Monday, March 17, 2014

A Cool Drink of water

The other day we had a family dinner & movie night - home-made pizzas and the Disney Pixar film The Incredibles. There is a scene early in the movie where two under-cover superheros are rescuing people from a burning building. Lucius Best AKA Frozone has the ability to create ice, from the water in his body, and the water in the air. In this hot burning environment he is too dehydrated, and there is no moisture in the air. The building starts to fall apart and they find themselves in a jewelry shop - mistaken for thieves.

Frozone is empty, he cannot use his powers. He has to take a quick drink from a water cooler to get back his abilities. This got me thinking. Often in life we can do things that empty us in some way, and need to re-fill. I thought about this in both spiritual and creative senses.

If we keep trying to "do stuff" for God, but never refill from his word and time spent with Him then we’re going to run dry and not be effective. In his post last week, Gregory Morris did a good job of talking about refilling and refueling from God’s word, and there’s certainly nothing more I could add to this.

In relation to our creative life, I think similar laws apply. In our writing, we are pouring out creativity but we need to refill our creative tank sometimes. I’m not talking about reading writing craft books and here, that is also absolutely vital, but I’m think of that as equipping ourselves with the right tools. I think we can refill our creative tank by consuming good stories.

I am trying to change the way I read stories. Traditionally, I've just become swept away by the story, but not thought too much about what the author is doing, and how they’re doing it. I am trying more and more to be a little more aware of what is going on around me when I read for pleasure. I’m not talking about full-on studying the text, but just having a greater awareness. Maybe other people are better at this and just do it naturally.

As example of this happened with me recently.. I’m currently reading A Cast of Stones by Patrick W. Carr. This Christian Fantasy has as its protagonist Eroll - a young drunk. He has no ambition or purpose in his life but to raise enough money for his next ale binge. There is nothing about him to make him a sympathetic protagonist. Contrast Eroll with another character - Liam. Liam is attractive, intelligent, kind and better than most with a sword. In addition to all of this, He is humble about his abilities and not at all stuck up. Everything about this character says we should love him - he is the perfect hero. The fascinating thing is that as we read the book, we identify strongly with Eroll, we care about him, and we quickly learn to dislike Liam. Why?

The author has done a very good job of making Eroll sympathetic to us. We stick very close in his point of view. We live through the danger with him as unknown assassins try to kill him. Then, we view Liam through the lense of Eroll’s jealousy. I was quite shocked at myself when I realised that I had resentful feelings toward Liam. That just shows what a good job the author did. Later in the book, when we find out why Eroll has descended into a drinking problem, we feel for him even more deeply because we already feel close to him.

I think this kind of observational reading can help recharge our tank, just like Frozone drinking that water, and I am going to try to more consciously do it.


Adam CollingsAdam Collings is a writer of speculative fiction and video blogger. He is actively working toward becoming a published author. He lives in Tasmania, Australia. Adam discusses books and movies on his youTube series Stories. You can find Adam on-line at collingszone.wordpress.com or his Google+ Profile

12 comments:

  1. Thanks, Adam, for this reminder to refill our creative 'tanks' along the way. I understand what you are saying about reading books with greater awareness as to what the author is trying to achieve, but I've found it does take a bit of practice to do this and not spoil my simple enjoyment of the book. I'm getting better though!

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    1. Thanks Jo-Anne. I'm practicing now too...

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  2. Thanks for that Adam. It's so important to recharge those creative juices. I find I'm starting to notice more in the books I'm reading for pleasure (e.g., Why did that bit work? Was there something wrong with the timing there?). When I'm reading a really great book, I find it still has the WOW factor, as I marvel at how the author put it all together. However, one downside is that I find I've become less tolerant of average books and I'm picking out all the problems with them. Sometimes I also find that there are other things altogether that can recharge the creative batteries (e.g., going to an art show, walking in a beautiful area, writing something different just purely for fun). Just need another couple of hours in the day to fit in a few more of those experiences. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Yes, I'm also finding that the more I learn about writing it is spoiling me for books that don't "do it right".

      Good idea mentioning those other ways to recharge our creativity. Going for a walk and looking at creation is certainly something that can help me.

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  3. Adam, well done. I don't do that enough, that is, read conscientiously in considering the text, characters, craft of the author, etc. It somehow takes away the enjoyment factor a little. I kinda hope it will simply soak into my sub-conscious.

    Thanks for reminding me that I should be more thoughtful in my reading time.

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    1. I know what you mean Ian. I've been coming to the conclusion that it doesn't "just soak in" at least for me. I think maybe the key is to read and enjoy it, then in a quiet non-reading time have a think about it. That way the learning won't interfere with the enjoying. That's how I'm going to try doing it anyway.

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  4. Thanks for the post, Adam. Now I've marked 'A Cast of Stones' on my 'To Read' shelf because I want to study how he does it too. It's a lot of fun, trying to work out the touches which can sway a reader's mind this way. As we know, they are very subtle. I appreciate your point about how quickly we can get dry, too.

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    1. I hope you enjoy it as much as I am Paula. I'd be interested in what you pick up from it.

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  5. Great post Adam. It's a good reminder to keep the creative batteries charged. Reading others works is a great way of doing though I like Nola's ideas too. I'm finding though that I have so many ideas spilling out that I just don't have the writing time to get them down.

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  6. Great post Adam. I too have been realising of late the importance of analysing what I read as I go along in order to learn from other writers. I've just finished reading one book and have started on another. It amazes me how two fiction writers can write so differently in two very different styles. And yet they both grab me and keep me reading. It teaches me too that I need to cultivate my own unique style of fiction writing.

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  7. I've found that my editor's hat is on right from the start. But if the story grabs me, I shed it and simply enjoy. Only then do I have a think about why I enjoyed it. As authors you just can't hep it, can you?

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  8. Thanks for the reminder Adam. I've always loved reading for its own sake, and for enjoyment, but I do find now as a writer that reading becomes a way to refill my own creative tank - ideas are sparked by the story, the style of writing etc. It's a wonderful part of life. Can't imagine how people go without it, whether they are writers or not.

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