Thursday, June 21, 2012

That Time Muse Suckerpunched Willpower

There's this war in creative writing. It's kind of like the Hundred Years' War, except longer. Centuries of armies have massed around two primary camps: Muse and Willpower. The constituents of Muse think that beautiful, meaningful writing can only come through inspiration. Willpower's minions, on the other hand, claim that NO inspiration is required. To heck with the fickle whims of Muse.

Me, I fall somewhere in the middle of the two camps, which is probably why I get kicked from both sides, but that is another blog post. I fall somewhere in the middle for one important reason: I know a secret. Muse (being a fickle girl who may or may not like sparkly things) can be bribed.

My Muse happens to like coffee and traveling and walking through nature like a modern day Thoreau (I'll pass on that tasty woodchuck though, buddy. I'd rather have an Elk burger). My Muse likes antique typewriters that can be converted into USB compatible writing machines. My Muse likes sarcastic t-shirts and many different kinds of excellent music (I've been on a jazzy, bluesy kick, lately). My Muse likes scheming.

Bribing my Muse doesn't mean I'm dependant on some sort of mythical, faerie dust and Disney smiles *inspiration* (said in a Spongebob voice). It just means I'm bringing my full arsenal of capability to the table--or, more appropriately, the writing desk. It means I'm not forcing myself to slog through my writing day like it is some kind of horrible task. I'm interested and dedicated. I'm working and having fun.

This is starting to sound disturbingly like a personal ad for my Muse. I think she may be sitting on top of my head like Remi in Ratatouille, pulling my hair to control what I type...

So. In the interest of putting my Muse back in her place, let me tell you a story. A story about that time Muse suckerpunched Willpower (and Willpower put Nair in her shampoo bottle). But first, a little bit of background. My Muse is one of nine beautiful women (supposedly goddesses, but I think the Greeks were just suckers for pretty women). Actually, I think I'm the creative only child of two Muses, who randomly trade custody of me: Calliope and Clio. Calliope is the muse of song. Clio is the muse of history, i.e. the scroll or writing. In all honesty, Calliope is not the subject of this story--she's a pretty reliable Muse as muses go, and she really has nothing to do with Willpower, because I have no delusions of becomig a professional songwriter and am happy to write songs infrequently as inspiration hits.

Now, there's another famous lady throughout Western history, and she is closely tied with success (creative or otherwise). Her name is Lady Fortune (or Lady Luck to all you modern Americans). She's an elusive one and, despite the praises that have been sung to her, she is bald. Yep. You got it. BALD. I think it's because all of the down-on-their-luck people in SHakespeare's day thought you had to grab her BY THE HAIR to catch her.

Anyway. Back to my Muse. One day, she decided to trick Willpower into thinking they could be partners. You know, in the cahoots and rendezvouses (is that a word?) kissy-kissy way. Then, when she convinced Willpower to abandon me in my time of need (proibably while I was working on a term paper) and once he did, she locked him in a cage and punched him in the stomach before returning to taunt me with ridiculous ideas and impractical plot twists.

A few days later, Willpower escaped (possibly because I gave him coffee and a donut with a metal file inside [it was a long john, ok, not a round donut! Don't be so critical]). As I've already noted, Willpower's next move was to put Nair in my Muse's shampoo.

Let's just say she looks a lot like Lady Fortune, these days.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

What Ho? A Double Standard in the Literary World?

Sometimes, while I'm wandering along the various fields of the literary world (I'm currently in one full of thistles, but that is beside the point), I stumble over a big, fat incongruity. This week, it's an incongruity directly related to my own writing efforts:

WHY do people snicker if I tell them I'm writing an Urban Fantasy with elements of crime fiction, like mythical stories are sooo lowbrow, but still consider things like Le Morte D'Arthur and The Faerie Queen to be high brow, glorious literary productions? Why is a mystery novel "sure to make you rich" but not sure to bring you the literary acclaim that, say, a historical/memoir/women's fiction "literary" novel will? Why do I feel embarrassed to admit that I'm a "genre" writer?

On a surface level, it's all about money. Popular literature is "lowbrow" because it is easily accessible to all kinds of people. Readers do not have to have a master's degree or a PhD to unerstand the underlying ideas and themes that shape the novel and make it significant. And, because popular literature is neither rare nor hard to "get" in either sense of the word, there are no obvious bragging rights (cultural capital--the ability to value yourself above other people because you are able to access and "understand" rare and highly valued art). In this light, one could claim that there are NO SOCIAL STATUS BENEFITS TO BE GAINED BY READING GENRE FICTION.

Of course, one would be wrong. But one could say such a thing, and be accurate to the social consesus on the subject.

Have you ever noticed that popular art can, and often does, become "classic"? Bugs Bunny, Abbot and Costello, Laurel and Hardy, the Three Stooges, Shakespeare (oh yeah, he was a popular artist back in the day), and FilM Noir are all notable examples. Although popular art becomes high brow art as it becomes less and less accessible (as it ages and generations of people who don't use the same cultural cues [things like slang, symbol]), thus tending to validate the monetary system of valuing art, that isn't entirely why it turns into highbrow art.

If popular art can BECOME high brow art, then such art cannot be, for all intents and purposes, VOID of any social/cultural value, can it?

Okay. I will climb off my giant soapbox and go work on my lowbrow fiction now. Thankyouverymuch.