Friday, January 11, 2013

Aspiring Advice: Tapping Your Inner Golden Age

Any of you guys seen Midnight in Paris? It's a good show.

I've never been huge on Woody Allen films, not because I don't like the guy or anything, but because ... his kind of stories aren't the ones I'm usually into. Thanks to the never ending cue that is The Netflix, we eventually received it in the mail and we gave it a watch. From the trailer, I thought I would be in for a story about a man on a Paris vacation, disenchanted with his fianceƩ, who goes out at night and has a complicated, romantic encounter. Well, you can't judge a book by its cover, or a movie by its trailer, because it turned out to be about so much more than that.

Our protagonist, Gil Pender (Owen Wilson), is a writer, a successful Hollywood screenwriter. Only, he wants a career change - he wants to write novels, maybe even a great one, just like his heroes from days gone by, but he just can't into it (damn muse - we know the feeling).

As fate would have it, he went walking around Paris on his own one night and stopped to rest at an almost hidden street corner. The bells tolled twelve, and the next thing Gil knew, he was in the 1920s.

Time travel? Oh, yeah - now we're talk'n!

And because every famous artist lived in Paris in the 1920s (F. Scott Fitzgerald, Earnest Hemingway,  Josephine Baker, Picasso, to name a few), Gil got to meet his heroes, including a woman who, for some reason, resonated with his muse much more than his fianceĆ© did.

I can't exactly blame the guy ...

So here Gil is, asking his long-dead inspiration about his writing and how he can improve it. Just one problem, though - something is missing. He's relied on his external inspiration so much that his voice wasn't unique there. This comes full circle when Gil shows Adriana the street corner and they end up in the 1800s, Adriana's idea of an ideal time - her Golden Age, if you will. And it only gets worse from there, eventually landing someone in pre-French Revolution times.

What Gil needed to learn was that he couldn't depend on another time or another's work for inspiration. He had to be in his own time, with his own story, in his place in history, so that someone down the line could later look to him for inspiration after he's long dead (lather, rise, repeat), but sometimes it takes looking into someone else or another time before we can look at ourselves and figure us out.

For me, I always thought the 1930s were amazing, and I had often pretended to have adventures as Indiana Jones in the backyard. I even enjoyed the literature of that time, like Steinbeck,


  1. It just ate my comment!
    The Golden Age of science fiction influences me. And westerns. Probably why I'm a big Firefly fan.

  2. I'll have to watch that movie. Hey, congratulations on your discovery.

  3. I am renting this movie tonight. I, too, was skeptical to watch, but now I can't wait to watch and get inspired. You should read my blog post for Tuesday's Tinted Ink. I talked about this very, exact same thing.
    Thanks for sharing!

  4. I don't think I have one particular period. I tend to read things from different eras at different times. But then I've never sat around waiting for a muse to come calling.

  5. If I find it, I might have to watch that movie. Sounds like one I might like.

    I've a fondness for the 20's - 30's as well. but my favourite is probably the Middle Ages.

  6. Haven't seen this movie yet but want to. I'm a big fan of fantasy and lean on that a lot in my writing. But I also enjoy Shakespeare and if I could pay his period a visit. I would.

  7. That's a great lesson and very good timing for it. I shall keep it with me.

  8. I saw Midnight in Paris. I enjoyed it more than I expected.

  9. This movie was a nice to return to form for Woody (even if it didn't last long) A great film for writers.

    Moody Writing

  10. I like the insight you have on this topic today. Thanks for sharing!

  11. Might have to check out this movie. Shows you how a trailer/synopsis can make or break a sale. It either won't do the story justice or it might disappoint if the story doesn't fulfill the promise of the premise.

  12. I don't think I really have a golden age. I read from may different eras with pleasure (though I'd send Great Gatsby back too)

  13. I liked this movie a lot--but I wanted to more surprise. haha. I know it was a subtle sort of film--but the characters didn't show enough shock at what was happening. Especially when he and Adriana go back to the 1800's and she wasn't surprised at ALL.

    But I still liked the movie.

    I have been enthralled with different time periods at different stages in my life. I was obsessed with the sixties as a teenager. It felt like i'd been born in the wrong era.

    I went through my requisite Little Prairie Phase as a child.

    Right now, I really like the twenties. But I think people are people, no matter what time period they're in. The problems are different, but people are essentially the same. Everyone thinks things are so much worse nowadays, but I think it's just that we have the media to hear about them...

    And I couldn't get through The Great Gatsby either. I don't like "the classics" as a rule, which makes me feel kinda like a dumbass. I wish I liked them, I'd feel so much more intelligent. haha.

    But, alas, I love the stuff that's out nowadays much more...Give me Stephen King over Charles Dickens any day of the week. :)

  14. My golden age doesn't really exist... I'm an Arthurian legends kind of girl, with a soft spot for anything Robin hood, and both of those stories and time periods, while based on 'fact' are wildly romanticised and fictionalized, but I don't care-send me there. But if you do make sure it's the fake middle ages where I can feast in the great hall of a castle with knights, listen to minstrels, and drink from gold gobbets--not the real middle ages with plague, famine, and no deodorant.

