Full circle

full circle

When I was young and just beginning to think about who I wanted to be in the world I settled on the idea of becoming a sound engineer. I loved listening to music and to a lesser extent playing music. Even at a young age I knew I didn’t have the commitment or talent to become a professional musician, but I loved the whole idea of working in a creative field with people who loved music as much as I did.

Unfortunately I lived in a smallish city in Australia and the options for becoming a sound engineer were limited to say the least. There was only one recording studio and jobs in the music industry were few and far between. Somewhat naively, I sent off a few letters to all of the film companies and television and radio stations in Perth asking if they had a position for me. I was 15.

Funnily enough, I received two job offers. One was as a telecine operator at Channel 9, a job which I later found out was extremely boring. I didn’t even consider that taking job because it was located in a suburb way out in the sticks and I didn’t have a drivers licence.

The other position was for an editing assistant at a small production company in the city, and this was the job I took.

I soon found that the job entailed not only film and sound editing, but typing invoices, doing the banking, getting lunches and hauling around cameras and recording gear on location. It was an interesting way to start my career.

My interest in sound came to the fore again several years later when I took a position as a sound editing assistant at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in Sydney, Australia. This job involved replacing dialogue, recording sound effects and laying music tracks for television dramas. It was fun and in those days it was all analogue which meant that every track was a physical entity and had to be created and carried from the editing room to the sound mixing studio. The tracks were then laced up on big machines (dubbers) and mixed down into a single sound track. This is all done digitally now.

Since then I’ve had a lot of other jobs, some creative and some less so, but my recent foray into podcasting represents a return to something I’ve always had a yen for.

 

Telling stories with sound

Storytelling

I’m excited to let you know that I’ve signed up to do a podcasting course with the nice people who run Creative Nonfiction Org. I was moseying around the internet looking for a writing course and I found this course  – Introduction to Audio Storytelling which combines nonfiction storytelling with audio editing. Both of these skills come together beautifully in a podcast.

I might not have talked much about my interest in podcasting on this blog, but I’ve mentioned it a few times over here on my other website. (Why do I have two blogs I hear you ask? Don’t know really, I just wanted to write about two slightly different but related topics I guess. I think of this blog as a place where I can write about creativity and insecurity and also about the pleasure that comes with trying new things. My other blog is about clarity, simplicity and design. As I said, different but connected).

What’s the course about?

Over the next 8 weeks I’ll be learning about sound editing and how to write and produce a five minute podcast. The course starts today and I’m pretty excited to be embarking on a new creative endeavor. I’ve done some sound editing in the past, but to be honest it was a long, long time ago, so I’m really looking forward to refreshing my skills, working collaboratively with the other students, and trying out some new ideas.

For the podcast we need write about something that is true, but also personal. Not in a creepy tell-all kind of way, but to write about something that is meaningful to us. That will be a challenge and already I’m doubting my ability to come up with something sufficiently interesting. I’m thinking about writing a short piece on finding your passion as I always find this topic of interest and I seem to be drawn to books and articles on the subject. I suspect that if I can talk about it for 5 minutes with enough enthusiasm, then there are bound to be other people who find the topic interesting as well. And really, the point of the exercise is to make something that makes me happy, not everyone else. Much like a painting a picture I suppose…

I’ll keep you posted on how it’s going. Have you thought about trying something new?

Can nonfiction be creative?

Mr Wikipedia says that creative nonfiction (also known as literary nonfiction) is a genre that uses literary forms to tell a story about true events. So if the events are real and the people are real, where does the creativity come in?

I think that it’s about using storytelling devices to weave a narrative that is compelling, rather than just a straight recitation of events, which could be really dull. Take the following example…

“I got up. It was raining. I went to the shops. I came home”. Not much of a story there!

A creative nonfiction writers would set the scene, describe the characters and build up to something actually happening. There would be a storytelling curve of some kind.

Creative nonfiction comes in many forms, from personal essays and memoirs to third person narratives about moments in time or newsworthy events. I’ve discovered that there are lots of resources out there and lots of people who are interested in the genre.

