Our first week back in New Zealand has been action-packed. In addition to my sprained ankle, we also had severe jet-lag and a hideous case of post-plane-flu. We’re looking for a new place to rent and so are living in a motel as we’ve been too sick to stay with friends. But none of that stopped us for jumping straight into our creative workflow. Though this week was been mostly been about artistic conventions and festivals.
Recently I was nominated for a Sir Julius Vogel Award, for my short story, Narco, which was published in 2016 in the At the Edge anthology, edited by Lee Murray and Dan Rabarts. I was so excited to be nominated and honoured to be shortlisted amongst some other amazing New Zealand writers.
The awards were announced last weekend at Lexicon, the New Zealand’s National Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention held in Taupo. Sadly, I was unable to attend this year, however, I followed the awards ceremony online. I was so excited to see many of my colleagues win awards for their amazing work.
Eileen Mueller won Best New Talent, and as she is one of my writing critique friends I am so over the moon for her. My good friend, Lee Murray won Best Novel for her awesome book, Into The Mist, as well as an award for Services To Science Fiction, Fantasy And Horror. She also won Best Collected Work, which she shared with another good friend, Dan Rabarts for their anthology, At the Edge. Jean Gilbert won Best Youth Novel for, Light in My Dark. I haven’t read that one so I look forward to checking it out.
My short story did not win, however, I feel that being nominated was a great achievement in itself. A.J. Fitzwater claimed the prize for her beautiful story, Splintr.
Well done to all of the winners and nominees.
So what was I doing instead of enjoying the writers convention? I was at the Wairoa Maori Film Festival. My fiancee Dave Whitehead had his directorial debut short film, Possum showing. Despite not feeling 100%, we both had a lovely weekend. It was great networking with film people from all across New Zealand and abroad. The festival features films by native people worldwide, providing a great opportunity for cultural exchange as well as seeing some beautifully crafted films.
Dave’s film was greatly received by the audiences up in Nuhaka and it was made even more special because his father was born there and Dave’s film was set on the east coast too.
Possum is a tale of two young brothers who accompany their lumberjack father to a forest campsite. At odds with each other, their relationship meets the ultimate test when theyventure into the woods, hunting a notorious possum named Scar.
This screening was just the start of many more to come. I can’t wait to see where Possum takes us next.
We would have been in Berlin during the weekend and by now we’d be in Norway. We would have seen Radiohead in Oslo a couple of nights ago. We gave our tickets to some friends though, so it brings us joy to know that we could give that experience to people we love.
Even though we missed out on part of our overseas trip, we got to meet some great people that we wouldn’t have if we hadn’t come home early.
Things never go as planned, but that is just all part of the adventure. So get out there and make life magic people!
So a month and a half ago, my fiancee Dave and I embarked on a voyage. Not exactly a holiday, not exactly a work trip–somewhere in the middle. It is a creative expedition. It was based on an idea that we never really go anywhere or have time for anything except when work is involved. Our best trips away together have mostly been short journeys within New Zealand to go and record sounds.
So we figured if we were ever going to go on any big overseas trips, then we should involve our work in the creative industries. Last year, we had two friends who had both offered us to come and stay at their artist residencies.
The first was from Peter Roberts, a picture editor who had a residency in Ibiza off the coast of Spain for writers. It was a house once used by famous New Zealand author, Janet Frame. This sounded like a perfect chance for me to focus on the second instalment of my children’s sci-fi adventure and Dave could work on his feature film scripts.
The second residency was in Trélex in Switzerland. Our friend Nina Rodin runs an artist residency for all manner of creative artists and she has not had many sound artists stay at Trélex. Her husband David Rodin went to school with my Dave, so he had been talking for years about the idea of heading over to visit them, but the idea of doing art at the same time was doubly fantastic. Not only would we do plenty of sound art, Dave and I both love painting, photography, video-art and composition, so there was plenty of things for us to experiment with that we normally never have time for.
It would have been so easy to think; “Oh yes, that would be lovely to travel overseas and work on our art,” but never actually get around to it. For once Dave and I wanted to jump on such an opportunity and go for it.
Last year was a big year for Dave as he directed his first short film. And my book is in the final stages of preparing for publishing, but I wanted time to dive into the second book before the first one comes out. With a heavy work load planned for the back half of 2017, we decided that from the end of March to June would be the best chance we had to head to Europe for a couple of months. When we get back Dave has his short film screening in some festivals as well as a very exciting writer’s workshop to attend, so now is the perfect time to get things moving on the writing front.
