Spark is a monthly collaborative post written from a spark of inspiration that organically finds its way to us. This month we were inspired by this Instagram post from the artist Frederic Hoffmann.
Why not? Indeed.
Writing and Sex – A Dubious Metaphor
In the process of editing my novel, I thought about the relationship a writer has with a story. It may be a short story, or a novel, a poem, a piece of art. And there is this creative process we go through in our relationship with the Work In Progress from initial idea through to completion, submission, and publication.
I’m going to dirty it up and compare it to sex.
The Initial Idea -Something catches your eye; piques your interest. You look, but don’t want to get caught looking. There may even be some casual flirtation after initial introductions are made. After some witty repartee, numbers are exchanged and there is a tentative agreement made to meet up for coffee later in the week.
Sketchy Ideas – you know there’s something special but it’s taking a while to figure out. Texts, phone calls, flirty messages, chats over coffee, even a small gift have done little to assuage the feeling of “I think it’s right but I’m just not sure yet.”
So you take the plunge.
The First Draft – You rip off each others’ clothes and engage in primeval, animalistic, urge-driven sex. It’s a quickie. Pants are down around your ankles. There is speed. There is haste. There is mess. There is no thought to foreplay or decorum. It just happens. There is celebration of sorts. It’s rather selfish as all you think about is how good your idea is.
Subsequent Drafts – You’ve seen each other naked but you know there is work to be done. You’ve know reached the “awkward” phase in the relationship with the story.
In a half-baked attempt at romance, you take things a little slower. There is the offer of flowers, desserts, sensuous massage, candles, walks along the beach. Even a movie if you’re particularly keen. You’ve even made a mix tape to make out to. You have playlists for when you’re cooking dinner or breakfast.
But, you still can’t quite figure out how to get the bra off without appearing like you’re an incompetent teenager and breaking the mood. You have even remembered to shower.
Sometimes you finish first. Sometimes nothing happens and it feels like a let down. Just don’t be tempted to flirt with other story ideas. Work at it. This is an investment.
Each time you come back, you’ve learned a little more. You know when and where to stimulate it to make it work. You take your time. You luxuriate in your story. You have even gone out and bought new underwear to let the story know it’s special.
Each time you are together, you learn to work more closely, watching, listening, learning.
The Final Draft– You have now learned to make love to your story.
You have explored every nook and cranny; you know what turns your story on. You can undo the bra. In the dark. One handed.
Truly you have learned to make love to your story. You consider its feelings by not passing wind when you are intimate together. Snuggling after sex is enjoyable. Intimacy is achieved; a connection of souls.
To make love to the known immediately makes me think of four things.
- to connect to the unknown
- to surrender to the unknown
- to be present with the unknown
- to find pleasure and embodiment in the unknown
All of which are counter intuitive – because, well, the unknown is the unknown.
How do you connect to it? How do you surrender to it? To be present with it? Or find pleasure and embodiment with it – especially if the unknown brings with it fear?
Do you open? Do you carry no expectations of what will be? Do you scream ‘Hello, I’m here’ and wait to see what happens next?
Making love is an existential meld with the past, present and the future. A tryst with the unknown is no different.
I’ve always been more on the intrepid side of things (though as I have got older this has toned down as fear and the need to be responsible have somewhat blunted the sharp thrilling edge of it). The unknown has not bothered me. I’ve known I’ve been in the right place when I’ve been excited-terrified. The last four years I’ve danced in the shadows, unearthed, released and healed parts of myself eons old and as a consequence it has been a completely different journey into the unknown.
Next time fear or age-wearied responsibility tries to muscle in, I’ll remember something that’s said about giving birth in hospital – would you let all those people in your bedroom to make a baby? (Probably not unless you have a penchant for role playing doctors and nurses with a bunch of strangers).
I adore the idea of making love to the unknown – even if it carries something of the paradox in and of itself. So yes, I’ll be less keen on welcoming fear and responsibility in as co-lovers in creative spaces (or just life in general). I’ll make love to the unknown in as authentic a resonance as I’m capable of: surrendered, connected, present, totally embodied and embracing of pleasure. Why not?
For most of my life, I have been keenly aware of Querencia, our wanting-place where we feel most in our element to do or try just about anything. Some might confuse this with a comfort zone. This is totally antithetical to comfort; it is all about confidence. I have found it impossible to do anything from a place of comfort, especially when it comes to making love with the unknown. What prevents us from doing so is fear: fear of change, of losing our comfort, of revealing ourselves to a larger world beyond the walls we know and trust too well. To make love with the unknown, one must first know her Querencia, and begin there.
My friend T and I would take spontaneous road trips when we were in college. Each adventure would uncover some wild aspect of ourselves and the world around us. We did make love with the unknown while on the road, practicing a certain foreplay with nature as we headed to some unknown destination, some deeply satisfying climax that we still remember today. Whether it was in the mountains along the Appalachian Trail, on the shores of Chesapeake Bay, or among the two-lane main streets of Maryland’s smallest towns, we made love with the earth, with time, with singular moments that could not be imagined, only experienced in ways that were possible right then, right there.
And because we so freely made love with the unknown 35 years ago, the doors were opened permanently for me to embark – so confidently – into the unknown, freely and sensuously, wherever I desire. The comforts of older age knock at my door occasionally, but I rarely acknowledge them.
I. Love. Life. And no creatures of comfort will ever lure me away from the absolute thrill and passion I have for making love with the unknown.