For the writers out there

We write.

We write to let things off out chest, to think clearer, to express opinions, to make art, to criticize, to analyse, to explain emotion, to feel alive. Yes, I know. I’ve been a person who writes since I was a tiny little girl. That doesn’t mean I’m any good but that’s not the point, to be honest. The point is that I get it. I know a lot of people write and I’m happy so many others in the world understand the joy you can get by creating worlds and characters or even little phrases with a huge amount of truth hidden in them.

So, I thought… Why not share with you my current Writer’s Process – since it changes as I change year after year …more like, day after day!  – and share with you some solutions to the problems I have been facing and may sound familiar if you love to write as well.

At the moment, I am in the process of writing a One-Act play. And I have faced three main problems. Firstly and most importantly, I catch myself thinking like a critic while I’m writing. It’s great to be able to criticize your own writing but that should come after you’ve finished, during the editing process, not in the middle of sentences. The second problem I have at this point is destruction.  A few years ago, what I was writing was always in my head. The characters became my best friends and the big scenes coming up were all I could think about even during class or other activities. Now, I get so consumed by everyday life, I get more and more detached from the story and that makes me lose my passion for it. Last but not least, I am usually more afraid to explore what I really want to write and I keep comparing my ideas to other peoples.  So I had to come up with ways to overcome those struggles and I did my best.

If you’re a person who writes you’ll probably know that inspiration comes when you least expect it. Somehow, you get the best ideas during the exam period or while you’re backpacking somewhere in Spain with friends and you have absolutely no time and peace to sit down and write. Once you get that itch, though… you know it’s time to make time! It’s the only thing on your mind.

Once I find the time to actually sit down and write, all the little things we just mentioned start appearing in your way. Here’s what I do to make it better. First, I try to set the mood. Music is the key to that but whatever else gets you in the right mind and inspires you. We Heart It helps me a lot. I have a huge collection of pictures that inspire me. Also, the sunset is usually the right lighting of the day to trigger my imagination. Find what gets you going.

When there’s not a word coming out of my mind, there is only one solution. Grab that pen and start writing. It could be completely irrelevant or bad writing. Once you start, you’re halfway there. If it doesn’t work, read! Poetry is my key! Once I open one of my favorite poetry books, it’s done. My imagination dances away. If I’m not in the mood for reading though, I start drawing. I sketch scenes and characters, so I have a clear image of them in my head. It always helps even if you’re not great with pencils and colours.

I haven’t found a way to stop doubting my writing, it only stops when I’m really inspired. So, try the ways to get your inspiration to finally arrive and it will free you.

Ernest Hemingway suggested to “Write drunk, edit sober”. If nothing else works, try that!

 

Have a magical day

glance at the sky

by Elena Ktenopoulou

 

note: The photograph is mine but the art isn’t. It is from a lovely exhibition I attended in Athens in May and I do not own it. The artist is amazingly talented, right?)

Between the lines: Call me by your name

You know I don’t usually do reviews but I do talk about art and especially about the kind of art that has an impact on me. So, I had to talk about this film. Last week I went to the cinema to find out what all the talk was about. Who doesn’t love a good love story when it’s well made and different? Well, I was amazed to discover that this film is not just a love s tory, it is so much more than that. This week we are talking about a beautiful piece of art, Call Me by Your Name, the movie – I have not had the chance to read the book YET.-

Spoilers are about to pop up so in case you haven’t watched it yet, go watch it now and come back. I cannot think why someone wouldn’t love this one!

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What stands out the most for me – apart from the acting, which we will examine in a minute! – was the montage and the attention to detail from Luca Guadagnino – that is the director in case you don’t know! – . The way he builds the surroundings and he makes everything feel so familiar was spectacular but also the focus on the little things needs to be commented on. I adored those brilliant shots where we can see only a part of Elio’s hair or half of Oliver, or those scenes that allowed us to see everything from different angles, like we were there, wandering around the characters, observing. Other times the camera was so still and there was no need for the slightest movement.

I am going to mention a particular scene, the one when Elio is waiting for Oliver to return as he seats outside. The music (Futile Devices by Sufjan Stevens), the camera focus and the change of colours as the sun sets and his anticipation grows is one of the best sequences in the entire film in my opinion – actually one of my favourites in cinema history! -. The way everything builds up to that moment just makes you feel so close to the character, you find yourself waiting with him, wondering if Oliver is even coming back.

