Saturday, August 4, 2012

Holy moments

I believe anyone who has ever experienced finishing a big process, knows what a great feeling putting the dot to it is. Finishing it fully. Maybe years of work.
For a creative person it's a huge point to come to. Letting something you created go. See the pile of papers, whatever you've been working on for months, maybe years, right there.
It also means letting the work go. For a writer, it means sending it to a publisher or an editor. There may be more editing rounds coming up, but the first holy moment is when the pile of prints stands on the desk waiting to be slipped into that big envelope. Or the file attached to the message going somewhere waiting for someone to click the send button..
The second holy moment -later on- is getting the box of recently printed books from the post office. Opening the box and seeing the name and title on the cover. Touching the paper. Browsing pages. Seeing the writing that was only an echo of words some time ago in the head. Making its way to a story. Now materialized for someone out there to read.
When writer gets hard copies in hand, it's time for celebration, maybe raise a toast. But already then there's been a process of giving up. Processing the emptiness. You've let your characters go. You might miss them. The whole process. Sticking small pieces of papers you've written in the bus so you don't forget the idea you came up with. Placing something you suddenly thought of in the timeline of the story. Getting excitement when finally solving the puzzle with something you bumped into while walking the streets, reading the paper, seeing a person who reminded you of something.
Letting the script go in the first place is a bigger thing for many writers. Some medicate the sudden emptiness by getting drunk, maybe spending the whole week or two smashed or in a soft room. Some hop in the plane or train. Change the scenery.
I've had my own methods. Some years ago, after finishing a novel, I was considering taking a last minute trip. It didn't matter where. Anywhere would have done the job.
Instead I developed A Day. In fact, An Afternoon. No glasses of champagne, no cigar once a year as Paul Sheldon in Misery. Just a bus ride to the city. Little stroll around. Lunch in a quiet place by myself on a weekday afternoon. Choosing a film of my taste. Sitting in a nearly empty movie theater alone. Letting it all go.
In the early evening I'd take a bus home. Purified. Until the creative machine would soon start turning itself on again.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Did it touch you?

Art is powerful. Even so powerful that when it really hits the nerve and heart of a person digesting it, you can almost hear an explosion. When a work of art has dug through all the way. Found its meaning. When artist's intention in creating experiences, bringing up emotions or just pure joy, has been successful.
When I was studying Finnish literature in University of Turku, we had to read massive book packages for quite a few exams: Finnish literature, world literature, special genres...
For one exam with 2-4 credits, we easily had to read 30-40 books: novels, collections of poetry, plays, theory... I remember reading three plays and half of a thick novel overnight. Some of them really hit certain nerves: Jeppe of the Hill by Ludvig Holberg the laughter nerve, To Steal Her Love by Matti Yrjänä Joensuu the heart.
When I was reading Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, I couldn't stop after having read fifty pages. I was totally sucked into that magical psychological narrative Dostoyevsky had created. I could almost see the streets and backyards of Saint Petersburg through the eyes of Raskolnikov.
Therefore it wasn't a surprise to hear a story about some student in the past trying to find all those books to be read. Missing one, Crime and Punishment, and the only question in the exam being from that book. Failing the exam. Given a second chance to read the book, having the re-exam only one day later. Reading it overnight. Being psychologically totally sucked into this nearly disturbing content. Passing the exam this way probably left an unforgettable experience.
Sometimes some pieces of art don't hit you at all. It's like trying to pair with someone. Maybe it just wasn't the right time. Then. Maybe another time is better.
In 1993-1994 there was a big buzz about Polish film director Krzysztof Kieslowski's Three Colours Trilogy: Blue, White, Red. In the first round, the middle part, White, found me the best. I found the first part Blue fine, but nothing spectacular, even though it was visually stunning.
In August 1995 my dad died. Some months later I went to see Blue again in a film matinee in my student city Turku. This time the grief, Juliette Binoche torturing her knuckles by tearing them against a stone wall, really hit me. My own life experiences had brought me to assimilate to the widow character.
When a movie character falls in love, we may or may not understand what he or she is going through. When we find connections to our own emotions and experiences, we have a better possibility to understand what the one creating the piece has meant.
If the personal surface doesn't exist, but the piece has still managed to find you, the creator has succeeded even better. Making someone assimilate to a very different person in a very different world isn't an easy task. But as Dostoyevsky managed with Raskolnikov, we know it is possible.