One of the websites I’d like to share is Narrative magazine. There’s some great writing on this site as well as competitions for writers of all kinds (not just creative nonfiction). Check it out, it’s really interesting.

Creative nonfiction

It’s that time of year when you are forced to sit down and have a big think about where your life is at, what you’ve achieved in the last year, and what you want to do next.

The process is a bit uncomfortable, to be honest. When I look back at the past year I can see that there were some opportunities that I didn’t make the most of. There were occasions where I didn’t speak up when I should have, and there were times when I should have been a bigger person. By that I mean more generous and less small-minded about things.

But there are always two ways of looking at things. On the plus side, I took on a new role at work (more or less successfully) and I continued to write (somewhat sporadically) on my two blogs. I love blogging, but sometimes I feel less than confident about sharing my thoughts and ideas. It’s kind of a weird hobby I suppose.

This year I’d like to bring together some of my interests and set some small but achievable goals. I’d like to get past the daydreaming stage and actually do something. There are a few options…

As I’ve mentioned in the past, my main creative interests are writing and music. I’m particularly interested in writing creative nonfiction but the truth is that I’m pretty undisciplined when it comes to getting something actually down on paper. I briefly contemplated signing up for a writing course, but then I realized that I could just as easily develop my own course of study.

The value of doing a formal course is that you need to get your assignments finished by a certain date and I find this helpful. It always motivates me to get my act together. I work quite well under pressure.

I’m considering developing a course of my own that will be ready for launching by June. That’s a random due date, but it will work for me. It gives me a semester to get the content together.

Let me know if you have any thoughts on this. I’d appreciate your feedback.

 

Facing down your fears

I listened to a great interview with Elizabeth Gilbert this morning on my way to work. It was part of a podcast on the source of creativity made by the TED radio hour. This is a show which strings together excerpts from various TED talks on a central theme and it’s always thought provoking.

Elizabeth Gilbert is famous for writing Eat, Pray, Love – possibly one of the most successful books of its kind and a huge bestseller for Gilbert. In the interview, she talks about facing her fears. She says that she is constantly asked if she worries that she won’t be able to write anything as good and admits that she does worry about this, but she has learnt to face down her fear.

She tells a lovely story of addressing her fears directly (yes, out loud, as if they are crouching in the corner of her writing room). She tells them that she knows that they’re there, but that they aren’t in charge. They can come along for the ride, but they aren’t in the driver’s seat.

I like this metaphor very much. You can’t really pretend that you aren’t afraid, but you can tell your fears to take a back seat in your creative journey.

 

Confidence is the key

As a teenager, one of my favourite books was Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. It’s a dystopian story set in a world where women are progressively disenfranchised and reduced to the status of servants. This is achieved by freezing all of their bank accounts and charge cards. One day they can access the automatic teller machine and the next day they can’t. It’s as simple as that.

Atwood has written a new book with a similar theme called The Heart Goes Last. This book tells the story of a struggling couple who take up an offer of working in an experimental prison where people spend half their time as guards and half their time as prisoners. It’s a fantastic piece of writing in the true sense of the word. The novel also features sex robots called ‘prostibots’.

In an interview with the author, she says that she always has lots of ideas about what to write and that she usually chooses the most outlandish idea to focus on. Not because she wants to make it hard for herself, just because she likes a challenge.

She says that people without ideas shouldn’t write.

I found this a bit confronting as I’m always worried about not having ideas, but I don’t really think the problem is not having ideas, it’s more about convincing yourself that an idea is stupid before you’ve even started exploring it. I’m pretty good at talking myself out of things. It’s less risky that actually doing something because no-one can criticise your work if you don’t produce anything.

The problem is not lack of imagination, it’s lack of confidence.

What people seem to need most coaching about in the area of creativity is not ‘optimizing’ their imaginations—it’s their confidence. And that’s because we’ve been brainwashed into thinking that we are all specialists of some kind, and that you can’t really be a writer unless you’ve got something like a master’s degree. Obviously, we want dentists to be trained, but writing is human storytelling and everybody does it.

Margaret Atwood on how technology influences creativity

This really leaves me with nowhere to go in the excuse department. There’s no reason not to write. There’s no reason not to begin. It’s all about starting isn’t it?