Get inspired. Surround yourself WITH GREAT ART

by Ksenia Anske


I keep getting asked by folks where I get my inspiration, if I ever get writer's block, what do I do if I don't feel like writing or if it's simply not happening, etc, etc. And, most recently, I also got asked about my playlist, about what type of music I listen to when writing SIREN SUICIDES. While compiling that list, I started thinking... Why is it that I don't typically have a writer's block, or if I do get stuck I tend to quickly get unstuck, and it flows again, or even flat out gushes? And I think I know the answer. It's very simple. I surround myself with GREAT art (not mediocre, but GREAT), and if my own imagination feels dry and cracked, I go dip my head into someone else's and it works like a moisturizer - rich, creamy, and smooth. Um... pardon the pun. Couldn't help myself. Because it does! It's like it gives life and richness to my empty mind, it ignites my thinking and gets me going again, in a way something beautiful prompts you to create something beautiful in turn. All of a sudden, when you see someone else do it, you think you can do it too, and you do. 

Read great books. I know people read all kinds of stuff, magazines, articles, fiction, non-fiction. Here I'll drop a bomb and will obviously be butchered by many. Fine. Do it. I probably deserve it anyway, but I want to be honest, and here is the harsh truth. I steer away from indie books and I suggest you do the same. Because most of them are bad, and some are very very bad. Don't waste your time on mediocrity. I know the publishing machine is old and rusty and failing, but it is still run by people who spent years and years perfecting the art of telling stories and bringing them to others, and I trust those people. They make choices for a reason, they make you go through a drill and select the best of the best of the best. This comes, by the way, from someone who doesn't even know if she will get published traditionally or not. Maybe my first book will be shit and will be rejected. So what, I'll still read great books, to get better. Also, please note, there are awesome indie exceptions, like Hugh Howey, for example. But, back to my point. Please, read great books. GREAT NOVELS. Read classics that have stood the test of time, or read new books that have been praised by many. In any case, read something amazing, and you will want to create amazing stuff too. And you will.

Watch great movies. This, again, is one of my pet peeves, maybe because I'm a cinema snob, maybe because I've written screenplays in the past and even produced a couple movies, one of them was even shown at SIFF, Seattle International Film Festival (it was only 3 minutes long, but so what, I got to see my creation on a big screen). I don't watch TV, I don't go to movie theaters and watch new releases, well not true, I do, but only occasionally. I only watch great stuff, either because I know that the director is amazing, or I know that the story is amazing, or both, or a few sites I trust have reviewed the movie and liked it. Or it's a classic that everyone loves, or it won so many Oscars that it must be worth something. In any case, whatever it is, I try to watch only GREAT movies. To learn. To hopefully spend every minute mesmerized by someone else's art, to get inspired, to run back to my writing and create, create, create.

Listen to great music. I make my own collections and also listen to Pandora a lot, to radio stations that I've created, or to classical music that stood time. Maybe because I love cinema, sometimes I don't just listen to music but also watch music videos, and it gives me shivers. I even imagine some of my characters inside those videos and it helps me visualize them. Also, because I'm broke right now and can't afford going anywhere, I watch YouTube videos of classical music performed say, somewhere in Italy. If you can, go listen to music performed, because you get such high out of it, it stirs your imagination and pulls you into this thrumming of energy that permeates the performance hall, the actual sound-waves physically move you. The experience is unforgettable. I swear live music changes something within us, like tunes our tired nerves. If you haven't been to a concert for a long time, go. Feel it. It will make your ideas sing. 

Look at great art. For me it's photography on Flickr from select photographers whom I follow, although I do try to kick myself out of the house once in a while and go see art in museums or on art walks, but I find it mostly disappointing, unless it's a trip to the Louvre and I can gaze at Mona Lisa for hours, before security kicks me out. Yeah, I'm snob, but so should be you. To develop your own style and to set your own standard as high as one of the masters, of the geniuses that have been hailed and worshipped and revered by society. There is a reason they have been. What is it? How would you know if you don't study their art? Forget about reading other's conclusions about this or that, go see for yourself, form your own opinion, get your own goosebumps running up your back when looking inside Mona Lisa's eyes, or by perhaps studying every petal and stroke in van Gogh's paintings. Or maybe it's your neighbor who paints her garden roses and everybody thinks it's a stupid hobby but when you look at them, you think they are divine. Whatever it is, look for great art, find it, and surround yourself with it. You will want to create like there is no tomorrow.

