Villi Asgeirsson

Drafting ideas...

Month: September 2012

State of Mind

It is a well known misunderstanding that inspiration will come to the artist like a divine light from the heavens, and he will create his best work when sprinkled with the magic stuff most mortals don’t have. Talent, combined with the magic dust is what makes an artist. The untalented masses are merely consumers of the arts and will never fully understand the minds of the creative geniuses.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Sure, sometimes an idea sparks a fire in the writer’s mind and a masterpiece is born. Most of the time though, it’s keeping at it. Having a schedule and not neglecting your work.

keep-calm-and-open-minded-3Paul McCartney once said that the reason he went straight to the studio to record his first solo album after the Beatles, was to keep going. He was afraid that if he’d take a year off, he wouldn’t be able to get back into it. This state of mind an artist finds himself in when on a roll.

I work a lot and we are rebuilding the attic. I haven’t touched my novel in over two weeks. It’s work and DIY. This morning, I had around two hours to play with, so I fired up Scrivener and got ready to write. I sat there, looking at the words I had written previously. Nothing happened. It was like a boring school assignment. I just couldn’t get into it.

It’s not that this part of the novel is boring. It is a turning point, a confrontation. I have gone through it a few times and I know it’s one of the key moments in the book. The scene wasn’t the problem. I was.

I had allowed myself to float to the surface. I couldn’t dive deep into the mind where the magic is found. I have been thinking only of work and screws that needed to be drilled into wood. I had lost contact with my creative self. I had become one of the supposedly talentless masses.

Talent isn’t a gift. It is a state of mind. I slipped out of it and will have to work on getting myself back into it. That’s all there is to it. Talent and inspiration comes to the open mind and it’s up to us not to close it.

Keep Calm

Distractions. They are everywhere. They are the writer’s worst enemy. Someone said that genius was 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. It’s all hard work and keeping at it. An updated version of this quote was that genius was 1% inspiration and 99% avoiding the Internet. Keep writing, they tell us. Write daily.

But sometimes it’s not quite that simple. Work gets in the way and there is nothing we can do about it. We all need to pay our bills and buy milk for our babies. If we have no babies and need no milk, then we need to buy a computer every few years, a software to write on and coffee. Lots of coffee.

keep-calm-and-write-dailyThen there is the self-inflicted time-eating stuff we subject ourselves to. Our attic needed attention. We had the dormers replaced and have spent the last few days building a laundry room. A typical day has been waking up at 4:30, being at work at 6:00, home at 15:00, hammering until 19:00, dinner and sleep a couple of hours later. Not that I like to go to bed early. I am a late-night person at heart. But days like this make it hard to sit on a sofa and stay awake.

Needless to say, any writing has been put on hold. I could possibly find an hour here and there, but there is no point. Writing when exhausted results in drivel, useless garbage that will need to be heavily edited later.

But all is not lost. Inspiration struck me a couple of days ago. I typed my incredible prose on the iPhone, only to find that it had watered a bit. As great as the device is, it isn’t the best way to write anything more than a simple message. A Little Black Book would have been better. So I’ll go and get me one. Technology may be fantastic, but its not the answer to everything. In fact, I recently found a twenty-year old book I had scribbled in. One page had info on a detective and it inspired me to make The Girl from Nowhere. Old scribbles can be a gold mine, inspiring and fun to read.

And when the attic is done, I will have a cosy and inspiring den where I can spend all those non-DIY hours writing my next masterpiece.

And so I don’t cry for the days and hours spent on home improvement. Yes, they are delaying the completion of my novel, but I will end up with a nice little place where I can sit in a comfy chair, burn incense and look out the large window at the clouds as I write sentence after sentence.

Or so I tell myself.

Laying an Egg

Writing a novel is a huge undertaking. Millions of people try it, but only a few manage to finish it. Sometimes, when we are in the middle of the novel writing process, we get tired of the characters and the universe we’ve created. We shelf the project, and many never return to it.

The Girl From NowhereShort stories can be a good distraction. You get your time off, but you keep writing. And that is important. Don’t stop writing. Coughing up a short story is like taking a weekend off and changing our surroundings. It clears the head while keeping us active and when we return to the novel, we are rested and ready to dive back in.

My background is films. It has been a hobby and borderline profession for a few years. Under the Black Sand was originally written as a screenplay. It only became a novel when I failed to raise a million to make the film. One day, I keep telling myself.