Since it was a film about a young man’s sexuality waking up, we could say it was built around bodies. Of course, this was even more highlighted through the shots of the statues they were supposed to be studying. The body and even more so, in case of this film the male body, is an important theme of the film – and we do get to admire it for more than two hours in one of the sexiest films I’ve ever seen! It is the amazing chemistry between the two actors that makes such an atmosphere.

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So, it is time to talk about the acting and… I don’t think there is any point to waist time and refer to anything else but the last four minutes of the film. Yes, you know what I am talking about! Timothee Chalamet coming face to face with the camera and showing the world what acting is about. It is definitely one the strongest endings we have ever seen. This indescribable performance is completely captivating and will not allow you to look anywhere else.What Luca Guadagnino does here is, he makes Elio turn his back to his parents (and the audience)  in order to isolate himself so he can cry. This highlights how personal this moment is. It has happened to me and I bet it has happened to you. It is a familiar feeling to feel like you want to isolate yourself so you can express your emotions freely. But as soon as he does that the camera invades this privacy. Us, the audience manage to sneak a peak of something few directors dare to show. Well, I’m sure not every actor is able to pull off what Chalamet does here, which is four minutes of letting us into his mind without words.

The aesthetics of the film is in my opinion perfect. That is a very personal opinion but the colours and the photography is magnificent. I love how slowly and organically it goes on from one act to another. This is not a short film but I wished it wouldn’t end. I just couldn’t get enough of the characters and the simplicity and familiarity of everything when at the same time I was unable to comprehend how carefully put together everything was.

Lastly, I want to mention a few more moments that led me to call this “my favourite film of the year”. When Oliver and Elio say goodbye, they actually don’t. They don’t speak at all. It is magnificent how everything up to that moment has made words unnecessary. When Elio watches the train leave, you expect Oliver to jump out somehow and start saying all the things we didn’t hear but silence remains. Silence as the gap that Oliver leaves in Elio’s life. That is not the moment I wanted to talk about though. It is that one shot when he gets home, the one he opens the door to confront the empty room. There is no need to show anything else. That one moment is enough to make the viewer feel the absence.

Of course, I couldn’t complete this article without mentioning the monologue of Elio’s father near the end. It is a beautiful moment that makes you realise things even about your own self. The end of course is devastating but still after the father’s monologue and after seeing Elio dancing around in his funky shirt, we kind of feel hopeful and because the film with all those little scenes like the one with the bicycles and the one with the piano – a personal favourite! – captures the feeling of falling in love for the first time perfectly, it also leaves you with a smile and in the mood for love.

have a magical day

glance-at-the-sky

by Elena Ktenopoulou

(I do not own those pictures)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Between the lines: Piano Man

It was around midday last Sunday, I was putting my make-up on when a song started playing on the radio: Piano Man by Billy Joel. I usually really like songs that tell a story, so it caught my attention. While it was going on I realized it talked about something that has been on my mind a lot lately: the feeling that you don’t belong where you are and that you could be in a better place if circumstances were different or if you had handled situations better. I have come to realize that most if not all people feel like this in one way or another.

I played the song over and over to discover its secrets and since I wanted to make a blog post referring to this, I thought I could start from those wonderful lyrics.

The song builds a very atmospheric image of a piano bar on a Saturday evening. We see everything through the pianist’s eyes although we never learn much about him compared to what we hear about the rest of the people who are spending the night in the bar. The figures are almost stereotypical and we can probably recall them in our memory. We have probably come across them at some point.

As the pianist begins to explain what he sees, he starts describing an old man who seats near him drinking his gin and tonic – he actually uses the words “making love to his tonic and gin” which emphasizes his dependency on alcohol. The old man asks him to play a melody he knew as a young man. This person is the first one who is being described and is probably somehow the future self of everyone in that place. He listens to the piano full of nostalgia, missing a life he had but he was never able to appreciate at the time just like the younger people in the bar. He looks back at what everyone else turns away from and what he probably had turned away from when he was young: his life. Now, he only lives in memories hanging on a bottle and the tunes of the pianist that will somehow let him return to what he once was.

The next person we meet is John, the barman. He comes across as a very cheerful man He always has a joke to tell but deep inside he just feels trapped. He is a friend of the pianist so he can confess to him that he’d be a movie star if he wasn’t stuck at the bar. In this case, we, as the listeners, feel like he could change that. He dreams of being an actor but remains there doing nothing about it. Of course, we know nothing much about John’s life but we assume that if he wants it that bad, he could take a risk. He says that this life “is killing him”, so does he have something to lose if he takes a risk? Is his phantasy of being a famous actor really a desire? Or is it just something he uses to make himself feel somehow like a failure?

