As I write this, my kid is watching MOANA. Good movie. Great songs. And The Rock!
Throughout a lot of this year, I’ve been playing ORI AND THE WILL OF THE WISPS. It doesn’t have The Rock, but it’s got a beautiful story and an incredible soundtrack.
Both texts contain narratives driven by the idea of restoring the world to a previous state of glory.
Sometimes I think about playing music again. I used to sing in a metal band and write lyrics that I’m slightly ashamed of. I also spent a good chunk of time, after that band’s dissolution, composing music on a keyboard. Performing live, especially when it goes well, is a high like no other.
This morning, I’m thinking about the idea of restoration. The idea of bringing things back to a former state of greatness that may or may not be real.
In October, I released a book called EXTINCTION PEAK. It’s an apocalyptic vision in which dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures run rampant on our world. The book’s gotten some criticism for some of its more allegorical elements, but the whole thing is an allegory, really. What happens when you dredge up everything from the past in hopes of making a better world? A whole lot of pain!
Look, I’m not against restoration. People who spend their time restoring old cars are some of the happiest folks I’ve met. What I’m saying is that nostalgia has blind spots. Sweeping efforts to reengage with the past are just not helpful. However, if you look for parts in the past which were constructive and helpful, you can reemerge more powerful.
Take my time in a band for example. Without close self-examination, I’d dive back into that world. Join up with a bunch of burnout musicians and copy the types of lyrics that made sense to me at 21 (but make little sense to me at 36). I’d go back to trying to manage others. Playing in shitty bars.
None of that shit works for me. I was a miserable person when I was in that world, but there were bright spots. Things about me back then that were worth restoring.
A trick to my productivity as a songwriter back then was to find a phrase or sentence I liked, meditate on it for forty-eight hours, and then sit down to write the rest of the song. With a first line that embodied the piece, everything else fell into place.
Could I apply that trick to writing fiction? You’re goddamn right!
Also, the rush of performing live? Could that also translate to the writing life? You bet.
If you’re going to look to the past, be discerning. It isn’t all worth bringing back. In fact, most of it probably isn’t. But there are jewels in that murk, and those jewels are worth digging through all matter of nastiness.