Once every decade or so I see a painting or a piece of glass or art pottery and know immediately that I have to buy it. Usually it’s something colorful or intriguing or just plain crazysauce. This time it was all those things, and a creative inspiration as well.
For some time now King Kong has been a writing craft prompt for me. It started around five years ago, courtesy of a post on Ilona Andrews’ blog. She linked to a song by a comedy duo (I can’t find it now but I think it may have been Flight of the Conchords) about the movie. Their point was that the rebooted version spent forever on setup and backstory, when all the audience really wanted was Fay Wray in a slip dress and Kong atop the Empire State Building. The song was called something like “Get to the effing monkey.” It made me laugh and think hard about good storytelling and pacing and reader expectations, so when I went to RWA Nationals in New York in 2015 I bought a plastic Kong that still stands on the bookcase next to my writing sofa.
Told you that to tell you this: recently I was in Crouch End, a neighborhood near my home in North London. Crouch End has a modest high street, a few nice shops and restaurants, and a much-loved nineteenth-century red brick clock tower. I glanced in a shop window as I passed, then backed up and looked again in open-mouthed joy as I realized I’d just seen a pop art painting of Kong on the Crouch End clock tower.
If ever there was a painting with my name on it, this was the one.
The shop only had a poster but the artist, Sara Sutton, agreed to paint a new one for me as a commission. I collected it last week and hung it on the wall next to my writing sofa, opposite the bookcase.
I love it sooo much. Whenever I look up from my keyboard I see it and smile.
Do you own objects, souvenirs or keepsakes, classy or tacky—that inspire and motivate you? Or is it just me?
That’s wonderful! I love the colors on that piece, and King Kong is such a looming (ha!) pop icon.
I have a lot of Americana that shows up in my writing, but I don’t really have a writing lesson attached to it. I love things that used to show up in the Weekly World News in the 80s — aliens, Elvis sightings (especially if it’s food that looks like Elvis), that sort of thing. I guess they remind me that I love a sense of wonder in my reading, and it’s something I should include in my writing.
I love a sense of wonder in my reading too, Michaeline, and the miracle is that it’s relatively easy to find and doesn’t cost the earth. The world seems to grow meaner and that feeling of joyful surprise seems harder and harder to find IRL, but I think it’s still there if we look hard enough. And I think it’s important to keep looking.
I love that, Jilly. What a fun piece.
I don’t really collect anything like that, but I do have a variety of random objects that I’ve picked up over the years that are in my writing area – a little knight in shining armor; heart-shaped stones; and other love-themed items. They are helpful for getting me in the romance-writing mood.
Your touchstones sound great, especially the knight in shining armor. I’d love one of those! 🙂
I had wanted my very own knight in shining armor ever since I saw a picture from an author I follow. She had a full-sized one in her writing room, but I decided that a desktop model was probably a better option.
The desktop model is definitely a better option–so much easier to keep him all shiny and iconic! Back in the day knights just did manly stuff. The poor squires were the ones that kept the armor polished and dent-free.
I love the Kong on the clock tower! That’s such an iconic image, and this artist has done a great job of making it local and interesting and colorful. I’d have bought it, too!
I have a picture hanging over my desk of a woman in a bathrobe typing her novel on New Year’s Eve; through her window you can see revelers partying in the apartments across the street. I’ve had that picture (it’s a New Yorker cover) for a long time, and it was a talisman in the first few years I started writing fiction.
I have another fun thing from my working days. A friend gave me a shake-up toy to relieve tension. It’s square and filled with a blue liquid and there are cutouts of teeny sea animals in there. It sounds weird, but I swear this is true: when you shake it up on bad days, the creatures are sharks. On good days, they’re dolphins. The young people in my office used to come in and shake it when they first arrived at the office to find out what kind of day they were going to have, although I’m not sure it worked quite like that. 🙂
Your New Yorker cover sounds great, and I LOVE the sound of that shake-up toy. That would be a great story starter. A fortune teller with a magical shake-up toy. Or a mage. A king, or a general, or a billionaire. So full of delicious possibilities!
I love your Crouch End Kong! I love the colors and I love his attitude.
In my computer room I have:
o A little plastic Ironman who climbs up my computer cord
o A replica of Hermione Granger’s wand
o A red rubber ducky with horns and little batwings (courtesy of Kay)
o A set of Wizard of Oz dolls
o A Barbie dressed as Dorothy
o A Madame Alexander Dorothy
o A set of Wizard of Oz tumblers
o An elf one of my cousins made for me
o A Queen of Hearts doll
o A Mad Hatter doll
o A lovely and peaceful looking Buddha sitting zazen in front of a tiny plastic aloe plant
o A patch suitable for sewing on a jacket (which will never happen) that has a unicorn with a rainbow tail and mane and says “Fear is the cockblocker of dreams.”
It should be noted that I bought not a single one of these items. They were all gifts from various and sundry people.
In other words, my writing space if rife with whimsy, love and support. Any failure of inspiration is mine and mine alone.
What a great set of inspiration points you have, Jeanne! I forgot to mention, I have a wand and tiara made out of gold sequins, too. Although those are job related: they were gifted to me when I said I would not accept any more promotions that did not entail a title change to “Your Highness.”
Well, damn, Kay, you just reminded me that I used to have a crystal ball and a wand with a pink star that lit up and made a tinkly swooshing noise whenever it was waved. Both those were job related gifts and much in demand from my co-workers. I left them behind when I quit the day job, thinking the person who took over my role would need them. Hmmm. I’m probably happier without the crystal ball, but there are days when that wand would come in very handy 😉
Somewhere, I have a tiny set of boxing gloves, too. That was the thing I thought about leaving behind at the day job!
They are very fun, and this post reminded me to look at them and enjoy that sense of support.
That’s a fabulous collection, Jeanne, and I love that they were all gifts. Whimsy, love and support–the perfect combination to power you through the good writing days and inspire you to keep going when the words won’t come.