Musical Talent – Fact or Opinion?

If you’re like me, music is an enormous (or at least very significant) part of your life.  Finding new artists to obsess over and rave about to your friends is a normal part of your day.  So when you find out that one of your friends hates your new favourite artist, the first question (or exclamation) you have is, “WHY?!”

Why, indeed?  Personal opinion is all well and good, but when you’re talking about an occupation or activity that requires some talent to succeed, is there actually a set definition of “talent” to follow?  I’ve often wondered this when my friends and I differ on what music artists we like, or even who we think is “better” than who.  (Usually, we’re talking about the musical talent of the artist, not necessarily the genre of music that artist falls under, since my friends and I all tend to like the same kinds of music…)

So is talent something you can really measure or even define?  Or is it something that must be purely based on others’ opinion and the parameters of the genre or job description?  I mean, I don’t particularly like screamo rock, but that’s because I don’t think it takes much talent to scream into a microphone at the top of your lungs for four minutes straight.  But then again, I don’t know that genre very well, so I could be missing out on a lot of really great artists who do have a lot of talent…..  I don’t think I am, but you never know.

Or here’s an interesting angle: is our taste in music (specifically our talent-taste, not genre-taste) dependent or at least somehow related to our own musical proficiency?  For example, if we’re tone deaf, does that mean that we can’t hear when other people aren’t hitting the notes perfectly on key?

“She’s pitchy on the high notes too often.”  “He has a weird vibrato.”  “Her voice is too nasally.”  “They don’t harmonize well.”  Are these facts or opinions or both?  And does the answer to that question determine whether that artist is talented or not?

I’d be very interested to hear your thoughts!

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What Makes You An Adult?

It’s a valid question, right?  There seems to be such a fuzzy line that separates childhood from adulthood, so who’s to say where that line really is?

For me, this question comes up constantly, especially in the last couple of years.  Being born as the oldest in a family of six children, I think it’s fair to say that my transition into adulthood started earlier than a lot of other peoples’ did – or, at least, it felt like it did.  Many people would mark the edges of that fuzzy line somewhere around age 15 or 16, but how can you put a measure of time on the progression and growth of maturity?

Or don’t we define adulthood in terms of maturity?  I suppose much of the world defines adults by more tangible milestones – getting your license, legally gaining adult rights at 18, the ability to drink anywhere in the US at 21, getting married, etc.  So here we have two different ways of telling when we officially become adults: when you reach a certain milestone, or when you reach a certain level of maturity.

But isn’t it more complicated than that?  If we say that an adult is someone who has “grown up,” then that fuzzy line could potentially start anywhere over the course of our lives because we’re always maturing.  And how is it possible to measure maturity, anyway?  For one thing, maturity comes and develops in everyone differently and at a different pace.  How, then, is it in any way measurable?  We try to, though – apparently we’re presumed responsible enough to control two tons of metal at breakneck speeds when we’re 15 or 16 years old…  Apparently we’re ready to face adult legal matters and handle the responsibility of adult privileges at the age of 18, according to the government…  Apparently at 21, we’re presumed to have enough self-control and discretion around an addictive substance…

So does the answer lie in the definitions that others make for us?  Do the government, our parents, our siblings, our peers and our great-aunt Suzy’s definitions all coalesce into a custom-made definition of adulthood for each individual person?  Or is the best answer we can give simply that becoming an adult is a process, not a turning point?  And therefore, since it’s something that necessarily happens over a period of time, it’s impossible to choose one moment or one achievement to mark that transition clearly?

Alright – I realize that I’m being more than a little dramatic about this, but at the same time, every question I asked is a valid one.  Recently, I’ve been dealing with a lot of stress related to some problems in my workplace, and more than once, I’ve found myself asking, “is this an issue everyone has to deal with at some point, or do I just have exceptionally bad luck when it comes to part-time jobs?”  This is nowhere near the only (or worst) example I could mention in relation to this question of adulthood, but I think it’s especially relevant to people in my age group – especially students.

So what do you think?  Fellow students and young adults, what are your thoughts about where you’re at in terms of adulthood?  And to everyone else, what do you think about the arguments I’ve made and the points I’ve presented?  What are your perspectives on this?

Thanks for reading!

