I am currently deep in the midst of listening to the audiobook Room to Dream by David Lynch and Kristine McKenna and I am loving it.
Lynch has long been a fascinating character to me and I’m relishing this chance to dig deeper into his life. Coincidentally, I am also trying to get back in touch with my own creative side, which I feel has been a little absent for far too long.
So it was with marvelous serendipity that I was searching a message board the other day, looking to see some old posts about Lynch, that I came across a link to something I had written and completely forgotten about. I kept a blog for a while (didn’t everyone?) and in 2010 I posted five things I learned from David Lynch about creativity and the creative process. And I find myself inspired by my own words and thought I’d repost them here.
Maybe this is exactly what I need to jumpstart my own creativity. And maybe it will be useful to you, too.
Continue reading “What I Learned from David Lynch”
In 1987, I began keeping a list of the title and author of every book I finished reading. I started near the back of a notebook/journal and, in August 1998, I filled the last page. So I went back to the first page of my list and started filling in pages going backwards toward the front of the notebook from there. In 2017, I still have a few more blank pages left before I run into other content, and when I do I’ll have to figure out how to keep going. Sometimes I think about rewriting the whole list in a new blank notebook, and I guess that will ultimately have to be the solution – or at least keep going in a whole new notebook. Anyway, I have a couple of years before I have to decide.
Meanwhile, 2017. Continue reading “2017 – A Year in Books”
Today I started listening to the book How Music Works by David Byrne.
I was struck by the opening sections, by the thesis he lays out, and am looking forward to hearing how he develops it further.
context largely determines what is written, painted, sculpted, sung, or performed. That doesn’t sound like much of an insight, but it’s actually backward from conventional wisdom, which maintains that creation emerges out of some interior emotion, from an upwelling of passion or feeling, and that the creative urge will brook no accommodation, that it simply must find an outlet to be heard, read, or seen. The classical composer gets a strange look in his or her eye and begins scribbling furiously. The rock-and-roll singer is driven by desire and demons, and out bursts this amazing song. This is the romantic notion of how creative work comes to be, but I think the path of creation is almost 180º from this model. I believe that we unconsciously and instinctively make work to fit preexisting formats.
My thoughts immediately drifted to the theatre, and how certain choices – particularly the choice of where you stage your show – determine a lot about the overall shape of the production. I also thought about theatre classes I took in college, and the methods of play analysis I learned. Essentially, the whole point of the classes was learning that the context of the play’s creation – the historical and cultural forces at work when the play was written – are fundamental pieces required to help understand the work itself.
These are just half formed thoughts, typed here while one of my kids babbles to the dog in a very annoyingly distracting singsong voice, so I can barely think at all. So that’s the context of this blog post and the reason why it’s likely not coming together as a coherent piece.
I’m currently reading (listening to, actually) Act One, an autobiography by Moss Hart. It’s both a seminal theatre work and a highly enjoyable read (listen).
Moss Hart co-wrote several classics, including You Can’t Take It With You, a play I did in high school (which reminds me of a line from the New York Times review of a recent revival: “Those who saw, or performed in, You Can’t Take It With You in high school should not let that trauma taint the Broadway revival of that show.”).
Hart also directed the original productions of My Fair Lady and Camelot, so the guy was no slouch.
This is a book that, frankly, I wish I’d read when I was young and impressionable. His drive and ambition, as well as his ability to keep going despite setbacks, is inspirational. I suspect this book resulted in a lot of people moving to NYC over the years, in pursuit of theatrical careers. But few of them had Hart’s talent or – as he would likely be the first to admit – his luck. It’s a wonderful story, well told.
I finished this afternoon and the ending is fantastic. What a story. What a life.
Frank Rich wrote this about Act One, and it encapsulates the book’s appeal: “Hart’s memoir is one of the great American autobiographies because it gives a certain kind of reader hope. It says you can escape a home where you feel you don’t belong, you can escape a town you find suffocating, you can follow a passion (the theater, but not just the theater) that is ridiculed by your peers, you can—with hard work, luck, and stamina—forge a career doing what you love. However modest or traumatic your beginnings, you can find your way to Oz—and you don’t have to go back to Kansas anymore.”
One of the best things social media – and particularly Twitter – did for me was introduce me to Lisa Bonchek Adams. She was funny and snarky and wise.
She began most days by sending out this message:
Find a bit of beauty in the world today.
If you can’t find it, create it.
Some days this may be hard to do.
When I met her, she was already a breast cancer survivor. She used her website as well as her presence on Twitter to raise awareness of metastatic breast cancer and help people work through grief. She was tremendously helpful to me when my own father died.
In 2012, she learned her cancer had returned and she chronicled her journey -its highs and lows – for all of us. In 2015, she died.
Last month, her brother and her mother put out a book of Lisa’s writings. It is “a guide for patients, families, friends and caregivers, written in Lisa’s unique writing style—part poetry, journal and memoir.”
A wonderful tribute to a wonderful person, someone I still think about all the time even though, sadly, we never met in person.
Sometimes social media seems to be hastening the rise of hatred and division. But it can also introduce us to people who touch our lives in ways we never could have anticipated.
I can’t remember how I came across Kristina Riggle on Twitter. Do any of us really remember how we stumbled across the people we follow?
We bonded over our children’s love of Star Wars and, in particular, the Wilhelm Scream. I’ve enjoyed her tweets as an insight into both her personal life and her writing life. Naturally, then, I’ve always rooted for her as an author.
So I was particularly delighted when she recently reported that an old novel of hers, Things We Didn’t Say, had seen a sales bump and was suddenly a USA Today Bestseller.
I enjoyed her most recent novel, Vivian in Red, which takes place in Broadway’s tin pan alley days. It tells the story of Milo Short, a producer who, nearing the end of his life, is haunted by a woman he hasn’t seen since the 1930’s. It’s up to Milo’s misfit granddaughter, Eleanor, to piece together the fragments of the mystery woman’s life and finally tell the real story behind Milo’s greatest song.
When the novel came out in paperback earlier this year, I published an interview with Kristina Riggle on BroadwayWorld.
I went through a long period of fascination with Antarctica, especially the doomed Scott expedition. I don’t know how much of that was spurred by the 20th Century Vole motion picture and how much might have been just a natural progression from the general cuteness of penguins. In high school, I wanted to mount a production of Terra Nova, but our drama teacher just laughed at me. In the nineties, I filled out an application to join Antarctic Support Associates and become a south pole worker.
I recently finished listening to a very entertaining novel called South Pole Station by Ashley Shelby and when it was done I was glad I’d never actually mailed that application.
The book gives an insider look at pole life while also offering sharp characters and some interesting discussions of science. I had some visceral reactions (which, for good or ill, I tweeted to the author) and generally found myself eager to return to the audiobook as often as I could. I loved it.
My interview with author Delia Cabe is now up on BroadwayWorld. She talks about some of the inspirations, favorite stories, and other tidbits behind her book Storied Bars of New York.