When I was studying music at college, I went to the movies with a boyfriend, also a musician, and just before the movie began the THX theme started playing. On screen, appeared the words, The audience is listening.
The music theme is simple. It consists of two notes; one high, the other low. And they slide towards one another. So, the high note descends, the low note rises, until they become one note.
Beautiful. Stunning. A whole world of meaning expressed with humble simplicity.
My boyfriend leaned towards me and muttered out of the corner of his mouth, “Damn, I wish I’d written that.”
I didn’t get it at the time. But now, through reading I understand exactly the longing and frustration my friend experienced in the theatre that day. When something is brilliant, and simple, one feels as if it was an object of great value, plainly in front of your feet, for all to see, but overlooked through laziness or inattention. Two people walking along a street, one spots the fifty dollar bill on the pavement, the other only notices the rubbish in the gutter.
These gems slip by us if we’re not careful.
If a piece of art is complex and brilliant, something in the league of Shakespeare, or Mozart, for example, it is appropriate to simply bow down to the master, and acknowledge that the art has passed out of a mortal’s reach. And that’s okay.
But when a writer, artist, musician finds brilliance in simplicity, one can’t help but feel slightly envious. I wish I’d thought of that, written that, composed that.
There is a part of me that enjoys the experience too. I’ll read the same sentence over and over, letting the elegance of it fill my head, wishing I’d had the foresight to discover such simple beauty. I’ll dissect the sentence. Examine the words from both sides, searching for clues. But sometimes, there are no clues, nothing to discover, just simple prose.
And I’m left thinking, once again, Damn, I wish I’d written that.
Who inspires you to try harder? To reach a little further with your own writing? Who leaves you wishing you’d written that?
For me, it’s Rose Tremain.