Hard

I’ve never heard this music before but my dad has recommended it and the artist is Italian so it’s fitting. I plug my free Apple earphones into my broken Samsung and hit shuffle. Within moments of hearing the opening bars there are tears in my eyes and for once I’m grateful for my vision being obscured by my child-scratched sunglasses. It’s piano, reminds me a bit of Michael Nyman and I remember the story my friend K told me about him propositioning her one late night in London.

This MA study, it’s hard, in all respects. It may even be one of the biggest challenges I’ve faced to date. The work is hard, the commute is long and complicated, and I feel totally conflicted about leaving my kids, neither of whom like being without me.

This music is my soundtrack now. Ludovico Enaudi. If I have another child, I think I’ll call him Ludo. Or maybe that’ll be a good name for a family dog. I won’t forget what this music has done for me. Although damn it, stop with the tears already!

I wrote this on the third day of my first week at uni. I was sitting on the bus at 8:15am having just forced my protesting 13-month-old into the arms of a lovely stranger while I put myself through the torture of a complex class conducted all in Italian. I think in those early days I understood about a quarter of what was said, if that, and what made it worse was that the other three members of the class understood everything.
At this point I’d been to five of my six classes and I was feeling overwhelmed. And to top it off, other than Thumper’s separation anxiety, the Dude was having huge meltdowns about catching the school bus and Mr Chewbacca had just messaged me saying he was almost in tears too at having to take Dude to school against his will because he’d point blank refused to get on the bus.
Looking back, yes, it was hard. But we’ve moved on now. That first week, wow, I’ll never forget it. And I’m glad I wrote this as it reminds me just how easy I have it now in comparison.

Dear Dave…

Dear Dave Matthews,

How’s it going? You don’t know me, but I felt I needed to write and explain something.

We’re about to move to Canada. I’ve never been there before. If you’d have told me five years ago that I’d move to Toronto in 2015 I’d have laughed in your face. Especially with no employment or income and two small children. It’s a crazy notion.
Aside from wondering who the hell I am, you’re probably wanting to know why we’re embarking on this insane adventure. Let me explain.

I’m Australian but I don’t feel very Aussie. I like winter, snow, ice skating, open fires, flushed cheeks, bright cold skies. I like snow at Christmas. I ikea deciduous trees and grass that stays green, great service in restaurants and an overabundance of celebration at various festive times during the year.

I also like your music, Dave, even though I’m pretty sure you’re high during most of your performances. It doesn’t detract. It kind of adds to it actually.

The first time I heard of you was about 15 years ago. I had a serendipitous connection with a guy I met through uni and early on in what would become a six-year relationship he played Crash for me. Just that one song. Over and over. It’s a great song and I very quickly came to love it. But I never got to listen to the whole album. Often he’d play a bit of Satellite, I think it’s called, and I heard those opening bars of Too Much so many times. Da da daaaaa! Never heard the whole song.

Fast forward about ten years, I was introduced to you again, this time by someone with musical taste as well as talent. My husband. I don’t really know how I came to love your music but I’m guessing it was him being pushy and just playing it all the time after having rudely dismissed whatever I was listening to at the time. Just playing entire albums no matter whether you liked them or not. Or playing Metallica. We also saw you live somewhere in London in about 2009 I think. That was the night Michael Jackson died. Totally irrelevant, but anyway, you were off your head on some kind of substance but still playing like a demon!

One evening some months ago my husband was out with friends having a few drinks and when he came home he put on some music and we danced. He wanted to dance with me. The songs he chose were not played at our wedding or when we first met. They were two of your songs. The first was Crush, something I’d previously have wrinkled my nose at having heard the first few plucky sax notes, branding it elevator music. It’s actually an extraordinarily sensual song, and the way you deliver the lyrics really give it depth. It’s kinda us. And the second song my husband played that night was #41. According to Wikipedia you wrote it following the messy dissolution of your relationship with a former manager, when he started claiming ownership of stuff you wrote. I can’t explain why but this song just connects us.

These two songs together mixed with snow in winter at Christmas and the rejection of various other northern hemisphere destinations mean Canada is right for us. Or at least it is a good option to explore.
I still can’t really explain why your music has been such an influence in our decision to check out Canada (you’re from California or something, right?) but somehow when my husband and I listen to your music we just look at each other and know. It evokes a feeling in both of us. There’s comfort, familiarity, excitement, home. Suffice it to say, we’ll never be able to listen to your awesome music again if we end up hating Canada. And that would be a shame.

