Shaun Levin

Play with Your Food

In Writing on October 8, 2011 at 10:17 am

Sometimes you don’t write. It’s not that you’re blocked or have nothing to say. Life needs to be lived. Or you’re recovering from something. An injury, a death in the family, a rejection. At times you think everything must be written about. NOW! But maybe it doesn’t work like that. Writing is getting done anyway, in different ways, by reading, by living, by listening, by doing stuff, by noticing. Sometimes the best thing for writing – I’m going to regret saying this – is not to write. Maybe it’s a result of brainwashing: If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything. So you say nothing. That silence is a weight, a restlessness. It doesn’t do anyone any good, really, and least of all not you. At some point, you must write. Of course “you” is just the second person as a way of avoiding using the first person – like having a bit of poise, literariness, distance. The voice says: Stop talking about yourself so much!

I’ve been reading Katherine Mansfield’s stories in In a German Pension and at the back in the endnotes it mentions when each story was published in The New Age… And between two stories there was a 3 month gap “while Mansfield recovered from an operation” and that got me thinking how hard we can be on ourselves to produce, that in the grand scheme of things three months is not a huge amount of time. But then I’ve been listening to Steve Jobs and reading about him, now that he has died, at the age of 56, and I think, well, three months is a long time and every day not doing what you love is a day lost. So sometimes we lose days. What can you do? The thing to worry about is whether we lose the love for the thing we love doing.

Maybe it’s okay to take a break and do other things, play, try out different art forms, different genres. Sometimes writing itself is not enough. In his new show, Akram Khan uses a variety of genres, bringing all sorts of ways of telling stories onto the stage, not least of which was some magical animation that was projected onto a large net screen behind which Akram danced and so became part of the animation.

What else can you bring to your writing life? Belly dancing? Comics? Singing? Flower arranging? Pressed flowers on the page? What if you could create the kind of book you love, if that book was not just made up of words on the page, if there were drawings, too, and music, and voice, and recorded sounds, and a video, but to keep it within the physical book. So, to take what we’re doing online, what multimedia artists are doing online and put it in a book. Now that book production and music and sound-recording are becoming so affordable, what’s to stop us creating a book that does more? A paper object with pages to turn, but that feels like magic, that can surprise, that can… Ah yes, the voice says, but that’s the computer, the Kindle Fire. Maybe it is, but there are no pages to physically turn on the Kindle. Do you mean a pop-up book, then? Do you mean a book with pictures? Do you mean scratch and sniff? Do you mean a book with those little raised bits that you press on and it makes a sound? Do you mean a comic book? Can’t we play with all of them, try all of them, and see what comes out, see what happens, dare to do something that is not just one word, then another, then another… and succeed or fail at it, whatever that “it” turns out to be.

Fun apps to play with: Comic Book, Garage Band, VoiceRecorder

  1. My, my, aren’t you getting adventurous! I have theme tunes for two of my main characters and would love to find a way to incorporate them into my book. Still looking for the music for brother number 1. Oh – I also have a theme tune for ‘Seven Sweet Things’ – it always reminds me of your book. The song is called ‘Would you Believe’ – on the first Roxy Music albumn – lyrics go somthing like… Would you belive in what i do, when everything I make is just for you?

  2. Adveturousness comes and goes! In the aftermath of finishing a novel, it’s fun to play a bit, see where things go.

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