Book I Love But Others Love to Hate – Part 2

Last week I made the point that real readers are becoming frighteningly uncommon, so in an effort to get people to read more, I thought I’d share with the world why I love some of the hot and hated books right now – and, therefore, why I think they’re worth reading.  Last week’s post was about Stephanie Meyer and her books, the Twilight Saga and The Host (click here to read last week’s post!), and this week’s topic is going to be about Christopher Paolini and his books, the Inheritance Cycle (a.k.a. the Eragon books)!

Now I know this one might not be hated as hotly as the Twilight books are, but (in my experience, at least), I’ve gotten a lot of sneers for confessing my love for these books (and I know a lot of friends who have gotten sneers for liking them, too).  Some of the arguments I’ve heard most often against Paolini’s books (there are four: Eragon, Eldest, Brisingr, and Inheritance) are that he uses too much description, the language he uses is hard to understand, his characters/the setting/the world/the storyline are not believable, etc., etc.  There are many more things I’ve heard people say about how “bad” these books are, but the ones I listed are what I’m going to address, so I’ll stop there.

For one thing, I thing it’s pointless to argue that a book’s plot or characters or setting is unbelievable – especially when that book is clearly fiction.  The whole point of setting a novel in another world is so that your readers aren’t always worrying about whether something in the story is “believable” or not.  And I’m making this argument as both a reader/book-lover AND writer/aspiring-novelist.  So don’t call something in a fiction book “unbelievable” unless you know that the author intended the story to be accurate to life… or unless you mean it in the “this book is so awesome!!” sense.

Description has always been a matter of opinion to me – some people like to read longer descriptions that paint pictures in the reader’s mind, and some people like less description so that they can let their imaginations fill in the details that were left out.  It’s the difference between describing (for example) someone’s eyes as “the green-blue color of the ocean, shaded by thick, dark lashes” or simply as “piercing.”  So in the case of Eragon and Paolini’s other books, I would agree that he has a lot of description – but I would also argue that his description is eloquent, beautiful and appropriate.  He’s not another Melville.  (If you don’t get that reference, go read Moby-Dick… or at least try.)

Which leads me to my next point – there’s nothing wrong with good, well-educated and well-used diction and vocabulary.  Yes, I do think Paolini uses a lot of vocabulary that the average public high-schooler might not know, but so what?  When you don’t know a word, look it up!  (It’s called “LEARNING!”)  I grew up reading tons of books that were technically “above” my reading level, so I learned a lot of words sooner than most other kids my age, and it actually gave me an advantage in my high school literature classes.  Sure, you can call me a nerd if you want – or you can ask me what a word means and learn something yourself.

Ok, I can’t let this topic go until we talk about the film version of Eragon.  Unfortunately, this is one instance where I agree with the general public (and in this case, the general public’s opinion is by far the majority opinion)  – the movie was terrible.  Bad acting, bad accuracy to the book (and I mean worse than usual, Hollywood), low budget, they never made the other books into movies (so we have no sense of how much better it could have been), and it just wasn’t very well made in general.  Now don’t get me wrong – there are actors in there that I loved when they were in other films, but they just weren’t the right ones to play these characters…  The books were epic and really well anticipated when they were still coming out, but I don’t think this movie was very highly anticipated – and of the people who did have high expectations, it turned out to be a sorry disappointment.

So those are my thoughts on Christopher Paolini and his Inheritance books!  I’d be very interested to hear what your opinions are of these books, or, if you haven’t read any of them, whether my post has made you any more motivated to read them now!  Thanks for reading, and have a great weekend!

Music: Move Me, Mark Me

From poems about music itself, to poems about the emotions evoked by a certain song, to pieces written with lyrical description, music has always been my #1 inspiration.  It has prompted my best pieces, my best lines, my best phrases, and even when I write non-creative pieces (like essays and research papers), listening to music while I write never fails to help me find the best ideas and compose my best work.

“sometimes I wonder what it is
beneath my ribs
that beats and flutters so
and rises with the words
of a crooning song
         the lyrics a cry for freedom
         the notes a bid for flight”

“I have become nothing but a helpless instrument of emotion tied to the beautiful music of the world with ribbons of scarlet and cobalt hue, strong as the chords of love and agony, and just as vivid.”