Though we were only planning on spending two weeks at each of the residency locations, our process of creating art was one that we wouldengaged with every day of the trip. We record sound every single day, no matter where we are.I’ve been keeping a couple of creative journals with sketching and writing ideas. And of course Dave has his trusty cameraand I have the GoPro.
We started out in the UK, spending a few days In London with some friends before driving up north to Scotland. We stopped in to see relatives I had in England, but for the most part we were travelling heavily every day and visiting as many attractions as we could all the way. All the while, we were gathering sounds, video footage and artistic photographs to inspire our art. Some highlights were Stonehenge and Avebury, the Roman baths and Lindisfarne and of course, the castles. Edinburgh and Stirling castles where stunning, but some of my favourites were the derelict ruins standing alone in the mists without tourists and gift shops. Places where you could sit and sketch and soak in the ancient landscape.
The longest we spent in one place was four days in Skye. Skye was breathtaking. Such wildness and isolation, I felt very much at home there. I guess in many ways it’s similar to New Zealand. Harsh weather and rugged landscape permeates the cultures of the Antipodes and the Hebrides with a similar fortitude. The first two weeks in the UK was so jam-packed full of excitement and adventure it felt like a lot longer than two weeks. I planned on doing more blogging on the journey and I also had hoped to start up a video blog, but we’ve been busier than I expected and quite often without very good Internet access. So I thought I should make a start somewhere. Better late than never.
Today I have more time on my hands because yesterday, I badly sprained my ankle.There is nothing quite in injury to allow time for retrospective and slowing down to appreciate what you have. For example, I am incredibly glad that I only sprained my ankle and and didn’t break it. Today is 18thof May and we have exactly one month left of our trip. We will arrive back in Wellington on the 18th June. The trip has been in some ways longer than I could have imagined and in other ways has flown by.
Our two weeks in Ibiza, was amazing. The warmth was a welcome change from Scotland and we made sure we explored the landscape there and went swimming in the crystal blue waters. I had a lot of trouble with asthma and sickness, and yet we still got a lot of writing done. It was so incredibly luxurious to be able to focus on writing, considering it a full-time job instead of having to cram it in around a normal workload.
We were in Barcelona for only three days after that and though we didn’t get to see much of the city, we saw a lot of the Gothic Quarter where we were staying and had very splendid time enjoying the food and wine of that beautiful city.
Trélex has been magical. Staying with David and Nina Rodin and their family has been a privilege and a pleasure. Though our time he has been short, already we have achieved a lot. I have been painting and sketching more than I have in years, and I have gotten back into doing my audiovisual art which I’m very excited about. I’ve been continuing writing and Dave has too. He has made some great breakthroughs with his scripts and I’ve been able to help him with editing which I normally don’t have much time for. And of course we have been recording plenty of sound.
Switzerland is a wonderful place for recording soundscapes. There are lots of public parks and wide open spaces and lots of access to forests and mountains. There is so much more here that we could record but I’m very glad that we have some great recordings of cowbells and church bells and tranquil environments. The bells, the bells!
Now we only have four days left in Switzerland, and I’m very aware of how difficult it will be moving on from here with my injury. With out recording gear, we have way too much luggage, so I hope I can lose the crutches soon. We are supposed to catch a train to France on Monday, but I have to go to the hospital for them to assess my ankle in the morning and then who knows what will happen. Though I hope it heals quickly, I also know that it will stop us from doing big and ambitious hikes which is sad, but like I said, I am very grateful for the things I do have and will make use of this time that I am less mobile by doing more art. As this is a creative journey, you have two create what you can using the tools is that you have available. Though this is my first blog entry on my journey I’m hoping that I will be more productive from now on. Until next time, get out there and create magic everyday!
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?
Philanthropists are rarely rich enough or skilled enough at business to get the results that Elon Musk does. He’s like Iron Man, but he’s less likely to get into a fight.
A few weeks ago I watched Musk give a breakdown of his plan to colonise Mars. It was so inspiring. Millions of people have been waiting and hoping for the world to take this step into the next frontier. He is actioning those dreams. The plan is simple; to take science and make it fiction no more.
