Creating Inspiration

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Sometimes we wait too long to be inspired. Sometimes we expect the world to come to us when we should venture out into the world. I have been avoiding writing a blog entry for a few months, expecting that something exciting would happen worth talking about. Or perhaps I was waiting for some news about my writing. However, experiencing setbacks with my writing should not have prevented me from taking time to express myself.

What I should have been doing is getting out and finding inspiration from the world around me. Life isn’t always glamorous, but sometimes real beauty can be found in the small things that you see everyday or little interactions you have with people around you. You only have to look at how many people post photos of their cat, or what they ate for lunch on social media to see that people think every day life is worth sharing.

I have to remind myself that we create our own excitement, just as we create our own boredom. In my job as a sound designer, I am constantly having to switch on creativity as if it were flowing from a tap. Sometimes this is easy to do, if the project is exciting, or new, or if I am on a roll, but sometimes it’s hard and I have to find new ways to trigger that creative enthusiasm. Often this involves going out and doing field recording or buying a new plug-in for my studio. New tools and toys are a handy way to rekindle a childlike approach to work. You want to make your job more like playing and less like labour.

For writing, new toys usually means stationary.  I love stationary. The smell of a new paper journal and the feel of a fresh pen fill me with joy. Today however, my new toy is my dictation software. So far it seems to be working fairly well. However, I think I could have typed all of this by hand much faster,  but I’m sure I’ll get better.

Aside from gadgets and gizmos, the real reason I got back onto this blog today was because I started back at work after my Christmas break. I was inspired by seeing my fellow artists at work and feeling the good vibes of being back on the project with my team. Sometimes free time and leisure can be the biggest killer of inspiration for me and it’s not until I’m flat out at work that I find myself thinking about my own art.

So, I’d love to hear from you. What motivates you all to pick up your instruments? Or to sit at that keyboard? Or open another blank page? How do you create your inspiration?

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Creative Freedom–Selling Sounds and Selling Words.

Hi guys, It’s been a while.

There has been a lot happening here. I’ve been busy helping Dave get the first of our commercial sound libraries up for sale online. After working in the film industry on other people’s projects for so long, it’s great to finally start making stuff for ourselves.

If you’re looking for some lovely nature sounds to write to, then I highly recommend them 🙂 You can check them out on Dave’s website.

Meanwhile, my publishing plan is ticking along. I just read this article on readsy, interviewing David Fugate, agent of Andy Weir. (Author of ‘the Martian’).

I found it very interesting. Agents are talking more these days about indie-publishing as a positive thing.  He says:

‘I’m a huge fan of self-publishing (in all its myriad forms) and what it has done for both authors and readers. I think it’s amazing that it’s no longer a question of if your work will be published, but how…. If what you’re doing is good, you absolutely will have an opportunity to find an audience for it. It just feels like a much more hopeful, positive environment in which to be a writer…. Now is the best time, in the entire history of the written word, to be a writer.’

And that is what I love about it. The positivity it brings. I feel so liberated knowing that I don’t need to pine my hours away waiting for a rejection from yet another agent. I don’t have to wait months just to get a request for a partial and get my hopes up just to be rejected again. I don’t have to spend hours researching publishing houses and deciding if they’d be interested in my book.

I can spend all that time instead on solidifying my own process, honing my marketing skills and lets not forget, WRITING!

So between our sound libraries, my writing and my work in Sound Design, I am loving my creative freedom more than ever!

 

 

Hyperphantasia! The Joys of an overactive imagination

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I only discovered this recently, that some people can not see images when they read. They call this Aphantasia. I was so upset to learn that so many people miss out on the magic of mental images.
I think I fall at the opposite end of the spectrum. Hyperphantasia.
 
I see so much when I read that it distracts me. It’s not just images though. I hear, I smell, I taste. I get so wound up in exploring another world inside my head that sometimes it takes me months to finish a book. The more I love the book, sometimes, the harder it is to read.
 