Two men are sitting somewhere near, Paul and Davy. Paul is a novelist who doesn’t have a family. We can assume he is a cynical and practical man, since the pianist describes him as a “real estate novelist” and he is taking to another man named Davy who still works in the Navy “and probably will be for life”. Of course that “still” is the magic word that changes the meaning of the lyric. It instantly gives us the sense that Davy wasn’t intending to stay at this job but for practical reasons, he stayed. He probably had bigger dreams. Maybe he would be a movie star just like John would but he’s there now and he’ll never know.

Lastly, Bill, our Pianist, refers to the waitress who speaks with a stoned businessman. They are both lost in their loneliness trying to fight it in meaningless conversations. In the end of the song, as we are almost seeing that bar in front of us, feeling the loneliness of every single person in there and knowing that they can only get away from it for as long as a song lasts – a song by the piano man  – something devastating happens. Someone approaches Bill and gives him a tip. Then he asks him “man, what are you doing here?”.

After we’ve seen everyone else through Bill’s eyes realizing how they’ve wasted their lives and they’ll probably never be happy, someone else comes to ask the question we’ve been too busy – thinking about everyone else – to ask. What is he doing there, in this sad, little bar filled with unhappy people looking to drown their problems in alcohol instead of admitting their wrong choices? Was that his dream all along? Is anyone where they were supposed to be? Is life an endless chain of mistakes we just keep trying to cover up? Is loneliness inevitable?

I thought of the song lyrics for days. I started noticing people around me wondering how they were experiencing loneliness or what were they settling for out of fear. Let’s not lie. At some point we all do. Or… can we chose not to?

have a magical day,

 

glance at the sky

by Elena Ktenopoulou

What if you made music a bigger part of your life?

It’s always there… it’s either what’s making you move, either just what making your day a little brighter while playing in the background. Music, whether it’s the protagonist or just a guest, is what makes those boring moments more… meaningful.

Listening to music is usually a way to underline feeling in a way but… what about playing music? This week, I wanted to talk about the decision to try and play an instrument and I don’t mean professionally. Music as a hobby can benefit your life in many ways.

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I have been trying to play the cello for more than a year and I considered it important to encourage more people who might be afraid that they won’t make it because they don’t have previous experience. Even if you never play professionally, you will gain a lot just by devoting some time to something creative – any form of art, really but today we talk about the benefits of music. –

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Here’s how music has made my life more beautiful and why you should also try:

  1.     Patience

Truth to be told, I was never a patient person. I love getting what I want right away but when you try to master an instrument, you certainly cannot do that in a few  months… not even in a few years. Studying music  has helped me to become more patient and I’ll explain how. The more patient you are during practice, the faster you get the result you’ve been anticipating, it’s a very important lesson. When you give it time and you take it slow, you will have better results.

2. Organizing time 

Learning to play an instrument takes time and daily practice. That requires discipline and a very well structured schedule that you have to follow in order to manage everything else in your life and make time for music. I have noticed that since I started playing, I have come to organizing my time a lot better than before and not just around my music studies but in general.

3. Exercising the mind 

When you watch musicians playing it looks so easy… let me tell you, you have to think about a million  things at the same moment. What is that note? Am I pressing the right spot? Am I putting too much pressure on the bow? Why does this sound different than before? Scientific research has shown that practicing music is a very demanding activity that activates a lot of parts of the brain. That makes you smarter and able to handle more tasks at once.

4. Enjoying music 

The hardest part of music – especially for a person who starts in their twenties as I did – is certainly not  learning the technique but learning to hear correctly. That takes a lot of practice and exercise but you’ll notice that slowly, you start to understand music better than before and enjoy it more.

5. Feeling of achievement 

When you practice and practice and at the end of the week, you’ve finally reached your goal, you feel extremely satisfied and motivated to keep going. That way you learn to work based on setting small goals that eventually lead to a bigger one. Isn’t that the secret for success after all?

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I am not going to talk about the thrill of playing in front of people or the happiness when you create music of your own just because it takes a while until you get there and today’s article focuses more on the benefits of learning. But I grantee you, it’s all worth it!

Trying learning to play an instrument will benefit you in many ways. You will even see your personality improve as you’ll become more organized and more hard working. The only thing you need is the decision to start and the desire to play. So, don’t waste any more time get busy!

have a magical day,

 

glance at the sky

by Elena Ktenopoulou

“Creativity takes courage”

Once, while working in his atelier, Henri Matisse realized that in order to make art, you have to be brave and so he made the statement that ended up being the title of this article. But.. what was he trying to say?