“…the music dances with wild abandon
among my wandering, delirious thoughts…

it rushes past the blued shards
of my tattered consciousness,
caressing them with a feathery touch as it goes by,
bringing the song to my lips
and I sing, sing for all the world to hear,
the sound in my throat bubbling with the beauty
of a writhing, twirling, forgotten art.

the perfection of its grace spins webs
of cobalt and ebony in the shadowed recesses
and craggy caves that wind through my skull,
weaving the bright ribbons of sound
through my very  b  e  i  n  g ...”

 “…if only I could lose myself
in the twirling play of the baby arpeggios
and breathe the pure beauty of their intricate song,
in that place where the only emotions
are the ones evoked by the crying melodies
and wistful harmonies that sing to me
as they carry my soul to the wavering edge
of their mysterious realm, which rests
between our world of tangible reality
and that realm where the stars  v  i  b  r  a  t  e
and the moon can hum.” *

Getting inspiration to write isn’t the only reason why I love music, though.  I’ve loved to sing ever since I was little, and even though I took piano lessons for a few years and violin for a few weeks in elementary and middle school, singing is the only music form that I’ve ever truly loved to do.  I’ve often thought that if I didn’t love writing as much as I do, I would have pursued a career in music.  Actually, I’ve often wished I had the time in my college schedule to squeeze in a music minor.

I’m sure it’s already abundantly clear through my posts, but I have an intense passion for art, and I count music and writing as two of the most beautiful forms of art there are.  For me, writing and music are not just hobbies or career choices; they are things that define me.  I wouldn’t be who I am if either one of them wasn’t in my life, and I know for a fact that my content and style of writing would be drastically different if music was not such an enormous influence on me.

I won’t go into who my favourite music artists are right now because that question alone has an answer big enough to fill its own post, but you can be sure it will be coming in the near future!  One thing you’ll come to understand about me is that when I get excited about something, it’s hard for me NOT to share it with others.  I love introducing people to the things I love so that they can come to love them too!

So what are your biggest inspirations?  What kind of music do you like to listen to and what role does music (in general) play in your life? I’m very interested to hear your answers, so tell me in the comments below!

 

*Each of these quotes are excerpts from pieces of my creative writing (though there are many more examples of music showing up in my writing than just these four examples!).  If you would like to read the whole pieces these quotes came from, just ask me and I’ll send you the links!  Or you can just wait for me to feature them in my Creative Writing posts (:

Inspiration Feature

Well, seeing as it’s time for my weekly post and I’ve had some trouble finding inspiration this week, I thought I’d do a feature post about a few artists whose work never fails to inspire me! You may be the type of person who gets inspired by things other than visual art and writing done by others, but those two things happen to be 2 of my top 5 inspirations (the other three are music, movies/TV and nature).  As I’m sure most of you know, my main writing social-networking site is mistressofquills.deviantart.com, and I’ve found it to be (among other things) a gold mine full of amazing visual artists and writers who create breathtaking artwork. Some of these people have become my friends, and others I simply “watch” in order to get notifications when they post new work.  Either way, I’ve found and met an enormous number of incredibly talented people, so I thought I’d introduce some of them to you!  (Side note: all these people go by usernames on DeviantART, so that’s what I’ll use to refer to them. I’ll provide links to all their profiles, too.)

First up is “Ninjatic,” a digital artist who paints beautiful landscapes and settings, as well as fantasy creatures and characters (ninjatic.deviantart.com).  Here are a few examples of his work:

misty_mountains_by_ninjatic-d6lksii substrata___unexpected_quest_by_ninjatic-d6ggoi6 substrata___until_then____by_ninjatic-d6opcqw substrata___a_visit_from_an_old_friend_by_ninjatic-d6nv871

Next is “Rona-Keller,” a skilled photographer who captures her images with warm colors and interesting concepts (rona-keller.deviantart.com).  Here are just a few examples of her work:

autumn_is_for_going_out_there_by_rona_keller-d6nue60 someone_like_you_by_rona_keller-d6btki6 thinking_back_by_rona_keller-d6rnoq4 traces_of_the_seasons_to_come_by_rona_keller-d66a8d6

AlectorFencer” is a professional digital artist whose work includes intricately detailed fantasy creatures and characters, as well as some beautiful leatherwork (alectorfencer.deviantart.com).

story_time_by_alectorfencer-d5h7ntv Fireplay_by_AlectorFencer morning_by_alectorfencer-d5j2m5s we_are___friends_by_alectorfencer-d5x1ife