No wonder everyone called me a daydreamer!
I was teased as a child for living too much in an imaginary world, but that never stopped me. I never stopped being creative. Now that I’m an adult, I have a career in the film industry, Im an author, a musician and a painter. I can never get enough of the fantastical realms within my own mind. There’s nothing better than getting out those ideas and expressing them through image and sound.
I love being a daydreamer.
The main character in my upcoming book, James, is also a chronic daydreamer. Though his dreams are more nightmarish. And of course, his nightmares also have the unfortunate tendency to come true.
It’s been a while since I gave an update on my plans to publish, but I swear there will be more news very soon!
In the meantime, I’m going to just grab a book and have myself a little daydream.
 
Is there anyone else out there who has Hyperphantasia?
 

Science is Art. Art is Science

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Thanks NASA for constantly doing research for me. With a steady flow of inspiration coming from the scientists of the world, all I have to do is do a quick google search and BOOM…super exciting news about the cosmos unfolds before me. Of course the scientists also employ artists to come up with lovely pictures that I can sit and stare at, waiting for my brain to sprout some exciting idea. This image was created by an artist called Karl Kofoed, famous for his sci-fi illustrations. He created this image of the snow fields of Pluto by using data collected by the New Horizons mission. This image struck me instantly since one of the alien worlds in my book was based on Pluto. It’s fantastic to have a visual reference to connect to the imaginary world that I created.

Where would I be with out you science?

This brings me to an issue that I ponder quite regularly. Science and art are closer related than many people think. Back in the early days of modern sceince, before photography, scientists relied on artists to draw anatomical and biological figures in order to document and learn. More often than not, the scientist was the artist. Remember the guy who did this? Da Vinci? Scientist or artist? Is there a difference?

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Well, sure I guess there are huge differences, but I think that it’s important to regularly reflect on the interconnected nature of our lives. No aspect of human culture can truly be separated from the rest. Politics, history, human relationships, religion, sport, everything is intertwined.

As Einstein says:

“All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree. All these aspirations are directed toward ennobling man’s life, lifting it from the sphere of mere physical existence and leading the individual towards freedom.”

I couldn’t have said it better.

My brother is a research scientist, and while he loves art, he often says that he wishes that scientists got as much credit and notoriety for their work as artists do. I agree with this wholeheartedly, the sciences deserve much more support and praise than they often receive. However, so do the arts. And I’m being broad here, including anything from visual arts, films, and sculpture, through to books, music, dance, etc. I think that without art, the human race could not be what it is today. While I’m an artist, I know that nothing I create could be possible without the gifts of science. My computer agrees with me. What do you think? Are you a scientist or an artist?

 

http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/galleries/snow-fields-of-pluto-artists-concept

Share a Story of Hope

 

It seems I can’t look at the internet at the moment without coming across some news about the global refugee crisis. It is a human exodus unlike anything we’ve seen since World War II. With social media as prevalent and powerful as it is these days, there is no shortage of horrors to be seen, from photos of suffering children, to YouTube videos of people desperate to find refuge. But there are moments of hope and kindness too, such as the welcome that Germany offered to many of these displaced people.

It is such a complex and harrowing situation, one that I am not going to get involved in discussing on this blog other than to say there is no shortage of inspiration for artists these days. Social media has brought the world in closer. We can see, hear and share our stories with just a few keystrokes. But it’s a system that encourages a short attention span too. It’s easy to become disassociated from the things we see on the internet. Over-saturated, inundated and bombarded. Sometimes I just want to unhook from this network. I want to unplug from all the updating, advertising and media mayhem and just switch off. But it is important not to give up on humanity. We all do what we can to help those in need. Whether it is through offering donations or simply sharing their stories.

We are all in this together. Each person on the planet who lives at this very moment has one thing in common — we are here. We have no where else to call home. In the face of every fellow human, I see my own face reflected. If one person suffers, we all suffer. It is easy to feel helpless, simply because the problem is so far away from where we might live. But we’re closer than we think.

Every person out there doing some good and lending a hand is depending on us to make sure their efforts are appreciated. So, if all you can do is read an article or share a post, you are still making a difference. Find a person who is making a positive change and share their story.

 

 

Explore Space Now!

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Imagine travelling vast distances across space and time to explore alien worlds and distant galaxies. I know I do. Just about my favourite part of writing sci-fi is learning about the mysteries of the universe. I love everything from the serene to the deadly, the ugly to the awesome.