So for me, making the occasional short film or music video is a way to lay my creative egg, get distracted in a good way and to relieve the pressure that builds in people that have this need to create.

Late 2011 was a slow time for Under the Black Sand. I had yet to discover Scrivener and it was nothing more than a million words in a massive document. I had lost sight of the goal, the light at the end of the tunnel wasn’t in sight. It wasn’t forgotten though.

The opening scene in the film was intended to be in black and white, Film Noir style. So, when heavy fog lay over Amsterdam for a few days, I coughed up a short script and shot a Film Noir. It’s not perfect. Nothing ever is, but I was happy with it. See the link below.
The Girl from Nowhere

Inspiration

It’s Saturday morning and I’m sitting in my sunny garden, drinking coffee. Organ music echoes through the neighbourhood and black smoke rises from the old steam mill’s chimney. It’s Open Monuments Day in the village.

My five year old loves music. He asks me if I’ll take him to the church. He wants to listen to the organist. We get dressed and head around the corner.

HalfwegChurchAs we sit there, the sun uses the stained glass windows to paint the walls in all the colours of the rainbow. A group of elderly people sit there, some with their eyes closed, enjoying the organ sound as it fills the space. And I’m looking at them. Wondering what’s on their mind. What they have gone through. What their life has been like. Ups and downs, happiness and sorrow. Different times. Times that I will never know. They are approaching the end, but they have experienced things I never will.

And I thought of a scene in Under the Black Sand, where the protagonist walks into a church. Suicidal, as all seems to be lost. And I saw the scene in a new and different light. I saw a way to make it engaging, colourful.

Inspiration is everywhere. We just need to get out the door and open our eyes.

Everything is Possible

If a book is good, or at least popular, chances are that someone will make a film based on it. But how often does the reverse happen?

Under the Black Sand

Under the Black Sand

Under the Black Sand wasn’t meant to be a novel. It started as a short film. I wrote the screenplay in the Netherlands, where I live, but the film would have to be set in Iceland. Being an optimist, I placed a message on a website where actors hang out. I found a male and a female. I met him and liked him. I had never met her before we started shooting. She had done some stage work and appeared in a TV series. Should be good enough, I thought. And it was. They were both perfect.

The film would need music. I was heavily into Mark Knopfler at the time. His keyboard player, Guy Fletcher, was dabbling in film music and I sent him a message through his website. Would he write music for my film? A stupid questions if you realise that I was totally unknown (still am) and he was the man behind classics such as Brothers in Arms. Strange things happen though. He saw the rough cut and sent a short message. “This film needs music.”

He spent his Christmas holiday writing music for my film. The tour was finished and he had worked on Mark’s live album. They would then go back to the studio in January. And still he found the time to write music for my short.

The moral of the story is that we should never give up before we try. The reasonable thing would have been to never contact him in the first place. Why would he even reply to my message, let alone spend time composing music for my Icelandic language no-budget film? That’s crazy talk! The man played on Money for Nothing and Calling Elvis. He worked with Tina Turner and God knows who else!

But he did reply and he did write music and and the results were beautiful. I can’t really describe the feeling when I play the album he released shortly afterwards and I hear the closing song. Black Sand Theme.

If you have an idea, try it out. Don’t give up. Never give up. Everything is possible.

Keep Writing

I have no time to write. I have just finished a nine-day working week and I’m tired. The attic needs attention before the workers come in next week. The kid needed to go to school. Maybe I should give up this novel-writing nonsense. Who am I anyway? Who am I kidding?

Under the Black Sand test copies

Under the Black Sand test copies

Kiddo was out the door at eight. If I go upstairs with my hammer and nails at ten, I’ll still have all day. That leaves two hours to write. Two hours that just ended, but I did manage to polish and fix a whole chapter. Instead of going upstairs, grumpy that life is playing me and stealing my opportunities, I now take that hammer in hand, knowing that the writer in me has been satisfied. I am that bit closer to the goal of finishing the novel.

So, no matter how life plays us, we can always write. It is not about having time, because we never do. Life is what happens to us while we’re busy making other plans. It is about making time. It’s about grabbing the little pockets of opportunities and making the most of them. Watch less TV, don’t let that mini-game on your smartphone eat up your spare time. Make the most of whatever time you find.

A clique, a well known and worn truth, but we sometimes need to remind ourselves of the simple things we already know.

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