Friday, 29 August 2014

Kate Bush and the Power of Words

I went to see Kate Bush on Wednesday. It was an amazing experience that touched the audience in a way I have never seen before. Philippa Francis (writing as K.M. Lockwood) wrote a wonderful piece inspired by her visit to the show the night before. You can read it here.

I have seen many bands in my time. Hundreds, literally. It was my job at one point. I've become a little jaded. These days I would much rather go to the theatre than a concert. This was different. This was Kate Bush. Who knew she'd tour again? It was beautiful, extravagant, theatrical, of course. She was gorgeous, her voice pure and perfect. All these are things that have been said before and will be said again as more people go and more people write reviews.

This isn't a review. This is my response to the experience. Because the thing that struck me most was not the voice, the staging, the choice of songs - though all were wonderful. It was the emotion, such sheer depth of emotion both expressed by Kate and her band, but also by us, the audience members collectively and singularly. When she walked on stage, and she did so in a very unassuming way, I felt quite overwhelmed. When she started singing I almost burst into tears. And I wondered why. David Bowie is my ultimate hero (I went to the V&A exhibition 3 times. I first saw him when I was 16. I love him, basically). But I've never felt like crying when I listen to his music or when I've seen him perform. So what does Kate do; what does she bring that is so different? Emotion.

This a woman with incredible songwriting skills. The music is fantastic, but I think the emotion she portrays is through her lyrics. The power of her words hold the emotion. Cloudbusting makes me cry. I have no idea why. Perhaps it's because she so perfectly captures the depth of feeling between the boy and his father. Perhaps it's because I 'get' their relationship, I feel their love, their pain.

I hid my yo-yo
In the garden
I can't hide you
From the government
Oh, God, Daddy
I won't forget

Written by Kate Bush / Lyrics © EMI Music Publishing

She writes with an honesty, a purity and a beauty that touches you, and lets you empathise with the character she sings about. Judging from the audience's reaction on Wednesday, she speaks to people of all ages, from all walks of life. We were all lifted by her songs. So is this something that only happens with music? Do you need to hear the lyrics with accompaniment to be so moved? No. It happens in film. It happens with books. With film you're given the same image as the person next to you. With music you're given more of a complete picture but it's open to interpretation. With books, the words must speak for themselves.

David Almond is one of the most lyrical writers I've had the pleasure to read. I wept buckets at the end of Kit's Wilderness. Without giving away the (fantastic) ending, it's all about belief, hope, trust. Some writers can capture emotion through the eyes of their characters, some in the beautiful choice of words. The words the writer chooses have the power to reach out and both deliver you to a new world and to echo feelings inside you. A writer who can do that, either through the written word or through song, will truly tap into your emotions and create a bond that is long lasting. A bond Kate Bush has managed to keep with her live audience even after a 35 year absence.

Right, now to find the tissues....

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Ten Things That Are NOT Writing My Novel (but they're not far off)

1. Reading blogs. This is fun. It's entertaining. It's informative. I can kid myself it's writing related when I read about other people's processes, interesting facts from past times, author interviews. It's not getting the words on the page of my novel but perhaps it kicks me into at least opening Scrivener.

2. Watching TV shows on Amazon Instant. It's a shame really that I can't count this as writing. If I put as much effort into writing my novel as I have with watching Arrow, then I'd not only have finished and polished it, I'd have planned a sequel too. But does it count a little bit? Can I say that following the plot and the arc of a TV series helps with my own plotting?

3. Reading fiction. Reading informs our own writing in that it inspires (hopefully) and triggers little lightning flashes of ideas, however remote and fuzzy. If we are to write, we must read. In the past week I have read 2 ½ novels. Is my own novel any further forward because of this reading? Not really, but I firmly put reading fiction in the "part of the writing process" department. Fiction fills our heads with worlds and from those worlds new ideas grow.

4. Reading non-fiction. Of course this is counted towards writing. It's research! Even if I'm writing a Victorian novel (which I am, by the way), reading a book about alchemy or Egyptian Gods is part of the writing process. We all have an ideas book, right? Well ALL non-fiction has the potential to spark a new story idea. Anyway, I have a magpie mind and I like collecting facts that may or may not be of use at some point.

5. The Theatre. Oh, how I love it! I've been to some fine plays recently – Another Country, Birdland, The Crucible, Richard III. And (huzzah!) after 3 ½ hours in phone and online queues, I got tickets for Hamlet next year with that Cumberbatch boy. Again, not writing. Although it does give me an appreciation of the beauty of words, so perhaps it's counted.

6. Music. Listening to it, not playing it – I have no talent in that department. Does singing along to the Arctic Monkeys help with my writing? It would be a huge stretch of the imagination to say that it did. Or would it? What about the rhythm of the lyrics? Could they help in some way with the rhythm of the words in my story?

7. Art galleries. There are no words here. Well, not in the exhibitions I've been to recently. So does art inform writing or is it just bunking off? Did my visit to the Royal Academy summer exhibition spark any story ideas or did I just stand there feeling somewhat confused? Both actually. Some of the pieces were beautiful. I think that any image we're drawn to can enrich us and this will be carried through to our writing. The confusion? How were some of those pieces even chosen?

8. Buying stationery. This is definitely counted as writing. You buy a new notebook therefore you write something nice in it. And neatly too. If you buy lots of notebooks then you must use them for lots of things – one for story ideas, one for character traits, one for plotting. In fact, buying stationery is obligatory.

9. Hanging out with friends. If you hang out with writer friends, especially if you meet up to write, then this is definitely counted. How can you sit at a table, opposite someone who is writing with a fury and not do the same?  I've found that it is possible to go on Facebook and Twitter while writing the occasional word, but if you have to compare word counts at the end of the session, you soon realise the error of your ways.

10. Cooking. How can cooking be related to writing? It's not. But by doing something so totally unrelated, you can free up your mind, and sometimes that tricky plot problem will resolve itself. OK, so it's not all that convenient to write down the perfect sentence or plot outline while up to your elbows in flour, but I didn't say it was easy!