Which is why I find programs like Space Engine — http://en.spaceengine.org/ — so amazing. Check it out, it’s free. (Though when anyone offers a wonderful service for free, I always feel more inclined to donate to support their generous work.)

As it says on the site:

“A free space simulation program that lets you explore the universe in three dimensions, from planet Earth to the most distant galaxies. Areas of the known universe are represented using actual astronomical data, while regions uncharted by astronomy are generated procedurally. Millions of galaxies, trillions of stars, countless planets – all available for exploration. You can land any planet, moon or asteroid and watch alien landscapes and celestial phenomena. You can even pilot starships and atmospheric shuttles.”

Of course, reading about space or watching simulations always ends up leaving me wanting more! I want to go there in person. So then I start to write.

Everything I  learn about astrobiology and exo-planets I use to feed my world-building. I usually have to leave a lot out of the narrative, unfortunately. Back-story often clogs the pace and flow of action, however, it does help the writer build characters and shape drama.

Where a character comes from, their biology and their planet’s history will influence their interaction with other characters. Getting it across to the reader without info-dumping is the tricky part. Readers don’t need to know about the specifics of an alien planet’s geology and history, however you can imply a lot of information through characterisation. For example, a tall thin alien might come from a planet with a lower gravity than ours. This would also affect their movement, their sense of balance, their agility etc.

Of course, many would argue against the use of bipedal aliens in sci-fi. Many people complain that films and stories often assume that aliens would look like humans, but with funny noses or pointy ears.

I simply think we make aliens look human because we want to read human stories. Don’t get me wrong, I love sci-fi that pushes the boundaries and dares to portray a more realistic vision of life in space. However, personally, I’m more interested in writing stories that are at their core, tales of adventure. I’m basically writing adventure-fantasy set in space and why not? I understand that some people want sci-fi to be hard and clean and technically 100% accurate, I love that stuff too. But why should ‘space’ be off limits for fantasy writers? Especially when no human, (as far as we know), has gone to other star-systems and met alien life? Isn’t it the ultimate fantasy?

We’re living in an exciting time for scientific discovery, but also for creative introspection. In a world where much has already been discovered, space truly is the final frontier. So get out there and explore!

 

Words for Mum

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Today is my mother’s birthday.

Sadly she passed away in 2008, so she’s not here for me to share this day with her. However, she is still giving me love and inspiration daily as her influence lives on in all that I do. She was just about the most generous, loving person I’ve ever met. She always put others before her self. She always took the time to make everyone feel happy and loved. She was an endless joy.

Her passion was reading. While I love reading, I could never come close to the amount of book-time that she managed to clock up. Each day would begin and end with a book, and she rarely left home without one. I must confess that I didn’t read much in my youth. I read a lot of non-fiction while I was studying at university, but there were whole years where I didn’t touch a piece of fiction. She thought that meant that I didn’t like reading much, but that wasn’t the case. I am a creator and sometimes that makes me selfish with my time. Unfortunately, I’m a also a bit of a workaholic. I can only seem to find time to engage in leisure activities when they directly support my work. When I was a musician, I listened to a lot more music. Now that I work on films, guess what? I watch a lot of films! So, it’s only now that I’m pursuing writing as a craft, that I can make more time for reading. I only started writing seriously in 2010, so my mother missed out on seeing me truly enjoy books.

My mother always wanted to write a book. I often suggested that she should try, but I think the mystery of ‘how would I even go about trying to get it published?’ held her back. (That, and she was busy raising four kids and working as a language teacher). If she were alive now, I’d absolutely force her to give it a crack.

I wish she was around to share ideas with. She would have loved to explore the challenge of publishing with me. With the kindle, so much has changed. There is so much more room for people to express themselves these days and with social media, everyone has more chance of finding their audience. I wonder how many people have lived and died, carrying their stories to the grave with them. Too many to count.

I urge everyone to chase your dreams and make your art. Don’t wait. It doesn’t matter if you only manage to reach a handful of people, or fill whole stadiums. What matters is that you put it out there.

