This far into NaNoWriMo, forget about the pressure to make that 50,000 word mark when you’re only at 20,000 (ahem). A lot of us start thinking that the project we’re working on isn’t worth the kilobytes it’s taking up in the cloud. I know I’ve fallen into that trap multiple times in the last hour of writing, let alone the last three weeks or even three months I’ve been preparing.
Right about now in the NaNoWriMo process, it’s time to whip out a never-on-Broadway musical called [Title of Show], the story of a team writing a musical about a team writing a musical — and both struggling profoundly. One of the best songs from it is “Die Vampire, Die!” during which actress Susan encourages her compatriots to pull a Van Helsing on creative vampires, or “any person, thought or feeling that stands between you and your creative self expression.” These include “pygmy vampires” that fly around your head like gnats reminding you that others have done what you’ve done before you and better than you; “air freshener vampires” that keep you from writing things that your grandmother wouldn’t be pleased to see on paper under your byline; and the mother of all vampires, the “vampire of despair,” that presents itself as your own lack of self-confidence:
“It’ll wake you up at four in the morning to say things like ‘Who do you think you’re kidding?’ ‘You look like a fool.’ ‘No matter how hard you try, you’ll never be good enough.’ Why is it that if some dude walked up to me on the subway platform and said these things, I would think he was a mentally ill asshole, but if the vampire inside my head says it, it’s the voice of reason?”
Seventeen days into my 30-day writing marathon, and the vampires have suddenly become impervious to sunlight, makeshift crucifixes and garlic bread — they appear at every turn, and it’s easy to let them tear apart my work with their fangs. But then I remember that the pencil I’m using to check plot points off on my outline is technically a wooden stake, so I’m already equipped to destroy Count Don’t-ula of Procrastylvania and his clutch of your-work-sucks-ubi (As in “succubi?” Get it?)
So here’s a reminder, in case you need it at this past-halfway point:
- Your self-expression matters.
- Your creative space matters.
- Don’t let the vampires get you down.
The song is below, and it’s a catchy tune to play while writing your way over the word count hump.
Chicago’s Holy Name Cathedral sits among one of the high-rent areas in the River North neighborhood.
The cathedral held its ground against the high rises that have shot up like weeds around it, blocking the sun from the stained glass windows that used to share their kaleidoscope hope with the rest of the city when it knew better than to try to touch the sky with iron and steel.
“No story is terrible if the story is true; if the prose is clean and honest; and if it affirms courage and grace under pressure.”
I hate that one of the greatest movies for writers is made by one of Hollywood’s biggest creeps, but this scene gets me writing every time.
I wrote about Spectacular Spectacular frontwoman Isley Reust Lydia Magazine in 2015, and in the process discovered not only their debut album but also this track from it, “Orange Juice.”
“Show me the monsters inside of you,” Reust sings.
In a lot of ways, the song is about discovering others’ dark sides. But in the case of my current project, “Omaha,” the story is about exploring our own choices and psyche to determine what makes us monsters, what makes us human, and how the two aren’t always different.
It’s Nov. 1, which means it’s time to cannonball into a 50,000 word-deep project over the next 30 days. Because I’ll be focusing on one of my projects, I’m not sure how much time I’ll have to continue ignoring this blog — but in the spirit of constant creation this month, I’m pledging to post a tiny snippet of original writing or a “writespiration” post at least every other day. We’ll hope for better.
So without further ado, your writespiration to enter the month is “Exit Music (For a Film),” originally by Radiohead but adapted by Ramin Djawadi for the Westworld soundtrack.
The morose melody in the beginning. The searing strings toward the end. The inclusion of the Westworld opening theme. This is a perfect tune for action as it escalates and comes to a slamming halt, just like the finale of the show’s first season.
Living in Chicago means you can see something spectacular on any given weeknight. Tuesday night was the Museum of Contemporary Art’s Takashi Murakami exhibit. For a casual art lover and music fiend like myself, the main attractions were the work he did for Kanye West’s “Graduation” album (see below); the multiple recreations of D.O.B., his twisted Mickey-Mouse-esque mascot (also below); and his full-wall murals that combine elements of traditional Japanese artists like Hokusai with modern creators like Hayao Miyazaki and Jim Henson in complex cities of activity.
But, as was probably intended by the curators, I left with a far different impression of the avant-garde Japanese artist’s work — and a new favorite that’s still got me thinking a day later.
Takashi Murakami’s “Kensei Korin Gold,” as seen at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago.
“Kensei Korin Gold” (above) is is far more spectacular in person than in a photo. The gold leaf background is textured with blobbish smiling skulls, and the black waves sparkle with orange glitter, as if Murakami colored them in with one of the Glitter Crayolas from my childhood. Each flower has a slightly different facial expression such as joy, dismay, sluggishness, shock, etc., which turn this from a standard ornamental Japanese print to something with fantasy and personality.
That’s the kind of detail, diversity and dichotomy I try to inject into my own work. Instead of screenprinting, I use screenwriting (and prose-writing, poem-writing, etc.) to try to create things that are, like “Kensei Korin Gold,” attractive from afar and downright mesmerizing up-close. Seeing how easily Murakami does this is both challenging and inspiring.
Murakami’s cover art for Kanye West’s “Graduation” album. That small image glowing on my iPhone screen is nothing compared to the glossy original currently hanging at the MCA.
“Tan Tan Bo” by Takashi Murakami — A version of his mascot, D.O.B., who is a visual combustion of Japanese and American animation.
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets hits theaters today, and it’s the newest scifi escape by Fifth Element and Lucy director Luc Besson. Regardless of whether the movie is good, it did us the favor of presenting a heart-pounding orchestral remix of Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise” in the final trailer. Then again, I’m a sucker for musical scores based on unexpected popular songs. Just wait until I start posting about Ramin Djwadi’s Westworld score.