Friday, December 31, 2010

Experiments in POP

IT MAKES ALL SENSE for writers of any type to begin experimenting in what I call "pop" fiction. Fiction designed to be popular, populist, and at the same time, very much intended to be art.

Write your literary stories 90% of the time. But also try your hand at pop. Do it, and if it's in any way pop I'll post it at my American Pop Lit blog, which is a blog devoted not to the ultimate, "serious" literary product-- but to experiments at POP.

This is what I've been posting there myself. Yes, much of it might be considered to be bad writing. The tales break many of today's literary rules. When you're creating something new, you're going to be bad at it until you become good-- until you get to the finished point which exists now only as an ideal within your head. You need to imagine the ideal, then try to produce it.

Think of creating an entirely new kind of automobile. Your first prototypes likely won't run-- or they won't run the way you want them to run. This is fine as long as each attempt gets you closer to the goal. It might take a hundred attempts-- or a thousand. At the end of the line awaits the produced vision, the revolutionary answer to sweep the board of the status quo.

This is what the progress of art has ever been about.
The most profound thing baseball player Ty Cobb ever said was his insight into why and how Babe Ruth was able to revolutionize the sport. A sport at which, before the Babe appeared, Cobb had been dominant. Cobb exemplified the dead ball era, when precision and control when hitting the ball was the norm.

Babe Ruth was a pitcher. It didn't matter if he made hits or not. He was presumed to be an out.

Having no pressure on himself, Babe Ruth began experimenting with his batting swing. He didn't take himself too seriously. He didn't care if he struck out, or looked foolish while doing so. He didn't have the vanity and self-importance of a Ty Cobb.

To amuse himself, Ruth began swinging as hard as he possibly could to see how far he could hit the era's rock of a baseball. Often he swung so hard he fell down. Other times he hit the ball farther than anyone before him ever had. The crowds took notice, as did the lords of the sport. The game was transformed. Its popularity, along with the popularity of Ruth, skyrocketed.

What's the lesson for writers?

You can't be afraid of looking foolish.


Anonymous said...

The most recent cover of Canadian "indie" lit mag Broken Pencil is pretty amazing.

It declares "indie" culture to be "The Last Puppet Standing."

Check it out:

Karl Wenclas said...

Thanks for the heads-up.

Shelley said...

Not only do you have to be bad before you get good, but if you're good, to a lot of ordinary thinkers you'll seem bad.