Mjke Wood is an award winning SF/Fantasy writer and non-award winning saxophone player. He blogs at Travelling in a Box and his personal site – mjkewood.com – lists his collections of stories, these are his good things.
Good things to read.
I wanted to pick from a range of book types, so I decided to choose one genre, one literary and one non-fiction.
Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes is an easy choice in the genre category. This has long been one of my favourites. This is a book with such an emotional punch it will bring the most hard-hearted soul to tears. It is always my number one recommendation for anyone seeking a route into Science Fiction.
The Van by Roddy Doyle sneaks into top spot for non-genre fiction. The language is a kind of raw, but it could be no other way because it is an honest, down to earth story about simple characters whose take on life is to muddle through. It is a tale with no life or death outcomes at stake. It is warm and funny and after reading it you will require no further prompting to seek out the other two books in Roddy Doyle’s Barrytown trilogy.
For non-fiction I have gone with Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson. It is a travel memoir by an American living in Britain. I have been banned from reading this book in bed, because my wife complains that when I start laughing the whole bed starts to shake and it keeps her awake. Similarly I avoid reading it in public places because there are some laughs you can never keep bottled up.
Good things to watch.
Similar to reading I have selected one each from a range of visual entertainments.
My top TV choice is The West Wing. I don’t watch a lot of TV, and never watch it live. But I have the full DVD box set of the West Wing and every now and again I start at episode one and become hooked, all over again, for several months. The good thing about watching TV on DVD is the absence of adverts. Apart from the multi-layered, intelligent stories the series offers, I am held forever in awe by the dialogue writing skills of Aaron Sorkin.
And so to the cinema. For this I decided to pick the film I have watched again and again, and it is not SciFi or fantasy, or action thriller, because although I enjoy such films I generally only watch them once. No, my choice of film is a romantic comedy called. Only You. It stars Robert Downey Jr. and Marisa Tomei and is the unlikely story of a woman who jets off to Italy in search of her soul mate, just days before her wedding. It is funny and moving and is set in Rome and Venice (two of my favourite cities) and it has wonderful music and scenery and Ferrari’s and… (sigh) I need to watch it again.
Sweeny Todd, the musical by Sondheim, is my third choice. I had to include live theatre and I had to include music. This ticks both boxes. It is unconventional in both story and musical style. It is funny and horrific all in one. My preference is the live show over the movie. Musicals need live performers and a full orchestra. They don’t work any other way. If we’re looking for something more generic here, just take in some live theatre. Any live theatre. You will rarely be disappointed.
Good things to use.
I have a caravan. (It might be called a trailer in the US) I hook it up to the car every weekend and head out into the wilds. Each weekend I have a different view out of the window. I write. I walk. I think. I breathe. My wife is an artist and she gets the inspiration she needs from nature to paint. So, number one good thing to use: a caravan. Can’t afford a caravan? Try a tent (but take thicker socks and a hat).
Play a musical instrument. I have a saxophone. Any musical instrument is good for a writer. Playing music uses different parts of the brain for motor skills and stretches the creative parts of the brain in ways in which they are not used to being stretched. There’s also a good fit with writing in that appreciation of musical performance is instant, as against that of writing which is deferred over months or years. On the other hand, a piece of writing endures, while an improvised jazz solo is fleeting and gone forever at the moment of conception.
I use a Moleskine notebook. This might sound a little retro. I know many writers, these days, prefer to use tech such as iPads and smart phones for their note-taking. Yes, I use these too, but they don’t really do it for me. They don’t offer the same tactile experience as putting an idea straight down on paper. And sometimes I lose electronic files, or the batteries expire just when I need them. No such problems with a notebook. I never venture outside the house without one. I have a desk drawer full of old Moleskines, and whenever I need an idea for something to write, my notebooks are the first place I look.
Mjke also writes on Twitter, connect with him @MjkeW.