The process of making something is known to work more as a relief rather than an act of bravery and as a person who studies art and tries to find her way as artist, I can say that it does but still, it is not the perfect activity for the fainthearted. But why? The answer to that question is what I am trying to approach here, although it is not an easy task nor there is a right answer.

Art is based on the experiences of the creator. They may not always be actual experiences, they can also be imaginary ones. So, even if the art is not realistic in a way that it depicts reality naturalistically , it is somehow based on it. Even when the artwork that is completely abstract or  something that presents the entire opposite of reality as we know it, it’s still coming as a result of it because the mind of the maker has been developed in a specific environment – whether they fit in or not – with specific characteristics.

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The bravery of the artist comes when they dare to look at reality with bare eyes, no extra filters. I cannot describe this better than Plato did, more than 2000 years ago using the Allegory of the Cave. In case you are not familiar with it, while trying to describe how it felt to be a philosopher, Plato said that a group of people had been tied up in a cave since birth, with their backs turned on the entrance, unable to turn their heads while a fire is burning. As the sun comes in, form behind, the fire creates a reflection of everything that’s happening outside the cave on the wall in front of them. Since they’ve lived there their whole lives at this state, they consider this to be the reality. When one of them escapes and goes out into the world, he’s able to see the actual reality and the sun but when he comes back to tell the rest, since his eyes have gotten used to the light, he can no longer see the shadows, so everyone believes that he’s gone blind and they never take him seriously.

So, an artist, here is the person who escapes the cave and then depicts reality as he or she saw it. That demands courage and will power. But is it really a choice for the artist-creator? I think that in some rare cases it isn’t – a person is just born that way – but in general it is. Creativity is something that each person could have in their lives and even the slightest thing, like taking up painting lessons as a hobby or writing poems on your free time is a choice that takes courage. Mostly because you sacrifice time and energy for it. But not only for that.

Above all the rest, creativity takes courage because it always works as a form of exposure. Whether you are Michelangelo or the piano player for your church, you put yourself, your emotions and your personal work out there for people to judge. You have to be brave to stand fearlessly on a stage with all those sets of eyes focused on you with expectation and open your mouth to say that firs line of the play or play the first note of the concerto.

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That is the reason why, in my opinion it is essential for everyone to have a form of creativity in their every day life. Having a creative job or a hobby can test your limitation and expand your boundaries. It can help you learn so much about yourself and set you free in a million new ways. So, if you think you don’t have time for something creative in your life right now, you’re wrong. There’s always space for something to clear our soul. I know it takes courage but dare it and you’ll see what I mean…

have a magical day,

 

glance at the sky

by Elena Ktenopoulou

The featured picture of the article is part of a painting by: Robert Delaunay,
called: le poète Philippe Soupault (1922) – It is located in Centre Pompidou 

A picture is a poem without words

Horace compared pictures to a poem more than two thousand years ago. If you decide to grab a few books and walk the lanes of History of Art, or even better travel and visit as many museums as possible, you will find out what kind of power a picture can hide. I’ve stood in front of a Picasso, a Van Gogh, a Kandinsky, a Monet or a Miro painting and it was different every time. Others made my heart beat faster, others had me stunned and speechless, staring at them for twenty minutes and other just didn’t touch anything inside me that longed to be touched.

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I live in a small town that’s not really pretty. The images I see every day around me are not inspiring. There’s no great architecture, beautiful colors or green parks with lakes. A few years ago I started noticing the little pieces of art that bring a pop of joy in this dull town: graffiti!

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Graffiti is very underrated. I’ve seen a lot of beautiful pieces of art in museums and I have to say that some graffiti has moved me equally, sometimes even more. Why do we  walk next to such brilliant works every day, not paying attention? Why do we tend to wait for something to find a place in a wall of a museum in order to call it “art”? Why not walk to work and give yourself the chance to be aesthetically pleased by something that is right next to you and it’s free!

An old and ugly building can turn into something interesting and cheerful. Maybe, in some way the painting that makes a whole town more beautiful to look at can be more important t than the one hanging in a wall of a museum.

We learnt to love everything imprisoned, maybe because it reminds us of ourselves. See the magic in what’s free. Art is everywhere! Learn to notice and appreciate it.

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have a magical day,

 

glance at the sky

by Elena Ktenopoulou