Next is one of my favourite writers on DeviantART, “colbalt-rain” (colbalt-rain.deviantart.com).  She is an amazing writer with a talent for identifying with her reader even when the circumstances she’s describing might not be something the reader had experienced.  She captures ideas and concepts in her poetry that resonate with the reader in a very compelling and vivid way.  A few of my favourite poems by her include:

  1. “breaking a writer’s heart.” (colbalt-rain.deviantart.com/art/breaking-a-writer-s-heart)
  2. “adults.” (colbalt-rain.deviantart.com/art/adults)
  3. “red leaves and Robert Frost” (colbalt-rain.deviantart.com/art/red-leaves-and-Robert-Frost)
  4. and “bodies like star systems.” (colbalt-rain.deviantart.com/art/bodies-like-star-systems).

Please take a moment to read a piece or two of her work!  You won’t regret it! (If you only have time for one, read “breaking a writer’s heart” (: It’s my personal favourite!)

Next is “PixieCold,” a traditional-style visual artist whose paintings are creative and colorful as well as unique and beautiful (pixiecold.deviantart.com).  She also does some amazing make-up art!  Here are just a few pieces of her work:

goddess_of_galaxy__original_on_sale__by_pixiecold-d6g5j0k pale_moon_by_pixiecold-d5ynuxj sunken_treasure_by_pixiecold-d5miq94 the_last_snow_by_pixiecold-d5z82m4

Another of my favourite DeviantART writers is “DearPoetry” (dearpoetry.deviantart.com).  Her ability to write is breathtaking – one moment you find yourself reading a poem, and the next, you find yourself being pulled away into an impression or feeling or environment where all you can sense is what she’s describing to you.  Her use of language is (in my opinion) exquisite.  My favourite poems by her include:

  1. “Writer Scars” (dearpoetry.deviantart.com/art/Writer-Scars)
  2. “Dear Poetry,” (dearpoetry.deviantart.com/art/Dear-Poetry)
  3. “9729 kilometers away, to be exact.” (dearpoetry.deviantart.com/art/9729-kilometers-away-to-be-exact)
  4. and “Poetry,” (dearpoetry.deviantart.com/art/Poetry).

Be sure to read some of her work!  (Especially “Writer Scars” and “Dear Poetry” – I can’t choose which one is my favourite!)

My last visual artist to show you is “tachit,” a digital artist who works primarily with fantasy characters and landscapes (tatchit.deviantart.com).  Here are just a few pieces of his art:

and_time_stopped_by_tatchit-d5qjdzw for_mom_by_tatchit-d4zslwn heart_attack_by_tatchit-d6l9o6l keres_by_tatchit-d6jdwra

I hope this (really) long post was interesting and helpful, especially for those of us looking for inspiration!  There are hundreds, thousands even, of talented artists and writers that I couldn’t mention on DeviantART, and if this is a well-accepted post, I may do another in the future… especially for those of you who aren’t familiar with DeviantART! Anyway, let me know if this was helpful and if you would like to see similar posts in the future!  Also, tell me: what inspires you the most?  As always, thanks for reading!

What Exactly IS a Feature?

We go through school constantly being taught how to write an essay: start with the introduction, come up with a thesis, the body should be such-and-such a length, the conclusion restates the thesis, start out broad and then get specific, support your thesis with strong points, prove your points and don’t just state them, blah blah blah, etc. etc. etc.  Somewhere in that time, some of us decided we didn’t like writing and reading very much, so we became scientists and mathematicians and doctors.  The rest of us read more than we had to and wrote more than we had to – and we discovered we liked it.  We liked reading and writing outside our schoolwork, and we had the desire and ambition to try our hand at other forms of writing than the all-important essay.

So we discovered story and poetry.  And with story, we began to experiment and learn and discover.  We started to develop our very own style and voice, often incorporating and emulating the kinds of techniques we admired in the styles of our favourite authors and favourite books.  We wrote stories and dabbled in poetry and created characters and designed settings and worked on our description skills.

We might not have been taught how to do all these things, but we learned along the way through endless trial and error, and eventually, we discovered how to write a story.

Now we know how to write essays and stories.

 

 

So writing a feature poses a problem.

