Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Sex and the Creative Juices

After a bit of a hiatus, a friend of mine recently developed a new celebrity crush. She is a writer too, and we have a lot in common psyche-wise. In the wake of her new fascination, my friend found herself suddenly coming up with new ideas for stories, a phenomenon I have experienced over and over again. It’s amazing how this process works: the connection between sexual attraction and creativity.

As you’d expect of me (LOL), I have some theories as to why this happens. Infatuations, whether they be for characters, celebrities, or real life individuals, are a sign that the object of affection possesses some particular, powerful appeal to your psyche. He is compelling to you in some unique way. The fact that you have encountered someone who strikes a chord with you naturally sparks your imagination. You fantasize about him, in specific situations that evoke strong emotions from you. These situations are exciting, and his character is thought-provoking and forceful.

If you have any creative propensities, it is only natural that the imaginative activity inspired by this crush spurs you to some kind of action. Obviously if you are a writer, you will feel a strong desire either to write non-fiction about a subject related to your idol, or fiction about a similar personality. If you are a musician, you will want to compose or perform pieces somehow connected to him. A graphic artist will draw, paint or sculpt with a related theme; even a craft person will find a connection by making a quilt, scrapbook, costume, etc. that connects her to the character.

Can you be creative without this sort of sexual/romantic inspiration? Of course you can, it’s just more effort. I’ll illustrate: Over the past couple of months I’ve been working on my next anthology, Soulful Sex: The Science Fiction Collection. The first story I composed was initiated during a period when I was particularly fascinated by director M. Night Shyamalan. I created the general storyline and the hero’s character at this time, developing a fellow of Indian descent who was a videographer of almost preternatural talent. Things got off to a good start, but then, as fate would have it, I got distracted by a new celebrity crush.

This, of course, was my attraction to Survivorman Les Stroud. The problem was, the archetype represented by Les suggested some very powerful drama and heroism, perfect material for fiction. And this was also one of those rare infatuations that is more than a fleeting fancy, but actually hits you on a number of significant levels.

So, I found myself really struggling to finish the first story about the videographer. I’ll admit there were some plot points that would have been tricky to handle under any circumstance--for example, could I really make it believable that in the near future society had managed to replace human sex with machines? But the matter was complicated by the fact that my imagination was preoccupied with survivalist themes.

Well, I’ve been writing for 40 years, so I know how to use discipline to complete a story, and I did. It was finally time to take on the next tale, and once I moved on from the sex machine story, I found nearly the whole plot of my next one lying piecemeal in my imagination. It was, naturally, about an interplanetary survivalist. The hero was as vivid to me as any I had ever created, being my own personal version of Les Stroud in space (I don’t know the real man personally so there’s no telling how much he is like my character Joel Fennimore). The heroine’s feelings for him were intense and clear and passionate, as you might expect. Putting the thing on paper was as effortless as creative writing gets. What a relief after the struggle of the prior story!

Which brings us to where I’m at with the third and final novella for this science fiction book. I’m in the interesting position of having processed my obsession with survivalists and no longer having that as such a powerful distraction, but meanwhile not having replaced it with a new fascination. So my imagination is on its own this time. My hero is not based on anyone in particular, and the plot is simply a concoction put together from random ideas in my head. I’m finding it easier to write than the sex machine story, but certainly not as effortless as the survivalist one.

So, all this discussion begs the question, is the creative process more fruitful when a powerful attraction drives it? At this point in the romance genre I have written 32 stories, novellas and novels. Of the 32, I would classify 15 of them as having been inspired in the manner outlined above. Is there any significant way in which those differ from the rest? Well, all of my longer works utilized an infatuation for inspiration, so I suppose it might be hard to sustain a sequence of creativity without that factor. My three most popular stories also are in that group, but my personal favorites fall both within and without the category.

Most significant is that all of them were easy to write. I guess that suggests that while imaginative effort and discipline can indeed substitute for pure “inspiration,” they are definitely more work! I would state unequivocally that, given my druthers, I’d certainly prefer writing under the thrilling influence of an infatuation every time.

Too bad I have to write a new story every couple months, and am not quite that fickle!

My works to date (“inspired” ones in italics):

Between Earth and Sky
Abigail’s Archer
Office Mating
Real Magic
The Dark Prince

Souls’ Embrace

The Trio
The Infatuation

One Hundred Women
Je t’aime, Etienne
As Commonplace as Rain

Fantastic Toys

The Queen’s Lady and Her King
The Guy from Beadsville
The Frontier
The Seduction of Squire Meg
The Verity of the Vampire

Harmless Pleasure
Dead Man’s Chest

Alloy Love
Spacewrecked with Joel Fennimore

Claude’s Laboratory

Gift of Flesh
The Golden Padawan
The Scarlet Shackle
Secret Santas

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