Losing Interest

Recently I’ve became slightly disinterested with my blog. Daily posts are becoming something of a chore, and I think my frequent blog activity has caused me to become a bit bored.

So, to counter this, I’m going to try blogging once every other day; hopefully I’ll regain my interest. I’ll post again on Sunday with updated schedules and a poem for you all to (hopefully) enjoy.

Returning to the Joys of Reading

Recently, I have been put off reading for pleasure. It’s partially my own fault because I’ve been busy or just been doing something else, but mainly I think it’s the fault of my exam. I had to read so many books (and by read I mean search the internet for plot summaries due to sheer boredom) that I just didn’t enjoy; these were mostly classics which I find are alright until I have to read one after another after another after…you get the picture. To give you an example, I read the first part of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey in which the most exciting event turned out to be meeting a man at a ball, oh and the protagonist’s parent called her “almost pretty” which was just fabulous…

So, now that my exam it out of the way I plan to start enjoying reading again. First of all I’m going to finish A Song of Ice and Fire, then I’ll probably move on to some of Joe Abercrombie’s work (I’ve had The Blade Itself sad on my bookshelf for a good while now. After that I can see the completion of the collection of Sherlock Holmes novels and short stories I downloaded onto my kindle a while back, and maybe even a catch up on the latest Peter F. Hamilton sci-fi novel.

In short, I’m returning to the joys of reading. I would love for you to comment and let me know what I should read. I’m extremely willing to add to my already massive list. Thanks.

Exam Pressure

This week I decided to take a break from my review schedule (not least because my exam tomorrow has prevented me from reading the third Song of Ice and Fire novel) and use my spare time to suggest books that I think are great, and that I believe should be on everyone’s reading list.

George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm

Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot and Endgame

Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw

George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire

Paul Hoffman’s The Left Hand of God Trilogy

Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance Cycle

Jasper Fforde’s The Eyre Affair

Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman

I’ll leave it at ten due to the fact it’s a good, round number and I’m short on time. I’ll be back tomorrow with a much better post.

 

Finding Inspiration

I’ve often wondered what the best way to gain inspiration is. However, I’ve recently come to realise that inspiration comes from everything and anything. Recently, I’ve been inspired by rain on my window, a noise I heard on the street, my pets, and countless different books and TV programmes.

Everything is inspirational, in fact I believe even a plain cardboard box can be if you allow it to be. Anything can be a symbol of something else. A rose is a symbol of love and pain at the same time, depending on your viewpoint.

Of course, experience helps, travelling is probably my favourite way to be inspired; there’s nothing like a wholly different area, lifestyle, and set of traditions to inspire your ‘inner writer’. It allows you to see the world in a new light and to judge things differently; just like you do when you write from a new character’s perspective, the world appears altered.

So when you’re stuck for inspiration and suffering from writer’s block, don’t look for grand story lines and well rounded characters. All you have to do is look outside your window for something that makes you think. Maybe it’ll be a bird, or an old woman, a car driving too fast, or your own reflection. Let me know what you see.

Good luck and keep writing. Thank you for reading.

Review 4: George R. R. Martin’s ‘A Game of Thrones’

To celebrate my (not so) epic 50th follower and 200th like coming in the same week, I thought I would review George R. R. Martin’s epic fantasy series, A Song of Ice and Fire. However, I have only read the first novel, ‘A Game of Thrones’ and will only be covering that this week. I will try my best to finish a new book in the series by Monday each week so that I can post my thoughts and opinions on each novel separately; though due to the looming shadow of an exam in a fortnight, I may be delayed by one week.

‘A Game of Thrones’ tells the interweaving story of many characters, all who have at least some power (be that magical or that which comes with status and ‘good breeding’). These characters all are aiming to achieve something: Robert wants to keep his throne; Eddard wants to protect his honour; Jon wants to earn a better place in the world; Dany and her brother want to regain the throne; etc, etc, etc… It is a dark and bitter tale, one which tells the reader more about the nature of humanity than most fantasy novels I have ever read. At times it discusses how the rulers of the world can live in such affluence while others starve, how diversity can lead to cruel prejudice, how our sexuality affects our judgement and morality, and whether we would rather help ourselves than save others.

Among all these uncertainties and questions however, the most prominent is this: are our rulers fit to rule us? Robert, the king at the beginning of the novel, “drinks and whores” himself while others do his work, he is almost an absentee king. Even worse however, when Robert dies and Joffrey, his son, takes over the throne, he is wicked, cruel, and detestable. It is revealed in the narrative that Joffrey is not the true heir which begs the question, is this why he is a bad ruler? Personally, think the novel is, in part at least, a frank discussion about the disadvantages of dictatorship over democracy. Battles, murder, subterfuge, anger, selfishness, and struggles centred around who rules the kingdom and why pay testament to this theme and though on the outside it may seem glorified and honourable, the blood, grief and strife begs to differ.

