Thursday, October 11, 2007

Confessions of a Literary Streetwalker: No Muse Is Good News

(the following is part of an ongoing series of columns I did for The Erotica Readers & Writers Association on the ins and outs and ins and outs and ins and outs of writing good smut)

People sometimes ask me about my muse. In other words, where I get the ideas for stories, or how I work.

I hate the idea of a muse and have to bite back the response that I had one once but I clubbed it into submission and now keep it chained up in my basement.

The reason I hate the idea of a muse is that, for me, it takes the responsibility for creation away from the artist and puts it in control of another. "We don't write stories," the muse seems to say, "but we give them as gifts to special people."


Here on earth, we have the writers who feel they have to wait until a story 'speaks' to them, or for a visit from their very own personal muse. Not to put down other writer's habits, but this also strikes me as bunk. Now, I'm the first to say that what writers do is extraordinary; damned near magical. After all, one person creating a work that can live for decades, centuries, and change millions of lives -- if that's not incredible, I don't know what is.

Incredible, yes. Handed down from beyond -- no. Not at all. Shakespeare, Homer, Hemmingway, Steinbeck, Vonnegut, Pynchon, Woolf, Mishima. Make up your own list. These men and women didn't have anything you don't already have. No angelic or alien visitations, no mutant genes, no Formula X, no extraordinary gifts. They had brains and minds and worked very, very hard.

Of course that's simplistic, but that doesn't make it any less valid a point: what did they have that you don't have? What do they have that I don't have?

What does any of this have to do with writing erotica? Well, more than you think. Creativity, ingenuity with language, craft, flair, insight, wit, observation -- these are all things that come with work, with practice, with trying, with experimenting. Not once, but over and over again.

Where is this coming from? Well, every once and a while when I put out a call for submissions for an anthology -- or hear other writers talking about someone's project -- I will hear someone say "Oh, I could never do that," or "That's not my kind of book," and I think about muses.

That kind of attitude, that a writer has to be "inspired" to write to a certain theme, or even a certain type of story, reminds me of that myth, that a story has to 'come' to a writer.

Good example: write me a Transgendered Erotica story. Okay, I agree the subject is a bit daunting but don't let that stop you. Think about it, play with it, do some research. What does gender mean? Who are you? What could you be? What must it be like to have been born one way, but know you should have been the other? What does our society say about sex and gender? Does there have to be only men, only women?

Think, read, play -- and write. No muse is going to ring your doorbell and say "Have I got a story for you!" You have to do it yourself, you have to sit down (or walk around) and think, dream, stretch your creativity, and do it yourself.

That's the trick, you see -- where this circle I've been drawing connects up. To be a better writer you have to work at it. Try new things, new techniques, new styles, new markets. Who knows, you might be the best damned transsexual writer ever, maybe you'll write a really great story, maybe you'll only write a good story, maybe your story will suck -- but no matter the result, you've stretched yourself, tried something new. Inspiration and craft are not gifts from above, they're what happens when you put yourself out there and try new things.

As I like to say, the only time a writer fails is when they either give up writing, or simply don't try.

So try. Don't wait for inspiration. Don't wait for just the right market, don't wait for anything. Write. That's the only magic in a writer's life: the writing.

1 comment:

Conquer said...

I just stumbled across your blog--just wanted to let you know that I enjoy it!