At least, it did for me.  I hope I wasn’t just speaking for myself earlier, but that’s basically how I learned how to write: I was taught how to write an essay, and discovered story-writing basically all on my own (I don’t count the occasional assignment to “write a story about this historical figure” or “write your own version of your assigned literature reading for today”).

By the time I got to this Magazine and Feature Writing class, I could probably write an essay in my sleep.    (. . . Well, I could at least tell you HOW to write an essay in my sleep.)  And I already “write” stories in my sleep (I often get inspiration from dreams).  So when I was told to mix the two in a completely new form of writing called a “feature,” I was completely at a loss.  How do you combine research AND creative writing AND somehow include an unspoken but clear and specific point?  I understood that that’s what a feature is, but I was utterly confused as to how I was supposed to balance all three elements into a piece that sounded (at least somewhat) like the examples I had read.

As a result, it took me an absurdly long time to gather my research, figure out how to fit it together with my storytelling, AND weave in my underlying point.  I won’t say it’s the hardest piece of writing I’ve done, but it definitely stumped me for longer than any other piece of writing has since high school.

Please don’t misunderstand: I am not trying to say that anybody failed to teach me what I needed to know for this assignment, nor am I saying that I should have been taught this information any sooner than now.  Actually, I love to be challenged, and learning things that are completely new to me gets me excited about continuing to improve my own writing and field of experience.  This piece just happened to be especially difficult for me to figure out.

If you would like to read my full feature, I’ve posted it here: http://mistressofquills.deviantart.com/art/Fighting-to-Fit-In-408119218  Please note: if you want to comment or critique my piece, you have to make an account on that site in order for me to see it, or you could just post your comment here instead.  Thanks for reading!

Visual and Found Poetry – Do They Count?

One thing I’ve often wondered in all the time I’ve been writing poetry is whether Visual and Found Poetry count as legitimate forms of writing…  I don’t deny that these pieces of art are both beautiful and artistic, but do they qualify as poetry, or should they be defined as a type of visual art instead of a form of writing?  Visual poetry (similar to “concrete poetry”) is when an artist (for lack of a better term) uses other artistic means to augment the meaning and impact of his words:

phantoms_by_adorkablexbabyxwhale-d5920oz (http://www.deviantart.com/art/Phantoms-317541635)

Found poetry is a little different: it’s when an artist takes a piece of writing by someone else and picks choice words out of the text to make a new poem.  In essence, they’re using the words of someone else to create their own art:

the_wind_by_mel_face-d3iqkt9

(http://www.deviantart.com/art/The-Wind-212871645)

One specific form of Found Poetry that I find particularly intriguing is called “Title Poetry.”  The artist takes the titles of a number of pieces of artwork (usually but not necessarily pieces of writing) and arranges them in a particular order so that the author creates their own meaning (usually adding small words here and there to make it flow better, such as “and,” “or,” “the,” or “but,” etc.).  I’ve never written any of these forms of poetry, but I’ve read quite a lot of them; I’ve found that while some artists can structure these kinds of pieces so that it really sounds as if they composed the whole thing themselves, many others only succeed in gathering a collection of poetic vocabulary and fail to actually compose a meaningful poem with them:

Destiny bought me a drink

(http://ninquetari.deviantart.com/art/Destiny-bought-me-a-drink-364666837)

Should such pieces of art be classified as poetry?  Certainly they are both forms of art that use more than raw words to create meaning and make their point, so can they really be defined as writing?  I think some writers (James Joyce being a prime example) would argue that the aesthetics of a text matter a great deal – that they enhance the meaning behind what was written and help the author to communicate his intent.  But is this what they meant by “the aesthetics of the text”?

run_away_with_me__by_dearpoetry-d5d1sxy

(http://dearpoetry.deviantart.com/art/Promises-to-Monsters-324250054)

I think many other writers would argue that Visual and Found Poetry are not forms of true literature because they use too much visual help to augment the meaning of their words.  It can be argued, then, that “true literature” is writing that can stand on its own without the help of any extra visual aid.  Oh, and “found poetry” is just plagiarism.

reality_by_jay_cougar-d54ef2t

(http://www.deviantart.com/art/Reality-309722069)

But what do you think?  Can you “pick a side,” or do you have your own perspective on the subject?  I would love to hear about all your thoughts in the comments!