As I predicted before I left I used Saatchi’s ‘Be The Worst You Can Be’ more like a self-help referral guide to making yourself feel better before I went out on my own (it helped by the way, it’s very funny and insightful in places) and Steinbeck’s ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ was unmoved from my baggage, it is now on my ‘To-Do’ pile of books that I have every intention of reading but for one reason or several dozen I haven’t yet…however, yes, ‘Hitch 22’ I couldn’t put down. I thought I would share my thoughts, not on Christopher Hitchens specifically, but people that impress in general and how they help me to write.
I happen to like Mr Hitchens and I happen to share a lot of his views but I can see why people do not like him and I can see why people would take umbrage with his opinions but (I would hope) even his enemies would credit him with skills and attributes that make him the important figure he is (sorry not to use the word ‘was’, it feels like I should refer to him in a way that shows his meaning is still alive, for those of you who need to look him up (Christopher Hitchen's Wikipedia Link), he sadly passed away last year from cancer). Talking more generally there are thousands of people that have certain terms applied to them when they get to a certain position in the public’s eye; sayings like, ‘an institution…’, ‘heroic…’, ‘a leading figure…’, ‘intellectual…’, ‘veteran...’, it doesn’t necessarily have to be because they have spent decades working on a subject, although it does seem more readily applied to surrogate father/mother or uncle/aunt figures, but more because they are readily associated with a cause. You don’t have to believe in that cause, you don’t even have to believe in that person, commentators on public life seem to be more trusted than politicians say, but they have an undeniable influence on what we read, watch and hear…we all have our favourites, they could be musicians, actors, authors or any number of public/semi-public people that we tend to listen and believe more than others (or they could be your grandmother). Those are the people I am interested in, I can’t list them, everyone reading this will have their own inclinations, some will be extremely famous and hugely influential in the mainstream media, some may be underground/obscure less well know figures; but I’m not worried about how radical or not someone’s views are; I’m keen to understand why those people influence us in a way that changes our lives. I’ll keep reminding you (actually myself) that I’m linking this all to writing so bear with me if I do veer off occasionally.
I want to write stories that convey the topics I’m interested in and one of the main tools to do so is to create characters. They are my vehicles of expression but they are limited to my total sum of knowledge. If I never accepted any external information into my brain then I’m stuck with what I’ve got and I would have to twist, re-twist and re-twist some more of what I already carry. Imagination is boundless as they say but that’s okay if as a 32-year-old man I have already gone through the educational system and had access to information and other people’s views all my life and know how to think for myself. If I was cut off now then how much could I say is new of what I come up with? Convert imagination into physical matter then I may have ideas the size of several planets stored away ready to be unlocked and molded but what is interesting to me is how other people, people who impress, have the potential to unlock those ideas for you. I read about how The Hitch talks about this or talks about that, or travels here and travels there; and I think I want to do that or I want to write about that. Would I ever have done so if I had never read his books, or seen his debates on YouTube? Probably not, but that doesn’t mean those ideas and interests weren’t there lying in wait for the Hitch to jog them out of their hiding places. The same goes for all those people that have inspired you one way or another, they may reveal a concept so brand new to you it takes you somewhere you never would have got to alone…or they could have just slightly nudged you…just enough…to make you take the metaphorical jump. Both, I think, are as important as each other. We all have so much we want to achieve yet we are chained by constraints, our health, our finances and so on and so on.
As I mentioned, there are thousands. It would be impossible to say who these people are, they are everywhere, and they can be in the least likely of places. You may love them or you may hate them. What the problem seems to be is energy…what I mean by that is that the passion, euphoria, inspiration, or whatever you feel like calling it seems to disappear soon after we close the final page of the book, the final curtain goes down, the concert finishes, the argument dies down, etc…we feel empowered and energetic and we rush off to make a go of it our way and then…soon enough we tire…we go back to our normal lives…we return to acceptance. Those people that impress seem to never lose that burst of energy, of course I’m not suggesting they don’t need to work hard or a blessed with genetic material that the rest of us don’t have so it’s easy for them; I’m suggesting in fact the very opposite thing, THEY WORK VERY HARD! That seems to be it, they go through turmoil like all of us, they go through those painful difficult stages of life and what makes a lot of them so special is that they go through far worse than the average person ever experiences or has forced on them. Yet they continue. They persevere. I hope that by reminding myself of this, every time I read a book, watch a play, watch a film, listen to a song, watch an interview, watch the news, tell myself something is too much of a risk, see someone do something very normal walking down the street in front of me or see someone do something exceptional on the other side of the globe, I remember that just to live is hard work but to do more is impressive...so get writing.
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