brni (brni) wrote,

defenestrating the muse

Thinking somewhat of the mythology of the story, and of the character, which I've said a little something about in some earlier posts. ( and )

There are, of course, differing viewpoints. Catherynne Valente posted rather eloquently about how potentially damaging mythologizing the writing process can be. In particular, she criticized the idea that the writer is merely the vessel through which the writing takes place - from the concept of "the muse" to Plato's concept of a realm where the Ideas live, ideas that use the writer to express themselves.

This concept of being a mere vessel - an empty conduit - demeans the work of the writer. It devalues the effort and the creativity that we put into our work. It devalues the sweat we put into it, the hair-tearing, the long hours struggling over a page.

She is not wrong.

On the other hand, I don't think I'm wrong either.

I was listening to Chris Smither on the way home from the Writer's Coffeehouse in Doylestown today, and the song Small Revelations came on.

Hearing is letting it happen
To listen's an act of will

That's the crux of it, I think.

The stories are there, in fragments, nestled in our lived experience, in the books we've read, the movies we've watched, the conversations we've had, the places we've visited. Fragments are buried in wikipedia articles, web sites, ancient tomes, half-remembered songs from the radio when we were kids.

As writers, we listen, we seek out the fragments, puzzle them together in (hopefully) new and interesting ways. We seek out their possibilities and explore them. We give them life, and voice.

There's nothing passive about what we do.

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