Last weekend, my friend Neil and I talked about Nine Inch Nails—the band that shaped us personally and artistically.
When I got into Nine Inch Nails in 2004, I just started university, where I was experiencing good and bad at the same time. As for the bad, I needed a channel of release, which would help me express myself better in written form, as I accumulated so much anger. You could call that a writer’s block.
While writing was the only thing I ever knew, my goal was to write meaningful stories and share them with whoever could emotionally connect with them.
Seeing what I was going through, my friend Steve lent me his NIN albums. I had heard almost none of the songs. In the mid-90s, I was only fixated on whatever MTV showed. I watched the “Closer” video when I was nine or ten; I liked it but didn’t understand the sexual innuendos or the language at the time. When MTV banned that video, the band fell through the cracks for me, and I didn’t hear their music again until the early 2000s when “Starf*ckers” and “Into the Void” came out. But I’d been too distracted by Britpop and Pop Rock to get into their sophisticated music.
I was also writing cheesy love stories during that period, attempting to sound like Nicholas Sparks. Overall, romance was an interesting territory to explore, but it involved too much wishful thinking that eventually made me fall on my face a lot.
When I listened to Steve’s NIN albums in 2004, something clicked. I discovered a new way of channelling my emotions; someone out there understood how I was feeling. For the first time, I’d created a distinctive writing persona and understood literary devices. I suddenly knew what I needed to achieve with my writing.
My short fiction was primarily dark, but I viewed the dark as toxins that I had to flush out. Yet, there is a purpose behind every story. I became obsessed with cleansing my thoughts and emotions, which no antidepressant had managed to do. My stories included traumatised children, unhappy single parents, bullies, and thematic issues like identity crisis and corruption.
I was very confident and ventured into unknown territories because I was curious about what you could do with them. My writing inspirations came from sources that people didn’t like to investigate. Teachers would tell you to write about what you know, but what you know doesn’t necessarily have a story you feel like telling. At least I didn’t feel that way until I got older because what I knew still had unfinished businesses.
(You can read my short fiction on my private blog.)
NIN also inspired me to my novel Heart Like A Hole, in which I created an alter-ego that eventually saved me. If you’re an avid fiction reader, I’m sure that fictional characters have saved you on many levels.
Self-therapy includes music. Some people need it to write, to get a book inspiration. Writing inspiration comes easily if you love metaphors. I find metaphorical examples in songs. Some ultimately become the soundtrack of my story, novel or poem. Do you know what it’s like when a song stirs something up in you? It creates a whirlwind that helps you sprinkle dust on paper. This is what you want.
Listen to the Accordion Podcast’s episode: Fragile Souls