  15. I still need to see this movie b/c everyone's been telling me it's amazing!! And the 1920s are my favorite era... the literature is reason #1 and the fashion is #2.

  16. I'm with you on Woody Allen movies. I've seen a number of them and they just don't do it for me...but time travel you say? I may just have to give this one a look-see.

    As for my own personal Golden Age, I grew up on Mark Twain and Ivanhoe. An odd mix, I know, but I'd read all of Twain's books as well as Ivanhoe at least once a year when I was in school. There's something wonderful about the way Twain and Scott use the English language that makes me tingle. though, I've never actually tried to mimic their specific voices. I think I've always looked at them as unreachable and therefor have been able to enjoy find my own voice without too much bias.

  17. I liked this movie a great deal. I've enjoyed many of Woody's films, but this is one of the best. You might want to check out The Purple Rose of Cairo as well. It's directed by Woody but he's not in it. This one also has a bit of a time travel bent.

    Tossing It Out

  18. Man, I've been talking about this movie and nobody's heard of or seen it. It's about time others discovered it.

    I'm not a Woody Allen movie buff, either. Usually too quirky for me, for some reason. And too whiny. But I've now seen Midnight in Paris at least half a dozen times. HBO.

    I've been looking for it in DVD...nobody carries it. Good to know what the poster looks like. Time to start scanning the big $5 bins.

  19. I need to watch this movie. I sounds like a good one.

    I really love the idea of this post, and it really speaks to me. I think that most writers look back at the amazing work of the past, and try to fit themselves into it -- but we live in the here and now. There's nothing wrong with learning from those greats who came before us, but there's also nothing like discovering what we have to offer the people who come after.

    I think my writing great age would probably be somewhere around where yours is, or maybe a bit later. I loved the old Fantasy books, but then again I've loved the new ones too -- but more than that, I love the old Horror classics from the early 1800s, like Frankenstein and Dracula; those are probably more my gold-age books.



  20. I like to write fantasy and futuristic but I guess I write in today's manner. So I'll count this as my golden age and hope I get some more writing done before my golden years.

  21. "I see a rhinoceros!" -Salvador Dali.

    I thought the movie was ok until the time travel, after that it was great.

    Haven't found my Golden Age yet, I think I just long for one and will recognize it when I find it. Until then my 'Golden Place' is the nearby woods. Something about the pines and the grey-pink granite hills is soothing and inspiring.

  22. My inner golden age is somewhere between Edgar Allan Poe and Christopher Pike. I'm finding my home blending old style horror with a flash of new and throwing some teens in danger.

  23. I LOVED MIDNIGHT IN PARIS, DAVID!!!! I saw it twice in the movies and watched on cable just the other evening.

    I ALWAYS believed I was born in the wrong error. At first I wanted to be in the Renaissance... But then I fell in love with 1880'a Paris and the French Impressionistic movement. Imagine painting with Renoir, Manet, Mont, Degas, it would be heaven! That era seamlessly blended with the Belle Epoc... another stunning time in Paris... which of course, was partially featured in the film.

    But as I got older I fell in love with Art Deco.and the FABULOUS illustrations of Maxfield Parrish. I was HEAVILY into art ... after all I was an artist first before a writer. That is why I was so enthralled with Midnight it Paris... It featured my two passions. Art and Writing. I was THRILLED.

    There was a great lesson to learn too. WE MUST make our lives work in the present. But the past holds many secrets. WE may have been there. How often have you experienced Deja Vu? Me CONSTANTLY. That is Europe feels more like home to me than America. All throughout I kept saying "I've been here before...."

    What a great topic. Sorry i ranted, but this really did excite me ....

    Have a great weekend.

  24. I can see how this is similar to what I expected when I watched the trailer to Perks of Being a Wallflower, and what I got when I actual watched the movie. 100% more awesome than I was prepared for! I'll have to check out Midnight in Paris, because it sounds and looks interesting. Who doesn't love time-travel? And I don't know if I'd call it my golden age, but I do love the 1920s, and the idea of Paris.

    I'm going to have to think long and hard about what my golden age is, but I'll keep in mind to look to myself when the muse doesn't click, rather than always looking for some external inspiration. :)

  25. Oooh, I love this film. I'm glad you featured it. I've had a few golden ages = Shakespearean times (Elizabethan), regency (with all that Jane Austen), and I went through an obsession with the time period on the cusp of the Civil War (cowboys, Pony Express, telegraph, trains). I don't write about any of those time periods, but my love for them has definitely shaped my writing. Great post!

  26. I've not seen that one! But I have heard good things about it.

    I used to have some great adventures with Indiana Jones like you, but not like yours probably... he wasn't usually wearing a shirt in my adventures. :D

  27. With the direction the world is heading, I sometimes wish I could go back 20-30 years to simpler, more moral times. Then I remember the book The Man Who Folded Himself by David Gerrold and think - no!

  28. I was definitely influenced by Tolkien and the lesser known Roger Zelazny. I agree, the 1920s can keep their Great Gatsby.

    Allison (Geek Banter)

  29. I'm not a big Woody Allen fan either, although you did a great job of peaking my interest about Midnight in Paris.