look at poetry and rhyme, on the concept that poetic stanzas were meant to rhyme, and not look strange as they do to the modern eye.

The result is something that doesn’t sound at all the way most of us are used to hearing Shakespeare pronounced (watch for examples). To my ears, it even sounds sort of Irish. I swear it’s not the apostrophe in my name talking.

I’m pretty sure The Globe’s production staff put together a pronunciation guide for the actors who had to learn the script in OP. I doubt it was an IPA guide, though.

 

Bi-ˈkəz ðæt wʌd bi ˈkɹe-zi!1

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What’s your favorite nerdy discovery?

 

1 With apologies for any mistakes I may have made, or any dialectal offenses I may have incurred.