Saturday, July 19, 2008

On Nice Guys and Nasty Muses

What a week it’s been! The top story in the state of Wisconsin has been Brett Favre’s battle with the Packers. The top story in Diana Laurenceville has been that I completed two stories in the same day for the first time ever. These events are an interesting juxtaposition, I must say.

I have been struggling all week with the urge to blog about Favre, while keeping in mind that in the blogosphere, as at parties, it’s best to remember “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” The last thing I want to do is pick on any folks out there who adore this guy and are currently struggling with the possibility of having to rethink their opinions. It hasn’t been that long since I went through something similar. I dedicated my book Living Beyond Reality to a certain hockey goaltender who subsequently indulged in a lot of irresponsible living and got booted from my personal pantheon.

But the talk around Wisconsin has largely boiled down to one issue, that famous quote from Vince Lombardi: “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” I’ve realized that if you truly hold to that, then Favre is definitely your man. (Well, not definitely, he’s not young anymore, nor infallible.) If you don’t hold to that, not even in sports, then you may be like me. Favre has never been my man, as my annoyed but forgiving Packer fan friends will tell you. I love Kerry Wood for his 20K rookie game, and for his being possibly the NL’s best closer, but I also loved him during the time he was hurt and when he loses a game in the ninth. He’s a team-first guy, the kind who takes a pay cut when another team would pay him more, the kind who is grateful just to play in whatever capacity the team needs him.

In real life I like my men like that. And it always irks the pants off me when men who fail to be heroic are counted as heroes. But people have different standards for what constitutes a hero—you have yours and I have mine—and no person can dictate those standards to another.

While I have been spending the week being grateful for my real life heroes, people like Kerry, and Peyton Manning, and Les Stroud, and the awesome dancers and choreographers on “So You Think You Can Dance,” the opposite has been going on regarding my writing inspiration….

I’ve discovered I do best with a muse who has an evil streak.

I won’t reiterate the same points I’ve been making about my imaginary Neil Gaiman (it’s got to be getting a little nauseating by now). But I just wanted to relate how amazingly effective it seems to be when my animus-bearer of choice has that sinister side. For one thing, the ending he provided me once I turned over my Romeo and Juliet story to him…well, it was perfect. I couldn’t abide a happy ending to it, nor did I want it to be tragic in the way the original play was. I struggled with that for weeks, but apparently it was easy for him. You’ll have to wait for the book to find out how it ends, but suffice it to say the ending is unhappy but somehow very cool.

And the other story, “Don’t,” flowed more or less piecemeal from the imagination of my imaginary friend. I can’t remember the last time I wrote anything so fast. I hope someone other than me likes it, because I really like it!

Lest you think that the sinister muse is only useful for the writers among us, I have found myself enjoying life more in general since he lit upon my shoulder. It kind of feels like being in love, without the annoying problem of another person being involved. LOL

I’ve had a lot of animus-bearers over the years, some of them knights in shining armor, some of them mysterious shaman types, and some of them the sorts of characters who on a certain level scared me. Just like crushing on a “bad boy” can be energizing and thrilling, having a muse who you don’t completely trust seems to really stir up your soul. Oh, and while I’m lauding my animus/muse: He also handed me the plot of my next story as I was finishing the other two, so next up from my keyboard will be the contemporary tale “‘Kiss Me’ and Other Commands.”

So here’s the principle under which I’m operating this summer: For best results, surround yourself with good guys on the outside, and one morally ambiguous guy on the inside.

And would you believe the radio is playing “The Devil Inside” as I type this? (See And that’s the second time this has happened while I was blogging on this topic…shiver.


Cherie Burbach said...

Okay, I GOTTA comment on this!

You are comparing Favre, who has never been out catting around, never broken laws, never done anything to suggest poor character to a "certain hockey goaltender who subsequently indulged in a lot of irresponsible living."

Where exactly is the comparison? Favre has played hurt for MOST of his 16 years. He didn't just start games to keep his streak going, he played the entire game as hard as if it was his first. He didn't lie or cheat.

If the only thing you can concretely fault him for is the fact that he changed his mind about retiring, I'd say... come on. Seriously?

He's on the team you hate and he's gotten a lot of attention for being the best QB we've ever seen. But hey, he has the records to prove it. He isn't hanging out in Hollywood or going to premieres to get attention. He plays football, goes home to his wife and kids, and disappears for most of the year.

Now, if you hate him cuz you just hate him... fine. I love and forgive you for it! If I cheered for another team I might be sick of hearing about him, too.

But I offer you this challenge: if Favre was on any other team than the home team you hate, you wouldn't have a problem with him. In fact, I believe you'd have a crush on him.

If you could look at him in a more neutral manner you'd probably appreciate his gift with the football.

Personally, he's never done it for me but I am a fan of everything he's accomplished and done for the Packers.

Rex Grossman on the other hand... he's adorable!

Diana Laurence said...

Hilarious, and here I am a Bears fan and Rex just annoys me! LOL Now Peyton Manning...yes.

Anyway, I won't get into the details of my objections to Brett. (Although I will say, yes, he has not committed the sorts of misdeeds the goalie did, and you are right to make that positive observation.) The point you make is a good one: A person's internal declaration that another individual is a hero or a villain will color everything they see in him.

It's a matter of projection. If you've picked a guy for a hero, you project heroic qualities upon him. You honestly believe he possesses those qualities. Consequently you will interpret circumstances based on these beliefs. Where there is ambiguity, you will place blame elsewhere.

Inversely, if you've tagged the guy as a villain, you project all sorts of nasty traits upon him. Thus all wrongdoing must be his fault and he's guilty of anything you can come up with.

Reality, invariably, lies somewhere between.

The best thing a person can do is recognize this phenomenon happens, and keep it in mind when making judgments. Consequently, however I may indulge my fancy regarding Brett Favre's part in recent events in my own private thoughts, I am not about to swear the truth of any of it. I once thought my goalie was a hero and the problems around him had to be someone else's fault. Eventually I let go my bias and recognized the facts. Now I'm wise enough to know that I can err in my judgment of character, and that could certainly be the case with me and Brett!

But a crush? Noooooo!!! LOL