Sunday, May 16, 2010

Grinding the Grid: Saturday Night's Alright for Inspiration

Saturday evening is a great night for live music in Second Life®. Music is the purest form of escapism and inspiration for me, so much energy comes across from the performers. A great live show will always invigorate and enhance my writing.

To start my Saturday of musical inspiration, I took a trip over to Cisum (now unfortunately mid-move) to check out the sweet yet rocking Geos Copperfield at his 12PM SLT gig. This happens every week, with a set that varies between covers of all styles and originals that will get your head bobbing. I'm particularly fond of his song Words and his cover of Smashing Pumpkins saccharine lullaby, By Starlight. His performance at Cisum was also graced by a spectacular cover of Blue October's Hate Me. They're a good band for a writing playlist, epic without being in your face. Following him on the Cisum stage was Marsram Mougin with his intricate guitar work and slightly roughed voice that is perfect for the classic rock he plays. I stayed till the end of his set, relaxing and talking music with a friend while sipping the fruity pineapple drink Marsram's tip jar gives out.

Next on my list of musicians to catch up with was strum Diesel. I use his Google Calendar and my subscription to his updates to keep up with his performances on grid, trying to hit at least one show a week. This week, it was a new venue for him, A & A Games. I've kicked my Zyngo addiction, so left the gaming alone, but the 7 Seas Fishing pier was a nice diversion while I watched the sunset and listened to strum's amazing blend of originals and covers. His sets are different every time, including both guitar and piano accompaniment. The green haired showman can make you laugh and cry with his lyrics, filled with social commentary and pointed observations.

After relaxing with the sunset and strum's music for an hour, I moved on to my favorite club in Second Life®, the Virtual Hotel Chelsea. I stumbled upon it looking for a virtual New York City in the name of inspiration one morning and just keep coming back. Mykal Skall and enola Vaher are the avatars behind this nirvana of Bohemia, and it is their artistic spirit that makes the place feel so real. Walking into the Lyceum, I feel immersed in the 60s rock scene. Dark wood paneling, a fantastic bar, and pictures of the real Hotel Chelsea and its residents create this feeling for me. And the musicians enola books to perform there, of course.

First up was RoseDrop Rust. His performance was a blend of solid covers and amazing original poetry. Rusty is one of the best poets on the grid, and a live reading of his should not be missed. I hardly noticed the hour of his set going by, I was so wrapped up in his words. The blend of music and poetry was a perfect compliment to the club, and I felt like I was in the real Chelsea for most of his set.

Riding off the natural high of RoseDrop's performance, I slid right into Dale Aries's set without missing a beat. His gruff voice fit right into the mood RoseDrop had created, and I couldn't help but bop my head along with his blend of covers and originals. No dancing for me, though, I was so inspired by this point a poem just bled on out of me during the show.

There are many ways of finding inspiration on the grid, and the easy access to live music should be added to a list that already includes impressive builds and a great sense of community. Try out a show at the Hotel Chelsea on a Wednesday, Friday, or Saturday, or search any of these artists for their inworld groups and subscribos that will notify you when a great source of inspiration may be only a teleport away.

The Ways of the World: Under the Influence

There are many conflicting opinions on what one should read as a writer. Some authors-like David Eddings-claim to never read in their genre. Though he contradicted himself when he wrote of his love for the forms of medieval romance in the Introduction to The Rivan Codex. He was heavily influenced by this classic genre, and it shows in the similar plot structure of his books. It is better to admit to the influence your reading habits have on your writing, for then you can use it to your advantage.

The Writing Excuses podcast this week was on the proper way to steal. We have to be careful of plagiarism, and if you do not acknowledge and pay attention to how your influences texture your writing, you may be accused of being too derivative, as Eddings and Christopher Paolini often are.

The trick to harnessing your influences without getting caught is blending them in original ways. It's not the best of ideas to read in one genre to the exclusion of all others, it can lead to a sameness in style that will be noticed. My strategy to ensure I blend many different influences is to read multiple books at the same time.

Sure, I focus on one book occasionally, but for the last few years I've had a stack of about seven books that I'm reading. Sometimes more, sometimes less. I try to keep it on a set list of genres/styles, to ensure that I am not all over the place. The categories I settled on are: Religion, young adult, poetry, fantasy, reference, author criticism, and plays. These general headings cover the majority of my interests, and give enough leeway to plug in any book. My current reading list is the Bible, Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery, A collection of Shakespeare's poetry, The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun by J. R. R. Tolkien, The Complete Guide to Writing Fantasy, A Field Guide to Narnia, and A Raisin in the Sun. There's also a collection of Faulkner's work and Spenser's poems on the stack, as well as my continuing quest to get through Tales Before Tolkien. Another trick for ensuring you get to at least three of your chosen books a day is to scatter them about the house, anywhere you sit down is my decorating plan.

This is a heavy list, but I'm playing catchup as well. It suits the procrastinator in me. The theory behind the list is what matters, and that can be tailored to suit your needs. For example, one of the best ways to steal without getting caught is to borrow from history. This would be a section of my reading list, but as I already have to read a lot of history in the course of homeschooling my son, I omit it from the stack. The important piece to remember is to have a set list of forms and styles you read in.

Get a list of forms, styles and genres together that you want to explore and have at it. It helps to set aside a set time for reading every day, and to decorate with books. This reading to expand your writing style can be considered separate from casual reading, and don't be afraid to take notes. Happy reading!