• Life’s unexpected jump cuts

    02 April 2021

    I re-listened to all the Pink Floyd albums last week (except Ummagumma, because life's too short), and was struck by the quantum leap the band made with their eighth album, Dark Side Of The Moon. Now, I'm quite a big Floyd fan, and have regularly dipped into their work over the last thirty years. There are some very good songs on their first seven albums, and it's interesting listening to them experiment and try different things, especially after the loss of Syd Barrett, who was their main creative force in the early days. But I don't think anybody, listening to those seven albums in a row, could have thought back then -- or would even think today, if they were coming fresh to the band -- that their next album was going to be one of the most critically acclaimed and bestselling albums of all time. It's like that famous scene in 2001: A Space Odyssey, when a primitive man hurls a bone high into the air, only for a jump cut to turn it into a spaceship.


    It reminded me of the unpredictable nature of the creative arts. I always tell wannabe authors that the most important thing is to write. The more you write, the more you learn, the better you get. That's my mantra, and it's one I'm sticking to, BUT there's no denying that sometimes a writer (or band, or artist, or scientist, or inventor...) makes a sudden, explosive leap forward, almost completely out of the blue. They find the right project, at the right time, and something magical and undefinable flows through them, and life hits them with a 2001-style jump cut. They might have been doing very good work before, maybe even excellent work, but this propels them to a whole new level, and carries them to an entirely new audience, and nothing for them will ever be the same again. Sometimes the work carries forward into equally successful projects -- Pink Floyd hit gold two more times, with Wish You Were Here and The Wall -- other times it stands alone as an isolated, defining high point in that person's life. Sometimes it comes very early in a person's career, as it did with J K Rowling, other times it can come much further down the line -- there were 17 years between Kurt Vonnegut's first novel and the one that turned him into a literary star (Slaughterhouse 5).


    The point I want to make is that this can happen for ANY creator, at any point in their life. It certainly doesn't happen for ALL of us, or even for MOST of us, but it CAN happen. So if you've been scribbling away for five years, or ten, or twenty... don't give up. As difficult as it can be, you've got to keep believing. Keep going. Keep trying. Never write yourself off, or spend too long looking back at your previous work and moping that it didn't result in critical laurels or massive sales. Focus on your next story, and maybe that will be the one to send you stellar. And if it doesn't... well, there'll always be another story after that one. And another after that. And...


    The only thing in life that really decides you're over and done with, and that the magic isn't going to happen for you, is... DEATH. Until that day, hang on in there, give it your all, and keep on hoping. Because if it can happen for Pink Floyd, eight years into their existence, modestly successful, around the point when the vast majority of bands have run out of ideas and either called it a day or are living off of past glories... it can happen for YOU!!!




    The April issue of the Shanville Monthly newsletter is live, online, and free, and it also features my first COMPETITION of 2021: https://darrenshan.com/news/shanville-monthly


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