xxx

I’ve been watching shows to get in the writing mood, and it’s brought mixed results. Actually, honestly, it’s not brought much results at all, though it has got me thinking about writing and ideas, and all that jazz. I’m trying to watch them early in the evening, thinking that will start me writing earlier, but in the end I find I’m just watching more.

It’s an experiment, though, so all that’s needed is a rethink. What I’ve been watching would, I thought, have propelled me to develop my own stuff. Today I finished State Of Play, superb British political thriller (and if you liked that you should absolutely hunt down A Very British Coup) and it did leave thoughts about writing and honesty drifting through my head, but I’m not feeling driven by it.

The story is good, the characters mostly solid, the journo-drama investigation nicely entwined with political rambling but all of it (in very British style) trumped by massive, hulking personal issues and questions. If it was American, I think the climactic reveal would have been very different, much less kitchen sink, and much less impactful because of it.

Still, I’m not here to write a review – though that is one of the exercises in The Book. Wednesday I finished I *Heart* Huckabees, which I’d started on Monday, and which I expected to encourage my existential ponderings to bloom and start shooting off in interesting directions. Last time I watched it I’d thought “Hmmm, wow, big, wide…” and this time the credits rolled and all I thought was, “But that’s where it starts”.

I couldn’t grasp it at first, my immediate doubts making me think I’d just not picked it up properly because I’d watched it split over two evenings, or whatever reason, but the more I thought about it the more I thought that it’s just because it’s not actually that sophisticated. Or, to be less harsh, it is sophisticated, but up to a point. The end of the movie leaves two guys basically on the cusp of doing what would be really sophisticated – applying what they’ve grasped to their every day lives.

But even this didn’t prompt me to write – or write here, to be fair. I used to watch The West Wing religiously, which is a nice way to put it really. I think I submerged myself in that series because I admired the ethics, the dreams, the ambitions of the characters. But it didn’t make me want to write, though sometimes it made me want to work harder, longer, with more passion. Except I’m not those people and my passion is tied into writing.

Watching The World At War did make me want to write, and actually that makes sense in the light of what I’ve just been doing. At about 250 words I lost my connection to this and drifted off into an email, then a link to a film trailer, and then onto other film trailers. Finally, a few quirky films in, I realised what I’d been looking for: feeling. I want to write now because some of the trailers made me feel, made something move in me.

I remember watching the end of We Were Soldiers, which is a great film though like a lot of war movies it’s pretty bombastic and overblown. Especially the final scene where the journalist dude is hammering out his article on a typewriter (which of course I remember) and he’s sobbing as he writes about the battle, the men he saw killing and dying, the terror, the elation, the relief, the anticipation, everything is welling up through him as he’s writing about it.

That’s what I want to get across, that’s how I want to write – or at least it’s when I feel that closeness to my own feeling, my rawness, that I really want to write. It’d be utterly exhausting to be like that all the time, to write in that state all the time. Or it’d be daft to expect myself to only write while in that state. But when I’ve slipped a little, it’s a good thing to note that pulling myself into this feeling will bring me back to writing.

I’m trying to define it, but in my head I keep seeing an image of fluttering paper walls, my head against them, light coming through. I’m on one side, closing in to put my ear against them and hear the storm, the wind, the crashing waves, the natural force which is thrashing on the other side. But you fear they’re too delicate, or perhaps it’s that you step away from them to live in the shadows of the room to escape the din, the startling brightness that passes through them.

Stood in those shadows you get by, but it’s only by stepping back to the walls and laying your hands against them, feeling the reverberations, that you can connect with an honesty, a genuine worth that you can then work into your writing, your creativity, your imagination. And that connection with the force, tempered and ordered somehow by the paper walls, can be relayed to others – as if your words then become an even more tempered paper wall so they too can appreciate the storm outside without having to get too close.

There’s a lot in that.

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About Ben Catley-Richardson

Writer, reader, husband. Father!
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