When I was a guitar teacher I used to tell my students that it doesn’t matter if you only ever play music for yourself and a few close friends, art is meant to be shared. And make no mistake, anything creative is ART. Art doesn’t need a price-tag and it doesn’t need a tick of approval from some critic. So get to it. Make your art. Hang it up, belt it out, share it and watch it grow. Do it now, and do it with love.

No matter how few eyes will find them, every word I write is in some way thanks to everyone who has touched my life.

So, thank you! And happy birthday to one of the people who has helped me most — my beautiful Mum. xx

 

Imagining Beauty

‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty’, so said Keats. I wonder what each person sees in their mind what visions are conjured when they hear that phrase. Or perhaps, what they envision when they simply see or hear the word ‘beauty’? The mystery of the mind and its complex machinations is at the heart of all art, no matter how small or great. The child sitting at a desk at school writes what he or she sees of the small world that they know and the great universe they can imagine. The rulers of countries sit at their desk signing their name and attaching it to ideas and dreams they have about the future.

Too often people consume their day with negative worries and fears. So much more time should be given to our imaginings. So much more effort should be spent on visualisations of what we hope will be, what we wish to achieve. Especially if those dreams and wishes are of things that are good.

I was inspired just now about the concept of beauty when I was flicking through YouTube watching short animation sci-fi films. There is some outstanding work being done out there, especially by people who are funding the projects themselves. Often I get so caught up in reading current sci-fi work that I forget how immediate and blistering inspiration can come from sight and sound. How the vast landscapes of written text can so quickly be etched into mindbogglingly beautiful reality through the medium of film.

Short films in particular, need to infuse a ton of of ideas into the viewers imagination in a short window of time. Perhaps this gives the short film genre more license to be more disjointed and incomplete than feature films. They offer only fractured glimpses of another world just as short stories do, without being bogged down by the constraints of character development, story arcs and plotting that larger works depend on.

This seems like a great excuse for me to offer a plug for a sci-fi short film I worked on in 2010. I co-designed the sound for a film called Abiogenesis. As the blurb states; “In this breathtaking science fiction spectacle, a strange mechanical device lands on a desolate world and uses the planet to undergo a startling transformation, that has profound implications for an entire galaxy.”

You can buy it here on iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/abiogenesis/id644210102 or preview it. There is only a trailer of it on YouTube that doesn’t feature my sound sadly, nor the actual musical sound track by Rhian Sheehan. It has won numerous festival awards that has put it in a position to be eligible for an Oscar award in 2014.

Shameless plug aside, another film I just watched that sparked my interest was one called ‘The Gift’ –

The complexity of the world building and sheer beauty of ‘The Gift’ is laced with a sense of mystery that utterly captivated me. Though it is only a few minutes in duration and barely scratches at the surface of a compelling view of a futuristic Russia, it draws me in and leaves me craving more. The key character is a creepily well animated robot butler with porcelain skin. He is chased and hunted down by police for stealing a strange metallic box containing what we are only told is a ‘unicorn.’ When the film concludes, I know I should be disappointed for not finding out what the ‘unicorn’ actually is, but instead I’m glad. The puzzle is left open for the viewers imagination to toy with. My mind twists and turns over what the ‘unicorn’ could possibly be and what the motives of the people who wanted to obtain it are. As one of my favourite film makers David Lynch once said, “The more unknowable the mystery, the more beautiful it is.”

A riddle unsolved, that is the spark of inspiration that I crave constantly. Like a book not quite completed, the painting I imagine myself creating before I start, a quiet afternoon spent pondering what I will do next year.

When I was younger I used to think endlessly about the universe and what it meant to say that it was infinite. I used to end up feeling scared, intimidated and helpless. When I thought too long about it all, I always wound up thinking that perhaps there was no meaning to life? Then one day, I had a revelation. A moment of relaxation…of letting go. I realised that if we knew the reasons, the limits, or all the answers then it wouldn’t be nearly as exciting or profound or beautiful. Though every day the sun rises and sets, everything is always changing, always fresh. Transformation of matter and energy is endless and so is my daily appreciation for everything that I see, hear, taste, smell, think and feel. Beauty is just that to me, endless mystery.

How about you? What does beauty mean to you? I’d love to hear since only through sharing our stories can new idea be born.