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Image credit http://www.dkngstudios.com/blog/2012/12/14/dave-matthews-band-toronto-poster

Edit: bloody hell, look at what popped up when I googled “Dave Mattews winter snow Canada tree”. What an amazing work of art! If we get our Canadian citizenship I’m totally getting this tattooed!

Inspiring book spines and high standards

Replicated from my SheWrites blog, 19 January 2011.

Apart from the records my dad played on Saturday afternoons, one vivid and early memory that sticks with me is the background ‘wallpaper’ of my parents’ bookshelves.  I remember when learning to read, browsing the spines of the books, noticing the colours, their thickness, which ones stood out and which ones I suddenly noticed for the first time. I was particularly intrigued by a book I assumed was some sort of thriller or mystery (judging by the need to use only the author’s surname on the cover) about a prehistoric dinosaur type creature with perhaps metaphysical or psychological overtones: Roget’s Thesaurus (The Saurus – get it?)

To this day, some 25 years later, I can picture the book spines: Colin Wilson – a thick magenta book with green block writing; Xavier Herbert – Poor Fellow, My Country; Franz Kafka – MetamorphosisThomas Mann – Death in Venice (I think?); Germaine Greer – The Female EunuchAlex Haley – RootsJames Joyce – Ulysses… the list goes on.  I rarely pulled the books out of their shelves, as the spines alone were enough, their colours and designs, fonts and styles either pleasing to my eye or putting me off, and their titles often like tongue-twisters for my young brain (The Aquarian Conspiracy was one – I used to repeat this over and over in my head).  Strangely enough, of those books I’ve named, I only ever read one, and that was the Kafka.  But I feel like the influence of all this prolific writing somehow seeped into me over time, and I wish I could go back and look over those shelves again, but sadly they will never be what they once were as my parents divorced when I was nine and the books were broken up into piles, moved about, lost, thrown away, left in boxes in garages…

I know that my writing is stalled by my lack of motivation and my inability to complete a story.  But I think there is also still this element of not putting it out there.  So I always mean to enter competitions or submit articles or stories for publication, even in free ezines or obscure sites, but I never manage it.  The one time when I did successfully write and publish pieces online was when a very creative and motivated film phd student friend pushed me to do it.  In fact she gave me little choice in the matter.  The deadline was set – and the faster I wrote, the more I’d be published.  I ended up writing, I think, six film reviews in the space of about a week, and it was the most fantastic experience.  Not only did I get to review some amazing documentaries for the LIDF, but I even got to meet some of the directors of the films in person who actually praised me formy reviews!  Can you imagine!  They were grateful for what I’d written and felt happy I’d understood what they were trying to achieve.  I was bowled over.  I knew I didn’t necessarily belong in the ‘film world’, but I lapped up the praise.  My friend who got me into it in the first place kept remarking how amazed she was at the quality of the writing and how quickly I churned out the reviews, given I’d never reviewed a film in my life.  I certainly was on a roll at the time, just pumping out chunks of writing, refining as I went.  I did watch the films and do most of the writing while I was meant to be working though…

This all leads me to believe that there is something about doing ‘unimportant’ writing that is easier.  I didn’t worry about how these reviews reflected on me – I was just interested in providing something of quality for the benefit of the directors and for the audience to read before they saw the films.  It was external to me.  So perhaps that’s where the motivation is, in writing with an external focus.

Copying versus inspiration

I don’t know about other writers, but I often struggle with the urge to ‘copy’ someone else’s brilliant idea.  I am so frequently inspired by others who come up with clever names for blogs, interesting topics, new approaches and I think, why didn’t I do that?  Why can’t I do that?  I know in my head that it’s all subjective, and what one person finds brilliant, another finds dull… but when I stumble upon a particularly clever or interesting idea I desperately want to ‘steal’ it!  It’s not that I’m jealous or can’t come up with my own ideas, I am just so awestruck at the brilliance of some thoughts that replicating it somehow pays homage to it, and reinforces my opinion.

This feeling of stumbling upon greatness is pretty similar to that spark of inspiration that seems to strike at the most inconvenient times.

I think there really isn’t that much difference between feeling inspired generally and feeling inspired to replicate.  The way I write is so unconscious, it just floods out, so I find being objective about my writing really hard anyway, which means that what I perceive as brilliant might not actually be as good as my own writing, it’s just that I can be objective about it.

So how do you use others’ success as inspiration?  This is a hard question to answer.  I think rather than copying what someone does, it’s better to look at their overall journey, learn how they arrived at that final creation and be inspired by that process, rather than the outcome.