Saturday, October 5, 2019

Art and Play -- #inspiration #amwriting #creativity

Woman blowing bubbles
 Image by kissu from Pixabay

I discovered buried treasure today.

There's a box in our storage closet labeled “L's Writing”. I hadn't examined it in quite a while. I knew it held my old journals, my poetry notebooks, various term papers, theses and other academic artifacts. I couldn't recall, though, how much I'd kept of my very early schoolwork and writing. After all, my life journey has taken me through five decades and halfway around the world since I was in junior high school. Maybe I'd jettisoned some of my childish output – or maybe it had disintegrated, the paper drying out and crumbling away after half a century.

In particular, I was looking for a set of science reports I remembered from eighth grade. Each week the teacher would perform a demonstration and ask us a set of questions. In our reports, we were supposed to diagram of the experiment, then answer the questions and draw conclusions. I liked to draw and I liked my teacher. So instead of simple scientific figures, I created a series of cartoons, some of them harboring private jokes. I had great fun concocting those reports. I'm sure it took me far longer than if I'd merely followed the instructions, but I didn't care. I was happy putting in the effort, expressing myself. It was homework but it was also a kind of play.

Imagine my delight when I found a tattered manila envelope crammed with documents going back to elementary school – some as fragile as I'd feared, but many in decent condition. My book reports and my compositions from French class . My high school honors thesis about the Great Chain of Being in Tolkein's Middle Earth. My plays about the Beatles, about the jealous gods of Olympus, about the 1964 presidential election. My ghost and science fiction stories. And, just as I'd hoped, the full set (as far as I can tell) of said science reports.

You might ask what all this has to do with writing erotica.

I've been pondering the way we present our writing process as work. We discuss conflict and pacing, the theory of the short story, the exterior and interior elements of character, techniques for evoking sensory experience in our scenes, strategies for self-editing. We wrestle with revisions. We “kill our darlings”. We train ourselves to view everything we write with a critical eye.

I don't mean to minimize the importance of self-analysis or craft. However, I sometimes worry that we're too analytical, too focused, too left-brained, about our writing. Or maybe I should say “I” as opposed to “we”. I'm so concerned with markets and word count, sentence structure and word repetition, that I forget why I started doing this in the first place. I've lost my sense of play.

Nobody taught me how to write creatively. I've been doing for as long as I remember, and from the very first, I did it for fun. I played with words, and back when I was a kid, I played with images too, as can be seen from my eighth grade efforts. (I was always a better wordsmith than visual artist, though.) I was, in psychological jargon, intrinsically motivated, writing, drawing, painting and rhyming simply because I enjoyed the process.

And that's what's often missing now. The product is what counts, from the perspective of readers and publishers. They're waiting for my next book. I try to ignore the pressure, but I'm never entirely successful. The limited time I have available for writing adds to the sense of stress. I only have this day, these few hours – what if I can't get the words out?

Art cannot be compelled. You have to simply open yourself and let it flow. I know there's a theory that all great artists must suffer. I don't know if I buy that, but in any case, I'm not aspiring to greatness. No, I just want to enjoy my writing the way I did when I was younger. I want to play.

I managed this, to some extent, with my portmanteau novel Rajasthani Moon. I undertook this project solely for my own amusement, as a challenge to myself: how many sub-genres could I combine in a single book? In a sense, I was thumbing my nose at the erotic romance establishment, which so loves to slice and dice, categorize and label, every story. So I let my imagination run free, and I didn't censor myself to please my publisher. I even included some F/F interaction, generally considered to be the marketing kiss-of-death in traditional erotic romance. If it turned me on, I put it in and damn the markets.

When the book was done, I knew it was no work of enduring literary significance – but it's lively, entertaining, and pretty hot. Most important, I had a fabulous time writing it.

I want to do that again.

I'm willing to put in the effort it takes to write well – but not without the payoff of having fun. Not anymore.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Let me know your thoughts! (And if you're having trouble commenting, try enabling third-party cookies in your browser...)