The Roots of Influence and Inspiration - Part III: Substance

Written by Sam Rawlings on Monday the 9th of August 2010

(Title image: Space, by Lee Miller)

This journal is the third in a series of pieces I expect to write about those certain 'elements' of life that inspire and influence my writing. I think it's important to acknowledge these elements, as essentially they represent the root of our craft, they are the seeds that precede the fruit of our labour, the 'components' without which our thoughts, our images, our music, our words, simply would not exist.

I hope you enjoy my ramblings and in return I would love to hear all about the things that inspire and influence you. After all, "without sharing, the imagination becomes little more than an echo of itself."

Part Three: Substance

Definitions of 'substance':

  1. The basic matter of which a thing consists.
  2. The most important element in any existence; the characteristic and essential components of anything; the main part; essential import; purport.
  3. A specific type of matter with a definite chemical composition.
  4. The essential meaning of a speech, thought, or written article.
  5. Important or meaningful quality.
  6. The choicest or most essential or most vital part of some idea or experience.
  7. The core or centre of something.

My thoughts on the Nature of substance

What you say, what you write, it represents you; and if you're not prepared to stand up and face it, to look your creativity  in the eye, then ultimately, I believe you should question why it was you created it.
        We're all wrong and we're all right, we're all cruel and we're all kind, we're all a series of juxtapositions, contradictions. Wisdom comes only with honesty.  And it's not about being good. It's really not. Of course, you can study your craft; you should study your craft, that's important. You can be skilled... skill, technique, execution, can all be measured, but that alone can only be judged objectively. High art, low art, whichever way round you want to file it, it's all art; it's all expression. The only art that to me represents bad art is hollow art, neglected art, careless art. You should be embarrassed by what you create, it should make you feel vulnerable; make you feel queasy, uncomfortable. It should at times make you feel childlike, it should make you laugh, smile, fill you with excitement, make you feel silly and wild. As much as it glides and flows and pirouettes, delicately sheds its leaves, sprinkles those neat trails of seeds for others to follow, your art should also snort, burp, fart and bellow because that's you, and if you know that it's you, you should also know that there's absolutely nothing you can do about it and so hopefully you'll just say to yourself, well, why not, fuck it - this is me and I'm going to do it... because only you can do what you do, no one else is better at you than expressing the patterns of light that collide behind your eyes, no one else can portray the sounds that vibrate deep within the cavities of your ears, smell the world as you smell it. No other single person can feel the emotions colliding within your chest as literally as you can feel them. The burning within your limbs, the forest manifest within your mind, the weight of the past cradled within your heart, these are your marks to bare and only you can share them.

That to me is substance, where my substance comes from... from the soil, the rocks, the trees, the ocean, the air we breathe, the sounds and the smells and the scars of the city sprawling miraculously all around me, my family, my girl and my friends. It's that fire in my belly, my truth, my honesty, and it took me a while to learn that real confidence, real art, real life comes only from substance, when you can feel what you're saying as loudly as you can hear the words your making. To me, that's substance.

And so, to bring this journal to a close, I want to end with a small collection of quotes and images  that I've gathered from people who I believe really meant what they were saying when they were saying it. For these are but a few of the people from whom I take my inspiration, turn to in moments of disorientation...


Lee Miller - Space (Title Image)
Francesca Woodman - Self Portrait
Claire Fletcher - #1
Claire Fletcher - #2
Claire Fletcher - #3
Nelson Evergreen - Little Red Riding Hood
Rima Staines - A Girl Mad as Birds
Matt Black
Dan Prescott
Leonardo Da Vinci
Henry Moore
Jackson Pollock - Summertime
Tom Harris

Bob Dylan

"A poem is a naked person...” 

"A lot of people can't stand touring but to me it's like breathing. I do it because I'm driven to do it.”

"I define nothing. Not beauty, not patriotism. I take each thing as it is, without prior rules about what it should be.”

"I think a poet is anybody who wouldn't call himself a poet.”

"No one is free, even the birds are chained to the sky.”

To Ramona:

Ramona, come closer, shut softly your watery eyes
The pangs of your sadness, will pass as your senses will rise
And the flowers of the city, though breathlike, get deathlike at times
For there's no use in tryin', to deal with the dyin', though I cannot explain that in lines.

