Thursday, August 30, 2012
I’m very excited to be blogging for ERWA. Back in the early days when I was just getting started as an erotic author, ERWA was not only the go-to site for all of the latest calls for submissions, but it was also a place to go for inspiration and encouragement. Now, here I am writing what I hope will be inspiring and encouraging.
Today, I want to talk about inspiration, because like most writers, I think about it all the time, and crave it constantly. I want to talk about one of my favourite stories from Greek Mythology, one that made me think more about inspiration than any other, and that’s the story of Daphne and Apollo. In a nutshell, Apollo, the God of Light, falls in love with Daphne, a woodland nymph. But Daphne flees his advances, and when it becomes clear to her that she can’t escape him, she calls upon her father to help her, and he turns her into a laurel tree to save her from Apollo’s lust.
Perhaps it’s my naughty nature, but I’ve always thought to myself, if I were Daphne, I would not only have let Apollo catch me, I would have pursued him. After all, he is the god of poetry and music and art and wisdom and all those wonderful things that we writers long for. A good fuck for a little wisdom and inspiration - a fair exchange, I’d say. For some reason, I could never quite get my own private version of that myth out of my head, nor the idea of that masterful exchange of power, becoming the lover of the divine in exchange for divine gifts.
That got me to thinking about other lovers of the gods, lovers who hadn’t been turned into trees before they were ravished by the divine. Most of them got knocked up, true enough, and since the Greeks were pretty misogynistic, that was the end of the story for the women-folk. In short, they were pretty, some god took a fancy to them, knocked them up, and there ya go! But, the result of their ‘inspiration’ was a child that was more than human, a child with special powers, a child that was a savior or a hero. Of course, Psyche didn’t get knocked up. She just married a god, bested her mother-in-law at her own game and was made a goddess for her troubles.
But it’s when I started thinking beyond the misogyny of the day to the archetypal message of the story that it hit me. Daphne is really a tragic character because at the end of the tale, she misses out on divine inspiration. She becomes rooted in one place, unmoving, never able to do more than passively endure the changes of the world around her. All she’s left with is her chastity. But Danae, when seduced by Zeus, gives birth to Perseus, and Leda, also seduced by Zeus in the form of a swan, gives birth to Helen of Troy and Pollux. And the stories of the children they give birth to are larger than life, exciting adventures, stories that cause the rise and fall of empires, and all are the result of divine and human coupling. Granted there was often no choice for the women, or the men, the gods took a fancy to. Who could really argue with a god? But the result was no less amazing.
Inspiration is like that, I think. We can bargain for it. All of us writers have our techniques, the things that we do, the rituals that work to get us to the story we need to tell. I walk and grow vegetables. Some people listen to music, some people cook. I love hearing the stories of how people get their inspiration, how people open themselves to the Muse in an effort to get knocked up creatively. But I also love those times when inspiration broadsides us, comes in a form we least expect and ravishes us until we’re full and overflowing and we give birth to a story that we didn’t see coming, a story that has a life all its own far more than we could have given it if we’d simply sat down and planned it out.
Even leaving the Garden of Eden is a story about seeking inspiration, about seeking to discover more, about becoming more than ourselves, and about the price we pay when we’re willing to take that risk – powerful stuff, all of it. And because the creative force will not be controlled, it often doesn’t work out the way we planned it. It’s often expansive, explosive and dangerous. It’s hardly any wonder that Daphne is seen as virtuous, and chastity is the surface message for the rule of the properly behaved. But the subversive message, now that’s another matter. The subversive message launched a thousand ships, killed the sea monster, grabbed divinity and claimed it in mortal hands, and wow! Writers do that every day, every time we yield to inspiration, or grab it by the hem of its toga and refuse to let go until it ravishes us, we re-create that archetypal story all over again.