Saturday, 13 March 2010

Understanding the past helps create the future

This is a painting by the Iranian artist Hasti Akhavan and is entitled 'Past and Future'(and is reproduced with her kind permission).I love the merging of colours which I see as reflecting the merging of the past and future to become one - the present maybe? But what it also reflects is how the past can and does influence the future. Martin Scorsese spoke about this in an interview in the BBC Culture Show this week. He suggested that you have to know the films of the past in order to decide what 'to accept, reject, complain about, hate, love, whatever' that you can create the new. I suggested to my students yesterday that this is not just applicable to films it applies to any creative endeavour. An understanding of what comes before you allows/encourages you to become a better writer.

It ties in with the idea that every book you read is going to influence you and that all words have a past. Consequently the better reader you are the better writer you will become as writing is a craft that needs to be mastered/honed through practice and understanding. As Elmore Leonard suggested in the same programme 'Writing is re-writing.' I would be a very rich woman if I had received a pound for every time I have had to defend my creative writing PhD or even lecturing on the said subject. 'But you're just writing, everyone can do that.' If that was the case every one of us would be published and all the books would be identical. There would be no joy in dipping into the glorious words of Kundera or Calvino, or, exploring the worlds of Pratchett and Pullman who take you away from the norm - but only just, whilst tackling Kafka and Dostoevsky - making your mind do somersaults as it comes to terms with some of the images.

Elmore Leonard is right writing is re-writing but not just that it is reading and re-reading. And I am off for a luxurious weekend of doing all that.
This is Paul McCartney singing Ever Present Past with a great video. I can't embed it but worth going to the link:

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