Tori Amos has long been my favorite musician, the artist whose songs I keep coming back to regardless of what stage of life I happen to be in. The above quotation and photograph are from the introduction to Slam, a book of poetry by slam and spoken word artists published in 2000.
Tori wrote the introduction to the collection, and in the last year I’ve found myself rereading it, especially as I’ve found myself in situations where I had to think a lot about artistic integrity and staying true to myself as a writer. I don’t think that’s the same as resisting critique or advice, though people sometimes conflate the two; I reference the above quotation because I think the metaphor of a nose job is exactly right. Taking advice is not the same as allowing someone else to take the reins, to take hold of you or your project. The distinction is important, because outside critique is crucial to an artist while usurpation is downright dangerous.
Many of the creative projects I’ve undertaken have been influenced by this woman’s writing and music. I’ve listened to her albums while writing stories and novels, and have used some of the songs as prompts when I’ve found myself at a loss for inspiration. I’ve studied her approach to creativity alongside those authors whose craft books I hold in high regard. When someone asks for a list of my favorite novels, I include Boys for Pele, which Tori terms an album “written in novel form.”
My favorite interview on creativity is the EPK for Boys for Pele, and no matter how many times I watch it, I always find myself rethinking my own artistic process and what approaches I’m taking to writing. The video not only gives extensive background on my favorite of Tori’s albums, but it also discusses composing individually, creative instinct, collaborating with other artists, and where challenges arise in the artistic process.
When I get stuck, it’s important for me to turn back to the artistry that has inspired me in the first place. Often, that means rereading a favorite author, but it also means turning to music. Perhaps this is because I was a musician before I was a writer (I started violin lessons at the age of four), or perhaps it was because my father is a musician and my mother is a dancer, and I’ve been exposed to non-literary arts alongside literature for my entire life.
All I know is, whenever I find myself at a place where I’m not sure where I should turn next with my writing, I find myself turning to musicians like Tori Amos, and listening to what they have to say so that I can find my way again. If there are other artists or artworks that inspire you, as well, I’d love to hear about them in the comments for this post.
I hope that this video inspires your writing as it has mine, and that your week is filled with lovely words and music,