Wednesday, September 26, 2012

To Continue Today's Theme: Flailing

I am deep in the hinterlands of Bayles & Orland's Art & Fear this afternoon and know that this is one for both the keeper and the keep-within-reach shelf. Instead of being a strict focus on technique, it is short and vivid encouragement for times when one is blocked or otherwise challenged.

This is a good thing, because a few chapters ago, I encountered the following:
Your reach as a viewer is vastly greater than your reach as a maker. The art you can experience may have originated a thousand miles away or a thousand years ago, but the art you can make is irrevocably bound to the times and places of your life. Limited by the very ground on which you stand.

I was rocked back by the idea that I'm working on things whose time has passed, that my own laziness and lack of desire to poke at painful areas while they hurt has allowed time to cave in around those ideas and block them off from full fruition. Also bound up in that paragraph (and the surrounding text in the book) is that appropriating others' cultural symbols is a bad idea. Good-bye fairy-tale road (sorry.).

The contradictions between trusting that I can navigate my own stories and the fear that my writing will completely stop if I have to eliminate the fantasy have had me spinning around uselessly this afternoon. While the dogs have started at invisible people on the porch, I've growled at self-created dichotomies and worried at the edges of the novel until it's nice and velvety. And kept reading.

I do wonder if my "ground" is too limited to support an entire novel. I've worked out my initial theme in short stories written since the novel was begun and now I have characters and a shell of plot and perhaps a new character who doesn't want the story to be consigned back to the draft file before he has a chance to see what he can do with it; is this structure to ephemeral to hold a fragile story ecosystem?

Am I trying to patch things on out of desperation? (um...yes?!) Does this mean that my Thunderbirds and leviathans are going to fall out of the sky because there is no support system for them (no game, no twitter feed, no common cultural ground)? Where and how often do you have to live with a idea or concept before it is yours or before you've used it up?

I am flailing. The dogs are kicking me while dreaming. We're all flailing today.

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