There is also live theater, sculpture installations, amazing architecture, etc, etc. There is a ton of art around you to get inspired from. I find it that only a few types really work for me, like great novels, music, photography, and cinema. What's yours? Anything I missed? 

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Siren Suicides Playlist

by Ksenia Anske


So @vanillespeaks on Twitter asked me to share my playlist, or, in other words, music I write to. Blasting it loudly. Shaking my head to it. Or humming to it. Or feeling like I float. In any case, compiling this list prompted me to think about why I listen to so much music and why I look at so many photographs for my book, so I'll write another blog post after this one, called, "Get inspired by surrounding yourself with art." Because, that's what it does to me. It helps me produce great art. Great music makes me feel, no, it amplifies what I feel, and it fuels me with desire to share it. It also helps me get into a particular mood for a particular scene. 

Sigur Rós station on Pandora is my daily writing music. It's my main music source, because it happens to be the perfect radio station combining exactly the type of music that, apart from few exceptions, fits the mood for Siren Suicides exactly. In particular, the song Sæglópur summarizes the mood of the entire novel very well.
⬇ CLICK TO VIEW MUSIC VIDEO

 
Björk inspired all siren songs. There are 6 sirens total. The protagonist, Ailen Bright, and the other 5. I listen to Björk when I write lyrics for songs for the other 5 and when I come up with a tune for them (I'm not a musician, but I have to hum to something when writing lyrics). Hyperballad in particular fits one of the chapters. You'll know which one I'm talking about when you read the book.
⬇ CLICK TO VIEW MUSIC VIDEO  


Radiohead fuels all dramatic scenes. There is a lot of tension between the protagonist, Ailen Bright, a teenage siren, and the antagonist, Roger Bright, a siren hunter and her father. So whenever I write those scenes, I usually listen to Radiohead. Creep, especially. In fact, Creep lyrics were integrated into the novel at one point, until I realized it's a pain to license then and switched to writing my own lyrics.
⬇ CLICK TO VIEW MUSIC VIDEO 


Deadmau5, Skrillex, and Kaskade are Ailen Bright.
Every character has a particular tune in my book, sort of like a particular style associated with them. Every human soul has a sound associated with them. Sirens, however, have no souls, that's why they eat them. Yet they still have a particular tune to them in my head. For Ailen, the protagonist, music is huge. As a character, she listens to a UK band (a band I made up) called Siren Suicides. The way they sound is best summarized with I Remember by deadmau5 & Kaskade.
⬇ CLICK TO VIEW MUSIC VIDEO 


Vivaldi's Summer is Hunter Crossby.
Like I said, every human soul has a particular sound to it, which when heard by a siren, signifies a certain taste, the way a soul would taste. Hunter is a teenager and Ailen's best friend. They get stoned together in her bathroom, and he constantly tries to get her to listen to Vivaldi. In her words, "...which Hunter made me listen to whenever we got stoned, under the pretext of cultural enrichment and divine experience, because somehow classical music was supposed to make us feel more high or something like that. I admit, after a couple joints, it did sound good." There are more tones to his soul, but this one is the main (and as a result, I listen to Vivaldi when writing Ailen and Hunter scenes). 
⬇ CLICK TO VIEW MUSIC VIDEO ⬇ 

These are the main musical themes for Siren Suicides. Based on my mood, sometimes I also listen to British Sea Power, Ben Jelen, Solar Fields, Porcelain, Bon Iver, Avicii, Iron and Wine, Underworld (this is mostly for motorcycle chase scenes), and Starfucker. That's about it. 

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