So, if you’re a fan of long, interweaving fantasy narratives (believe me there are a lot of them), give ‘A Game of Thrones’ a try. If not, give it a try anyway, you may be pleasantly surprised. If my persuasive argument has failed, and you really don’t want to waste money buying a book you don’t think you’ll like, try the TV series. It’s very close the novel itself, and you may be pleasantly surprised.

Next week I will be reviewing ‘A Clash of Kings’, if you’re interested, subscribe and you’ll receive an email when I post next Monday, and one each day for my other segments. Thank you for reading.

The Ten Best Things About Writing Creatively

Since my last post on literature, The Ten Best Things About Reading, was fairly successful I thought I would follow it up with this, The Ten Best Things About Writing Creatively. Obviously, writing is a less frequented activity than reading but it’s definitely important. What would we read if there were no writers?

Some of the points here are similar to the points on reading, the activities are linked, so there will be some overlap; however the ideas behind them will change. So, here we go…

10 – It’s a welcome distraction

Much like reading, writing is a welcome distraction from the busy world. When you’ve had a stressful day and all you want to do is relax, it may not be soothing, in fact it’s the complete opposite, but you can turn that stress into a story; and that is what is so special about writing. Once that story is finished, then you can relax.

9 – It can earn money

Some, extremely lucky writers get very, very rich; J.K. Rowling is one of very few such writers and most will never reach the lofty heights of stardom. However, there is hope for the many left behind like myself. Once a writer is good enough at their craft to get published, they can start to earn money; yes, this is not what writing is about and yes, it’s not much money, but it’s enough to support a writer until they can write another novel, and that is all we want.

8 – It can be enjoyable

Every writer, if they are writing for the right reasons about the right thing, enjoys what they do. Much like any other creative craft, we wouldn’t do it if we didn’t; no painter hates painting; no craftsman hates crafting, and no living thing hates breathing. It is what we do, it is who we are, and we love it. Well, that got a bit dramatic didn’t it…moving on!

7 – It allows you to become somebody else

It is rare for a writer to use their own voice in a novel, unless it some form of creative autobiography or memoir. Thus we adopt a new personality when we write: I am a white student from Blackpool in the North of England, but as a writer I have been a lonely old man wishing for his wife to live again; I have been a slave during the height of the slave trade in the Caribbean wishing for freedom; and I have been a murderer. When you can see from many angles, it gets a lot easier to see the whole picture.

6 – It can be educational

As a writer, you learn something new every time you write a story. This new found knowledge can be factual, like that found whilst researching a disorder a character in your story has, or emotional, like that found when you realise how a lonely, dying man must feel in his last hours. Through writing you can also learn about yourself, that is, the way you think about things; it’s a lot harder to ignore a homeless man when you know how he feels.

5 – It can be enjoyable for others

One of the things writers love the most, or at least I do, is when somebody congratulates you on a good piece of work. It’s nice to be appreciated, and when multiple compliments start coming in, well it’s wonderful, and I’ll leave it at that.

4 – It gives you a purpose

When all else fails, if you’re sad, lonely, or stressed, you can always count on writing to give you a purpose in life. Sometimes it’ll be more of a friend than you expect, lifting you out of a foul mood by allowing you to write well first time, but sometimes you’ll hit a brick wall. However annoying this brick wall is, and however much you want to throw your computer out the window, you’ll get past it, and when that happens the foul mood you once were in will be gone for just a little while longer.

3 – Your writing may one day influence another person

Among my greatest desires is that one day, I will publish a novel, and that someone will read and be affected by it, just like I am when I read a play by Samuel Becket, or a novel by George Orwell. I would love to have someone read my thoughts and have them influence their own, perhaps allowing them to better understand the position of someone under prejudice, or even the nature of the world around them. To be a definite factor in the development of a person, especially a child, would be absolutely amazing for any writer I am sure.

2 – It allows you to express yourself

What more can you ask of an activity than the ability to express yourself? Writing is one of the few activities that allow expression in its truest form; like art, dance, and song, writing allows us to project ourselves for others to see. This is a scary thing, it can be uncomfortable, especially when people don’t like what they see, but it is also a wondrous thing. In my opinion there is no better way to live your life than in a way that others can see and learn from.

1 – It makes us better people

Like reading, writing creatively makes us better, more well-rounded people. When you can see through the eyes of any person, influence others, and enjoy it at the same time you truly are at your best. Especially if you do it well.

