Saturday, 2 May 2009

Beauty, truth, photography

Images have always had a strong influence on my writing.

Perhaps it's partly because I've been taking photographs for almost as long as I've been playing with words. There's a natural overlap: a blurring of the boundaries between words and pictures.

Everyone keeps telling us writers today have to be multi-talented. It's not enough just to be a writer: you also need to know your RSS from your CMS, how to promote yourself (on and offline) as well as bake the perfect souffle.*

So to help us on our quest to become Renaissance (wo)men, we've recently had a couple of seminars on photography. One of our assignments was the challenge to seek out the beauty in everyday objects. The truth is that most of us walk around with our eyes closed half the time. The familiar becomes invisible.

The act of looking through a viewfinder helped to change our focus; it helped us to see the world with 'new eyes.' The images everyone brought back were intriguing, sparking off a discussion of how we interpret the world - and the difference one small thing can make.

Inspiration often comes from unexpected sources. A remark overheard on a bus. The smell of freshly baked bread which conjures up a long forgotten memory of your childhood. The way the light streaming through the window highlights the features of the person you love.

It's the details that really bring a piece of writing to life. Of course, this goes beyond the purely visual. The other senses are just as important.

As writers, we translate our vision of the world into words on the page. The challenge is to make the worlds we create as vivid as we can.

* Just kidding about the souffle part. I hope.

Friday, 1 May 2009

The importance of place

Everyone has their special places.

Sometimes a place that gives you that comfortingly familiar feeling of belonging:a childhood haunt where the memories of your past float by like clouds across the sky. Sometimes it's a place you come across quite by accident. It might have a spectacular view, or perhaps it's just a little patch of quiet in the midst of a busy city.

Recently I've discovered a park at the top of my road. It's tiny: no more than a patch of grass surrounding a war memorial and a few benches. What really makes it is the view: the park looks out over the harbour. At dusk, I like to sit and watch the dying rays of the sun glinting on the water as it sinks towards the horizon. It's a perfect place to sit and write, or think.

As a writer, it's important to be aware of the world around you - and often that means getting out there. Leaving the cocoon of your bedroom, study, kitchen, or wherever it is that you usually write and setting out on a voyage of discovery.

While travelling to another country can be an incredible, inspirational experience, there's a lot to be said for rediscovering the familiar. Finding the exotic in the ordinary. As Proust says:

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”