Writing inspirations – jumping back to 1938

There is little in this photo to say it isn’t the 1930s. The car – a Packard Six – dates to 1935. The building behind is an early example of deco-age streamline design from 1932.

Wright_1935Packard I took it during the annual ‘art deco’ weekend in Napier, New Zealand. But it makes me think; it’s too easy to look at old black-and-white photos and forget that, way back when, the world was in colour for those living through it. Henry Ford insisted that customers could have any colour, as long as it was black; but by the 1930s cars were emerging in pastel shades – typified by the cream of this immaculate 1935 Packard Six. That highlights one of the essentials of writing; infusing colour – in all its meanings – into writing. A thought to inspire. Copyright © Matthew Wright 2015

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Writing inspirations – a small dose of golden age Hollywood magic

I spent the weekend just gone in Napier, New Zealand – where I went to the annual Art Deco weekend, a light-hearted celebration of Hollywood 1930s fantasy lifestyles. Apt in a city that was rebuilt to those styles during the 1930s.

Wright_Deco Party Central

Every other person is dressed in period costume. The celebration captures not just the way we’d like to imagine the period might have been – but the aspirations of those who lived through it. And I think that’s inspiring on so many levels.

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2015

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Writing inspirations – they that go down to the sea in ships

There are an awful lot of small boats in New Zealand. I suppose it’s predictable, when you think about the size of the coastline.

Boat harbour, Oriental Bay, Wellington.

Boat harbour, Oriental Bay, Wellington.

I photographed these in the harbour at Oriental Bay, Wellington. And as always there is inspiration there. Who owns these boats? Where have they travelled? What plans, what dreams, do those who sail in them have? Fertile ground for speculation – and for writers.

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2015

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Writing inspirations – tantalising glimpses of a summer sea

I often find inspiration comes with quick glances of some scene or view; it unfolds before me and – as suddenly – is gone, leaving an impression of itself that spurs the imagination, because it is so incomplete.

Azure seas silhouetted against pohutukawa. A snapshot I took a few weeks back.

Azure seas silhouetted against pohutukawa. A snapshot I took a few weeks back.

I spotted just such a moment a few weeks back; the azure Pacific ocean, glimpsed between the dark overhanging branches of a low Pohutukawa (Metrosideros excelsa). The view seemed ripe with conceptual potential – an inspiring thought for any writer. Copyright © Matthew Wright 2015

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If writing’s art, what should we deliver?

It’s over a decade since I paid a stupid amount of money to attend a lecture given by Malcolm McLaren – yes, that Malcolm McLaren. It was touted as a ‘cyber lecture’ in which he was going to reveal the philosophy of his approach to art. And after he’d dribbled on about nothing for about four hours, he did.

Yes, this IS my typewriter. What's it doing on the Wellington Writers Walk? Er - introductions...

Never mind the bollocks, here’s my typewriter.

It was really simple. Deliver paying customers nothing. Emptiness. As an art statement, you understand. He insisted it had apparently underpinned his direction of the ‘Sex Pistols’ back in the seventies. Kind of clever in a rather anarchic-in-the-UK sort of way.

Alas, as McLaren continued to blather on in verbal circles about what always turned out to be – well, nothing, I realised he’d managed to export that particular art statement to New Zealand. The fact that he was sustaining it for so long made clear that his particular brand of ‘nothing’ was, indeed, very cleverly thought out.

But time was getting towards midnight and, as he showed no signs of flagging in his delivery of empty, I felt I should respond in kind by rising to my feet and engaging in a conceptual ‘nothing march’ to the nearest exit. It wasn’t easy, because a fair number of others in the audience had decided this was also going to be the way they expressed their art. McLaren suddenly realised what was happening. ‘Wait, wait,’ he began calling from the stage. ‘I’ve got more to say’.

Actually, he hadn’t, and the stage manager evidently also thought so because he shortly had the lecture shut down so the stage crew could all go home.

Conceptually, I could see what McLaren was getting at by punking art, just as he had punked music. And art is in the eye of the beholder. But I still felt vaguely ripped off. And that, to me, raises some obvious questions about writing, which is a form of art.

The onus is on writers to produce material that takes their readers on an emotional journey – which isn’t going to be the personal emotional journey the writer has creating the stuff. The emotional experience a reader has may not even be what the author intended to create in the recipient. But it’s still valid. It’s one of the reasons why writing, by any measure, classifies as art – because it invokes that abstract multi-dimensionality of emotion on so many levels, in both creator and recipient.

The nature of that journey is, very much, up to the writer. That’s how the art of writing is personalised; it’s how it’s given its individual character. The issue is being able to deliver something – an expression of writing as art – that achieves a result, both for the artist (writer) and for the recipient.

I believe, on my own experience, that McLaren chose ‘empty’ as his art expression. That certainly isn’t mine. And there’s no room for pretension or snobbery – not if the artist wants to be genuine. Thoughts?

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2015

Writing inspirations – the incongruity of standing alone

A tree I found on the foreshore in Hawke’s Bay seems somehow brave and yet also fragile in a place where there are few other trees.

Brave and yet incongruous...

Brave and yet incongruous…

When I think about it, this sole tree – standing there with the slender protection of that fence – somehow encapsulates what it is to be a writer – standing out there where you’re likely to be weathered by the elements, largely alone. And yet not. I find that inspiring. Do you?

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2015

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Should we be dispassionate about writing – like Spock?

The other week I argued that Terry Brooks’ Sword of Shannara was a poorly written Tolkien rip-off that put me off the rest of the novels. Responses fell into two camps – people who agreed and thought the whole Shannara series was dismal; and those who were offended.

Wright_Typewriter2Fair point. People don’t have to agree – indeed, differing opinions are great, because they push discussion. And maybe something nobody thought of will come out of it. That’s what counts. Good stuff.

But what intrigued me about the discussion was the level of emotion it provoked in one or two places. A couple of of the responses were – well, a bit personal. Surely it’s possible to chat about the abstract value or otherwise of books? And then I got thinking. In some ways it isn’t, because the purpose of both reading and writing is emotional.

Authors write because they get an emotional satisfaction from doing so. Readers read because of the emotional journey it produces. By describing the opinion I and apparently others have of Brooks, I’d affirmed one sort of opinion. But I’d also trodden on the toes of others, who got a positive charge from reading his material.

The question, then, is whether writers and readers should step back from the emotion? In some ways I don’t think it’s possible for reading, because the very purpose of reading is to have an emotional experience. People read to become entangled in the emotional journey – be it to learn something, to feel validated, to find place, or simply to be distracted. However, I think it’s essential for writers to step back.

Yes, authors write because they get their own emotional satisfaction from doing so – from producing material that meets a need of their own and which will take others on an emotional journey. But at the same time, the clarity of thought that this process requires demands abstraction. How often have you written something in the heat of a moment and then, later, read through it and realised it’s foolish?

Authors have to be able to not only include the intended emotion, but also to step back from their own entanglements from time to time – to look at what they are producing from a more abstract perspective. Only then can the content and intent become properly clear – and the emotional journey on which they are going to take the reader emerge in balance. Really, we all have to approach writing like Spock would.

Seething with emotion underneath – sure – but not letting that get in the way of careful thought and analysis. Thoughts?

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2015

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