Thursday, July 7, 2011

Britney Spears vs. Charlie Sheen

Okay, that's a really weird title...and a strangely disturbing visual, I know.  But this does relate to writing, I promise.

While I was running in the hundred-degree heat yesterday, my fried brain came up with a weird way of viewing the infamous blank page.  I'm about to start a big new project, so the blank page has been on my mind for the past week, in that oh-crap-I-say-I'm-a-writer-but-now-I-have-to-prove-it kind of way.  I view the blank page as my antagonist, something that's going to kick the crap out of me unless I kick the crap out of it first.  Not a very helpful mindset, right?  Who wants to be at war all the time?  Isn't writing supposed to be fun?  Isn't that why we do this in the first place?

So then I remembered a little Britney Spears gem from the album she made before she married K. Fed and went nuts.  "Me Against the Music" is your typical cheesy dance pop song, but it's the concept I find interesting here:
I'm up against the speaker, tryin' to take on the music
It's like a competition, me against the beat
I wanna get in the zone, I wanna get in the zone
It's as if the song, the music, and the beat are her blank page.  She's trying to kick their ass, but in a way that makes the result greater than the sum of its parts.  By sticking with the beat and not caring who's watching, she finds a place where she can be free.  But she has to frame it in an antagonistic way, like it's a boxing match:  Me vs. the Music,  me in the red corner and music in the blue corner.  That's the way I feel about this new project.  If I can stick with it, twist and bump and grind on the page, not caring who might eventually read it, maybe I can get "in the zone" and feel that free and happy abandon all writers chase.

But Britney's not done.  The song goes on:
So how would you like a friendly competition? Let's take on the song.
It's you and me baby, we're the music, time to party all night long.
We're almost there, I'm feelin' it bad and I can't explain
My soul is bare, my hips are moving at a rapid pace
Baby, feel it burn...from the tips of my toes, runnin' through my veins
Okay, Shakespeare it's not.  But the idea, the feeling, are exactly the same as that writer's high we know and love.  Writing is a "friendly competition" with yourself, with your muse, with the idea that made you turn on the computer in the first place.  So take it on.  Feel it bad and never explain.  Bare your soul on the page and let your body (fingers, people, we're typing here) say what your muse has trouble explaining.  Does it burn?  Sometimes.  Oh, yes, sometimes it burns.  But that's the whole point.  That's how you know you're on fire.

So in the contest of Britney vs. the music, what does "winning" mean?  It means staying with the music, creating a fusion of body and beat.  Something artistic, something of the moment, something greater than the sum of its parts.  Immediately, I compared that  to "winning" in the Charlie Sheen sense: making money, making other people pay for the bad things they did to you (real or imagined), making sure your name always gets top billing.  Is that really "winning"?  Not for a writer.  For a writer, Britney's "win" is the only kind that matters.  So while Hollywood may reward Charlie's antics with a crapload of cash and free press, the muse rewards a looser strategy, a more artistic one.

Just follow that beat.
Stay with it.
Don't let it drop.

Okay, now I have no more reasons to procrastinate starting my new project.  Unless I decide to reorganize my music collection...