Writing to the beat

If pressed to list my writing influences, these days I would credit the likes of Bret Easton Ellis, Cormac McCarthy, and Joan Didion. But my original influences came not from the world of prose but from music, in the form of The Cure's Robert Smith and Joy Division's Ian Curtis, both of whom showed me with their lyrics just how moving words could be.

As a teenager, I thought good writing required perfect grammar, but Smith challenged that view as he sang lines like “Hold me like this for a hundred thousand million days” while Curtis showed me the beauty sometimes waiting in the darkness:

So this is permanence Love's shattered pride What once was innocence Turned on its side...

These two lyricists proved just how important wordsmanship was, and so, whatever I wrote, I sought to find the words worthy of these heroes.

And then I discovered shoegaze via My Bloody Valentine.

I've always had trouble understanding song lyrics, but shoegaze, with its vocals often mixed lower than the instruments, presented more challenges for me. With shoegaze, it wasn't so much that I couldn't understand the lyrics so much as I couldn't hear the lyrics, as they were washed out by everything else happening on the track.

What the hell was going on?

Curiosity led me down a rabbit hole of research via my dialup internet connection. I found an interview in which Kevin Shields of My Bloody Valentine explained that vocals are just another instrument and should be mixed accordingly.

Shields's point stuck with me and began shaping how I viewed art. I started dissecting and deconstructing art rather than simply consuming. And as I learned about taking art part, I began learning more about putting art together. I started looking at all the parts that make the whole.

And lately I've been pondering all the parts that go into writing.

How does style come into play?

Words are obviously a crucial part of writing, but the words themselves are only one part of it.

Does the writer user proper grammar? Does the writer use slang? Proper capitalization and punctuation? Does the font choice matter in this particular medium or project?

Maybe the words themselves aren't as important as the actions depicted. Or maybe the writing is more about the words under the words.

There are countless ways to make an impact through writing.

Tags: #writing


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This post is by Jake LaCaze and originally appeared on blog.jakelacaze.com.