Your cracked country lips, I still wish to kiss, as to be by the strength of your skin
Your magnetic movements, still capture the minutes I'm in
Oh but it grieves my heart, love, to see you tryin' to be a part of, a world that just don't exist.
And it's all just a dream, babe, a vacuum, a scheme, babe, that sucks you into feelin' like this.

Pablo Neruda

"And one by one the nights between our separated cities are joined to the night that unites us."

"You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep spring from coming."

"As if you were on fire from within, the moon lives in the lining of your skin."

"I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where. I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride; so I love you because I know no other way."

"A child who does not play is not a child, but the man who doesn't play has lost forever the child who lived in him and who he will miss terribly."


And it was at that age...Poetry arrived
in search of me. I don't know, I don't know where
it came from, from winter or a river.
I don't know how or when,
no, they were not voices, they were not
words, nor silence,
but from a street I was summoned,
from the branches of night,
abruptly from the others,
among violent fires
or returning alone,
there I was without a face
and it touched me.
I did not know what to say, my mouth
had no way
with names
my eyes were blind,
and something started in my soul,
fever or forgotten wings,
and I made my own way,
that fire
and I wrote the first faint line,
faint, without substance, pure
pure wisdom
of someone who knows nothing,
and suddenly I saw
the heavens
and open,
palpitating planations,
shadow perforated,
with arrows, fire and flowers,
the winding night, the universe.
And I, infinitesimal being,
drunk with the great starry
likeness, image of
I felt myself a pure part
of the abyss,
I wheeled with the stars,
my heart broke free on the open sky.

Roald Dahl

"Two hours of writing fiction leaves this writer completely drained...”

"A person is a fool to become a writer. His only compensation is absolute freedom. He has no master except his own soul, and that, I am sure, is why he does it"

"A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely."

"All you do is to look
At a page in this book
Because that's where we always will be.
No book ever ends
When it's full of your friends
The Giraffe and the Pelly and me."

"And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don't believe in magic will never find it."

"A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men."

The Pig:

In England once there lived a big
And wonderfully clever pig.
To everybody it was plain
That Piggy had a massive brain.
He worked out sums inside his head,
There was no book he hadn't read.
He knew what made an airplane fly,
He knew how engines worked and why.
He knew all this, but in the end
One question drove him round the bend:
He simply couldn't puzzle out
What LIFE was really all about.
What was the reason for his birth?
Why was he placed upon this earth?
His giant brain went round and round.
Alas, no answer could be found.
Till suddenly one wondrous night.
All in a flash he saw the light.
He jumped up like a ballet dancer
And yelled, "By gum, I've got the answer!"
"They want my bacon slice by slice
"To sell at a tremendous price!
"They want my tender juicy chops
"To put in all the butcher's shops!
"They want my pork to make a roast
"And that's the part'll cost the most!
"They want my sausages in strings!
"They even want my chitterlings!
"The butcher's shop! The carving knife!
"That is the reason for my life!"
Such thoughts as these are not designed
To give a pig great piece of mind.
Next morning, in comes Farmer Bland,
A pail of pigswill in his hand,
And piggy with a mighty roar,
Bashes the farmer to the floor...
Now comes the rather grizzly bit
So let's not make too much of it,
Except that you must understand
That Piggy did eat Farmer Bland,
He ate him up from head to toe,
Chewing the pieces nice and slow.
It took an hour to reach the feet,
Because there was so much to eat,
And when he finished, Pig, of course,
Felt absolutely no remorse.
Slowly he scratched his brainy head
And with a little smile he said,
"I had a fairly powerful hunch
"That he might have me for his lunch.
"And so, because I feared the worst,
"I thought I'd better eat him first."

I leave you finally with the words of someone who, I think, embodies this idea of substance more than most. Below is a video of Kate Tempest performing her poem, End Time. If you ask me, it simply does not get much better than this...

...thanks for listening.

Tags for this post: samrawlings, influence, inspiration, substance, part3.

To view the flash file (Video or Mp3's) we have placed here you need the latest Adobe Flash player installed on your system. We have detected that you currently do not have a flash player installed on your system. Please follow the link below to install the latest flash player.

Get Adobe Flash player
Title: Kate Tempest - End Times
By: dpuck
Lazy Says: Kate Tempest - End Times (from her book, Patterns)
More Archive posts