Thank you for reading, I might write a story about writing this…

The Ten Best Things About Reading

Reading, what a wonderful thing to do. There are so many benefits, and the only down side I can see is the loss of time. Let’s be honest what would you be doing instead? Watching TV? Stalking your friends on facebook? Well…that does sound kind of fun…no! Snap out of it, don’t be hypnotised by it again, I won’t lose hours of my day watching Scott and Bailey. Oh, I already did…

Anyway, after that strange outburst I may as well make a start on the list.

10 – It’s a welcome distraction

In a world where relaxation is boring and we can’t stand to stay still for more than a few minutes, reading is a welcome break. If you’ve just come back from a hard day at work but you don’t want to numb your brain with monotonous television, pull out a book. A bit of Iain Banks or George Orwell usually sorts me out.

9 – It can be a talking point

We’ve all been in that awkward situation where no one has anything to say: nothing interesting has happened in anyone’s lives; you haven’t seen the latest episode of [insert popular TV program]; and you’re just plain bored. Talk about the book you just read, someone might be interested in it. Sarah Kane once turned a really awkward group session into pure hilarity when I mentioned one of yer plays.

8 – It can be enjoyable

There’s a lot to be said in favour of fiction as an entertainer. It can make you laugh, it can make you smile, it can make you angry, and it can even make you cry. While crying isn’t usually a good thing, it is when the cause is a book. I once cried into a book called ‘A Boy Called It’ when the child, Dave, was forced into a bath of bleach by his mother, it was an autobiography written in the style of a novel which made it a whole lot more emotional.

7- There is a lot of variation

If you’re bored of shows like Law and Order, whose sole purpose seems to be repetition, pay a visit to your local book shop, or shop online on Amazon if you’re lazy like me. There are so many variations of novels, Romance, Thriller, Horror. Alternatively you could pick up a poetry collection, you won’t find much poetry on popular television I can tell you that. There are those genres that seem to be everywhere however, *cough* teenage vampire romance *cough*.

6 – It can be educational

Every novel I read teaches me something new, it can be something simple like finding out that ‘nice’ used to mean ‘neat’, or complex like observing a mentally ill character and how their illness effects others around them. Effectively, the more you read the more you’ll find out, especially of you’re reading non-fiction. Reading Physics books about the Universe, time, and other interesting things has become a bit of a guilty pleasure of mine. I would recommend ‘Physics of the Impossible: A Scientific Exploration Into the World of Phasers, Force Fields, Teleportation, and Time Travel’ by Michio Kaku if you’re interested.

5 – It makes you feel smart

This may make me sound a bit smug, but reading makes me feel intelligent, and I think some people think I’m intelligent because I read. It’s nice to feel clever, i mean, who doesn’t want to be smart? At the very least everyone wants to have more general knowledge. However, be warned, no one is 100% certain if reading causes intelligence, or intelligence causes reading; I’m inclined to agree with both sides of the argument, that is, intelligent people read which makes them more intelligent.

4 – You can bond with the characters

Only in a novel can you connect with characters so intimately. When you watch a film, you know a character for only a couple of hours, but when you read a book, you can get to know the character over days or even weeks depending on how quickly you read. Some may argue that long running TV series like soaps give the viewer a lot of time to connect with characters. This is true but as a viewer you are connecting with an actors take on a character, as a reader you may interpret the same character in a completely different way. Readers can insert a piece of their personality into the characters giving them something else to connect with on an even deeper level.

3 – It allows us to see different points of view

In life we only get to see one version of reality, we walk around our town, village, or city thinking the same things over and over again. However, there is an answer to our desperate plight. Why not experience the world through the eyes of a superhero, or a child, an animal, a person of different ethnic origin, a person of a different social class, perhaps even a murderer, or a rapist. All of these experiences are waiting to be…well experienced…on your local library shelf. So get reading!

2 – Influence on writing

On a personal level, reading helps inspire me to write. A few weeks ago I wrote a piece of flash fiction I called ‘The Slave’ based on a character from a novel called ‘Cambridge’ by Caryl Phillips. Not only plot and character ideas are gained from reading other writer’s work, but also writing styles. If I had never read Nell Dunn’s ‘Up The Junction’ I wouldn’t write dialogue the way I do now, or if I hadn’t read Henry James’ ‘The Turn of the Screw’ I wouldn’t write prose like I do now. Like I said on the point about reading being educational, with everything I read I learn something new.

1 – It makes us better people

Finally, I think reading makes us better people in all respects. It helps us to become more intelligent, more accepting, more compassionate, more understanding, more loving, and more approachable people. What more can you ask of a minimal effort, day-to-day activity? I’ll tell you what, you won’t gain all of this from staring at a computer screen all day waiting for a friend to come online, or from playing online mini-games.

After all that, I only have one more thing to say. Thank you for visiting my blog, I’m off to read.