Turns out the pursuit to live a creative life is a constant struggle between managing fantastical expectation vs reality and the need to get some damn food in your stomach on a daily basis.
It’s also one that should see you take influence from everything you can draw from.
I’ve written before about the importance of being able to take that influence, that inspiration, from a number of different outlets. Limiting yourself to only one, in a world so rich and abundant with great stories, told in wonderfully engaging and, occasionally, dynamic ways is akin to blind stupidity. A tunnel-visioned idea that if you’re not writing, well, you should be reading, right?
There’s truth to that, make no mistake, but in a world where some of the best stories in the past decade have been told through not only novels but cinema, comic books, and video games, then actively depriving yourself of these experiences simply because of the form they are delivered in just highlights a pretentious refusal to accept their potential.
And this brings me, of all things, to one of my favourite bands, The Wonder Years.
Hailing out of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, The Wonder Years have been performing for the better part of 13 years (at the time of writing), and have released a truly stellar series of albums over the course of their existence.
Mixing catchy pop-punk inspired riffs and melodies with cutting lyrical depth, made all the more apparent by the sincerity of each songs execution, I discovered The Wonder Years at a pretty crucial time in my life with their album, The Upsides, and, as I write this, their 6th studio album, Sister Cities, is on the horizon, releasing on April 6th this year.
But as excited as I am to listen to Sister Cities, it’s a companion piece that accompanies their albums release that has really piqued my creative interest:
“It started with journals and photos. We started by documenting. We didn’t know where it would go or if it would go anywhere at all but we wrote it all down. We took photos of everything. And then when it came to put it altogether, we had this catalog of how we felt and what it looked like and sounded like and we built from there. Figuring out what the moments were that stayed with me the most. When did I feel most connected to the people around me and why? What did being in this place during this moment teach me? It was a difficult year personally and globally and we experienced that through this lens of being everywhere but home, kind of floating through places and seeing how being there altered our perspective.”
- Dan “Soupy” Campbell, taken from Punktastic.com
I love this idea of sharing the process, warts and all, showcasing the work that goes into creating something, honing and adjusting until it’s released in its final form (which sounds very Dragonball Z, I know).
Imagine being able to get insight into your favourite writer’s notebook – the thought process behind your favourite story, highlighting the scenes that took your breath away when they were just a kernel of an idea, with a plethora of notes and character beats scribbled into margins, or gazing upon photos that inspired locations you’ve only read about, with reference pictures of characters that they saw in their head as they developed them, drawings of location layouts and timelines all allowing you a no-holds barred understanding into their personal process.
(This was something I actually experienced recently with the fantastic JK Rowling exhibition at The British Library, Harry Potter: A History Of Magic)
But what if it didn’t have to be an entire exhibit – that could become Scrooge McDuck levels of expensive pretty quick, after all. What if it could exist as a companion piece to the story you love so much?
There are so many elements, so many disparate aspects that could be documented and released concurrently with a book that would break down the mystique between fanbase and novel, done as a special edition offering in the way The Wonder Years are doing with Sister Cities.
Besides, if movies can have multiple cuts (Extended Editions, Director’s Cut, etc) overloaded with ‘Behind The Scenes’ features or ‘Making Of’ tomes that could kill a person if dropped onto them, then why not music – and if music can, why not a writer’s process?
Granted, the Sister Cities book is a little pricey, but when you’re an unrepresented, unpublished author like me…well, y’know…
– Steve R / @stevetendo