“Inspirations Blog” #2: The Observer

Hi there!

This is Mark, and this is my “Inspirations Blog” – and I would like to start by asking you to do something for me, if you would? Quite simply, I would like you to take a look at this photograph below that I took and tell me what you see:

Do you see what is there? Do you see who is up there? Do you see what I see? Do you see who I see? Yes? No?

Take a closer look:

I have absolutely no doubt that you see them now, right? The metal statue depicting a man wearing a Peaky Blinders flat-cap? BUT, Who are they? What are they? Why are they where they are? What do they mean to me? Why I am writing about them? Well, essentially, because, to me at least, they symbolize who I am, what I do… who a writer is, what a writer does: writers are observers, and what do writers do (before they start writing)? They observe. And the art of observation is what I want to talk about today – because there is a deference between being a stalker or being nosey, and being a true observer. At least, I think so. Why? Well, firstly, I guess I am going to have to reveal my writing process – or at least how ideas come to me, why I believe they come to me, and what I do with them after they have come to me.

I have spent a lot of time sitting around in coffee shops – one coffee shop chain in particular *Starbucks* – and I have visited multiple stores of the same chain *Starbucks* from Birmingham, here the U.K., to New York City, and every time I visit one I seem to follow a familiar and repetitive cycle and routine which even I am aware that I follow to the tee.

For the most part I visit the same coffee shop, in the same location, at the same time of the day, I always order the same beverage, and I mostly always sit at the same table – not always, but mostly – and I like to ideally write in a notebook with a pen – and the same pen that I have written hundreds of poems with, as well as many stories also. The notebook always changes, because over time we all run out of pages to write upon – but the pen remains the same. I take a notebook and my pen everywhere that I can – and the closest description that I can use to describe the connection that I have with my pen would be in the same vein as the way that the character of Obi-wan Kenobi describes to Anakin Skywalker when he is attempting to explain what a Lightsaber represents to a Jedi, in the film Star Wars: Attack of the Clones:

Try not to lose it. This weapon is your life.

And even though I do not necessarily think of my pen as a weapon – I do believe, like that old adage coined by English author Edward Bulwer-Lytton in 1839, that there are times when…

The pen is mightier than the sword.

I like to think of a writer’s pen like the magic-wand of a magician – something that allows someone to focus and direct the power within them so that they can describe and articulate what is stirring within their mind as a result of the confluence of ideas that coalesced within their imagination.

We may have to change the ink within the pen from time to time when it runs dry, but the shell – the outer-covering, the body – of the pen remains the same, and the changing of the ink within I like to think of as a transfusion of new blood. I know I am probably over-thinking the whole process of simply placing a new refill into my silver writing pen – but isn’t that what writers do? Imbue meaning to things – even so-called “inanimate objects”? Or perhaps that is just me? However, I do not think I am alone in this regard.

So, back to “The Observer” statue in the Jewellery Quarter of Birmingham, near St. Paul’s Church: Who are they? What are they? And, Why are they Where they are?

The steel statue that appears to be wearing a signature flat-cap was inspired by the hit TV series Peaky Blinders, which is filmed and loosely based upon the real “Peaky Blinders” gang that resided in Birmingham, here in the U.K., at the beginning of the Twentieth Century, as well as the cultural history of Birmingham and the country of the United Kingdom as a whole (which I highly-recommend you check out on Netflix, if you can).

“The Observer” – as I call them – sits on a window ledge of the roof of the new luxurious apartments that are at the present time just being finished. And, since the moment that I first saw them, there has just been something about them and the way that the figure of the statue is sitting – with one leg on the ledge while the other dangles over the edge of the building – that evokes recollections of me writing, and I believe this relatively new statue is a representation of myself, of writers, and the art of being an artist and an observer, as a whole.

A lot of the time of a writer and an artist is spent thinking, pondering, staring off into space, being alone with their thoughts – even in a crowded and sometimes noisy cafΓ© – and attempting to find that thread of inspiration that is always dangling right in front of an artist’s eyes: the extraordinary in the ordinary, the beauty of the familiar, the poetry of life itself. I have lost count of the amount of time that I have spent simply contemplating and daydreaming, seemingly with no firm direction or subject to write about… and then, BAM! – like a bolt of lightning streaking across a dark sky, or a ray of sunshine breaking through the clouds – inspiration arrives and parts the waves of a stormy sea of chaotic thoughts, and what follows and flows out of me from the moment of instant inspiration is always poetry. It’s like a rush. It’s like being caught in the fast-flowing water of a stream and then being carried all the way to a waterfall which you find yourself being taken over the edge of – and, to me, that is inspiration! That is magic! That is true power! And, like every form of power, it can be intoxicating and mind-bending, not to mention exhilarating!

Being an artist struck by inspiration is often a slow process which I am sure that some outside observers would think of as being something “abnormal” or “alien”, perhaps – because sometimes it can appear that an artist is not doing anything, because they appear to be not even using the instrument of their art in front of them. However, unless you know what is it like to be the creator of something, you cannot quite understand what is actually happening: because, though an artist may appear to be relatively stationary on the outside, on the inside and within an artist’s mind there are literal explosions occurring that are creating something was not there before by combing several familiar sources of inspiration into one new form: a primordial idea that appears to grow and to change at the speed of light before an artist’s very eyes – to me it is like a form of procreation.

The art of art is to capture this new idea and articulate it sufficiently enough that it reflects the initial idea that the artist had within their mind – to varying degrees of accuracy; however, writing – like every form of art – is a process: meaning that is takes time, effort, resolve, courage, and the ability to let your thoughts runaway with themselves until they reach a satisfying conclusion, aka. The End. But, of course, that begs the question that every artists asks themselves: Where does it end? How do you know that a piece of art is truly “finished”? Well, the truth is that an artist does not always know what or where THE END is; but, sometimes, an artist can tell when they have reached the end of the road… but then an artist has to ask themselves: How do I end this journey that I have taken with whom I have focused my artistic time with? Because, as has been said so many times in the past by a multitude of writers: endings are hard – partly because they need to accomplish many things in order to be considered “satisfying”. Sometimes when you want to end something – especially when you secretly don’t want to, but you know that you need to – you just simply have to close your eyes and say: “that’s it” and walk away. However, then you find that you have to revisit what you have written – especially if it is a story that you are writing – and you have to read it over and over again and almost maliciously deconstruct it, justify it, and change things… which can be arduous to say the least, but satisfying as well in a weird way – because you are (hopefully) making it better, which is a luxury that I am sure a sculpture of statue wishes they had because once they start carving there really is no turning back.

And here I feel I must end this Observation and this Articulation of the way that I personally write and my internal and external writing process, because I think that I have rambled on enough – however, I hope that you enjoyed what you read. And I hope that you can understand and empathize with what it takes to be an artist and writer, if you are not one already of course – but then again every artist has their own process and their own reason for creating what they create, because everybody is inspired by many different things and sometimes in many different ways.

But, I would to end by saying this: sometimes doing “nothing” is everything, because everything is something… and creating anything, in my experience, all begins in the same way that a child learns how to walk, how to talk, how to progress through life any way that they can; and in my opinion it is by honing one of the greatest and the most necessary abilities of being an artist – that of being an observer – that can lead to finding out what truly matters, what is important, and why some things need a light shined upon them in order to uncover what makes them substantive and extraordinary.

-Mark