Musk is on a mission to develop technology to improve human life, but he also has the vision to see that there are pitfalls to every promise that technology yields. He is all about figuring out how those pitfalls can be avoided.
He is also critically aware that we can’t afford to not pursue space travel. Not only for the purpose of’ “backing up the biosphere,” and to protect our way of life, but also to give our species direction. He says the main driver for looking to establishing other colonies in our solar system is because; “it would be an incredible adventure. We need to wake up and be excited about the future. To be inspired and want to live.”
He says that the proposal to colonise Mars, “appeals to everyone with an exploratory spirit.” And that’s the thing I believe will make this plan successful. Over the past decade, I have been feeling an increasing interest in space exploration from the general public. It’s noticeable in the steady rise in science fiction films and books. You see it in social media too. People are starting to take the idea of travel to Mars seriously. As the potential for public funding increases, so does the prospects of every day people becoming space travellers. People are becoming personally invested. Even for someone who doesn’t want to go, the very idea that the choice is open to them or to their loved ones will encourage their interest or support. His plan will inspire people all across the globe want to share in this collaborative venture.
As with any new innovative ideas and possibilities, the younger generation will be the key. The enterprise will inspire a new generation of scientists, engineers and artists.
I believe colonising other worlds will be a critical step towards unifying the human race. It’s not until a child grows up and leaves home that they can truly realise the value of having a family. Of course families argue, but they also offer support. It is in our species nature to fight each other, but perhaps, out in space there is something else to fight for.
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?
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?
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?
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.
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
‘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.
I finally mustered up the courage to send my manuscript off to someone for an editorial pass. A momentous step indeed. Not so much because I feel this is a step towards success as a writer, but because it’s a step towards me taking my work seriously and accepting that I need help in order to get better and better and continually more betterer at writing.
As you can see, I openly admit that I have a lot to learn. I realise this will be a long haul.
As much as I would like to be an instant success and receive great acclaim for my writing, I know this is not likely to be the case. I wish I had some magical powers, some mystical bardic charm that enchanted anyone who read my words, enticing them to throw money and accolades my way. But I have been down this road of creative discovery before and I know better.
I remember when I first started playing guitar, I wanted to be good right away. I wanted to be able to express all the musical ideas that were in my head and it was frustrating to have to wait till I was any good to do so. The poetry and the melody was trapped within me and I had no musical skill or language with which to express it. The thought that it would take me years to be any good at guitar was so daunting at the age of 18. I was in such a hurry to express myself and achieve greatness. Of course, time flew…as it does…and playing guitar comes relatively easily to me now. Though, strangely enough, I do not seek greatness as much as I seek fulfillment and satisfaction. I know that ultimately, there are more important things than living up to expectations of others or following markets and trends. Being comfortable to express myself is my main priority, even if that means not producing something that is seen as marketable.
Right now, I’m experiencing this same beginning phase with my writing and while I think it’s important for me to constantly strive to be better, I can’t get lost in worrying about what other people will think of my work.
Ever since I was a child I have loved writing and though I have always kept it up, only recently have I started to take it seriously as a skill to be trained. My wordsmithing muscles are just like my guitar fingers and they need constant exercise. And just like learning an instrument, I need to be more comfortable with the language of storytelling. I need to learn from others about the rules of the craft, just like when learning music, you have to know how the rules work before you can bend them.
There is no better way to do that than to get someone else to help you. A teacher, a mentor, a friend, someone outside yourself who can form an opinion about your art. It’s time for me to take on another step of learning by opening up myself to constructive criticism.
It is also important to realise that we are never too old to learn and never too old to receive advice. When I used to teach guitar, I often would take on mature age students and I was surprised at how many of them felt embarrassed about picking up the guitar in their 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, 50’s or whatever! They all had a touch of shame when they first sat down and admitted that they were probably too old and should have had lessons years ago. The only shame they should feel is for thinking that their age should determine the goals they set for their life.
There is nothing, I repeat….nothing, better in life than finding a way to express yourself, be it through art, through music, through writing, through exploring, through conversation, through your day job even. Communication is the essence of human experience and it is never too late to pick up a new tool, take a few lessons or ask for help or advice when discovering a new way to create the art of your life.
How many of us out there have ever put off doing something we dream of for ages, only to find out that when we finally make that leap, it wasn’t as hard as we thought it would be? What dreams do you have that you prefer to keep as abstract goals rather than tackle the challenge of actively seeking to realise them?