Where’s my magnifying glass…?

Well, I haven’t posted anything of real substance up here in the last 5 days or so.  I figured I’d let myself calm down a bit after the politically charged posts I put up last week.  Now that I’m feeling better, I’m back to what I want to be doing, which is writing.

Which is great.

So, to play catch-up:

I finished up a book review for the website LifeIsStory.com (available HERE), for whom I am doing reviews (book and movie) now.  I have another review in the can that I need to send in, and have started reading yet another galley for potential review.

More importantly, I have also finally gotten back to doing what I want to be doing, which is MY WORK.

So, I’ve been busy working on my novel of choice, The Cooper’s Son.  Set in Arthurian Britain, it provides glimpses of the classic storylines and characters while not simply retelling these well-known stories.  Told from the point of view of Blaen, a common villager whose father is a cooper, we see the rise of Arthur’s Britain as we see Blaen rising to heights he could not have imagined as a child.  Like the original legends, The Cooper’s Son is presented in a somewhat episodic format, with Blaen’s life intertwining with those beloved characters from the Arthurian tradition (Arthur, Merlin, Gawaine, Gweneviere, Lancelot, and countless others) while presenting the reader with the story of a medieval “everyman,” a witness to the greatness of the time.

I can’t wait to get this one done.  I’m shooting for having the complete draft done by the time I head up to Vancouver, Washington, this October to read an excerpt at the Rocky Mountain MLA conference.  I’m always stoked to get feedback on a project like this.  I think all writers and artists are.  To expose something into which we have put so much effort and love to the scrutiny of others is both nerve-wracking and exciting, but when the responses are positive, it only stokes our desire to continue.

Even a negative response can “feed the beast” if we let it, forcing us to re-evaluate our approach or subject and to consider changes that we may have already known about but not wanted to admit to ourselves.

Regardless, we cannot and do not let our confidence be shaken by a negative response.  So we press on, and on, until we reach that place where we can rest and finally say “It’s done,” and breathe again, ready to move on to our next exercise in creation.

My goodness, we artists do like to torture ourselves, don’t we?  What other profession continually seeks out people to tell them how bad they are?  Accountants?  Nope, because 1+1 will always equal 2 (no matter what the government says).  Plumbers?  Nope.  The pipes either leak or they don’t.

Maybe athletes have that same mindset.  Ask Phil Mickelson, who choked away a US Open title this past weekend.  Ask Greg Norman, the Aussie golfer who epitomizes the talented choker.  Ask the basketball player that misses a game winning basket or a batter who whiffs in the bottom of the ninth to lose the game.  They never stop being told what they did wrong, why they’re not good enough, or why they should quit and just give it up.

But then again, it’s still not the same.  Athletes are evaluated by a fixed set of rules and then critiqued by their performance in relation to those rules, but at least all the players in a given sport are using the same rulebook.

There is, at its most basic level, a commonality of evaluation.

Artists are graded against a set of rules that exist only in the minds of those evaluating them.  Readers, critics, listeners, peers, and academics:  all of them bring a different expectation of “quality” to the table, and the artist is graded against all of those expectations, however unreasonable they might be.

It’s like trying to use a magnifying glass to burn an ant from the back of a galloping horse on a cloudy day.

Why do we do this again?

Oh, that’s right:  we do it because we love it.

We do it because if we somehow, miraculously, manage to set that ant on fire it will be the stuff of legend.*

*no ants were harmed in the writing of this blog entry.
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