Monday, April 13, 2009
"I'm looking for things to steal."
The story is that American artist, Jasper Johns, was roaming around a MOMA Matisse exhibition one day. Someone approached him to ask what he was doing there, and he replied, "I'm looking for things to steal."
I know what he means. I'm feeling the creative-klepto urge myself.
There's no shame in swiping ideas and inspiration from others. Or I hope not, because I have a well documented history of doing so. The first short story I wrote was inspired by the film, Lost in Translation. My second novel, Plum Blossoms in Paris, leeched some of Before Sunrise's romantic spirit, while its title also contains a reference to a recently discovered Matisse painting. Whether I like it or not, surfing consistent swells of fresh, innovative ideas is not my strength as a writer. I know which emotions I want to capture and share with readers, but the skeleton supporting that flesh and blood is all too often a mystery of scattered, buried bones. I need some leads.
And perhaps the focus and discipline required for nailing down that structure, and riding the long wave that is a novel, has escaped me a little since I started blogging. I love writing vignettes and poems, but let's face it: this is a short-attention span medium, and a fairly addictive one due to the wonderful give and take with all of you. If an idea finds me now, I'm usually satisfied with my attempt to shine it into a small, stand-alone pearl, instead of stringing the longer necklace (wow, I seriously need to lay off the metaphors...). The truth is that I don't really feel like a novelist anymore. Even with a book coming out next year.
I want to find that commitment again. I'd like to have the total, sustained consumption that only a novel can bring. To fall asleep with beloved characters talking to me.
But first I need to dig them up. They're still buried somewhere. And so I find myself watching more films, hunting for more obscure things to read online, listening more closely to song lyrics, and roaming around some virtual MOMA's. The hunger is there, which is good. But so is the fear that it just won't happen again.
So yeah...I'm looking for things to steal. Great things. While trying not to hear the infernal clock ticking behind my shoulder.
After all, I wrote this post talking about a new novel over a year ago.
Note: I have no proof that Johns' untitled work on the right was inspired by the Matisse cutout on the left. I just saw them, and made a connection.