Revising the “Frankenstory” – fostering creativity and a new mindset in the arts

I can empathize with Daryl L. L. Houston in his Daily Post, Abandoning the Frankenstory.  The author describes his experiences with the writing process and the periodic struggles that emerge along the way.  After hours of reworking and threading pieces together, he decided to turn his writing over to colleagues for peer review.  He ends the post with the following questions: How do you handle grappling with ideas that you’re having trouble turning into prose that satisfies you? Do you keep struggling, put them aside for a short time, or just give up?

I often struggle with the structure and content of my writing.  Sometimes I will fiddle with a sentence or a paragraph for over an hour!   Needless to say, this gets frustrating and I find that shifting my attention to something else, such as going outside for a walk, calling a loved one, or simply returning to it later, helps a lot. Giving myself time to think about what I want to say and how I want to say it, even subconsciously, usually allows me to get past these barriers more easily.  I find that I tend to be most productive when I start fresh the next morning. (a nice cup of coffee also never hurts.)

There is another aspect of this post, besides dealing with writer’s block, that I think deserves attention.  He seems to be emotionally torn over what he observes about the response to his writing and what he has learned to expect in the technique and quality of literary art.

“It occurred to me…that the (stories) that come more easily to me tend to be the ones that my peers have a better response to in the end.  Well, this is something of a dangerous conclusion, because it invites laziness and lowered expectations. I also have this notion that making art ought to require some effort in order to be worthwhile, to be worth the attention of whoever’ll consume the art. (I know this is flawed in any number of ways, but I have trouble shaking it.)”

The segregation of Culture, that’s a capital “c”, and popular art is an age-old battle that has influenced the participation and engagement in many arts institutions and artistic practices.  Symphony orchestras, for example, have been notoriously associated with the “elitist” image and the perception of “us” vs. “them” in the arts.  With the advent of technology and social media, however, members of the arts community are trying to blur those lines, fostering stronger relationships and greater trust among society.  While I believe artistry requires a certain level of quality and prowess, I do not think it should distinguish different art forms as being more valuable than another.  Every genre has something unique to offer and I think the value of art depends on the perception of the beholder in addition to the talent of the creator.

Is the division between what is considered “art” and not prominent in society today?  Is this a perpetuated, imaginary notion, or is there a real reason for such division?

It is time to wrap up the Frankenstory of High vs. popular art and time to start a new story of creativity, acceptance, integration, and engagement in and across all forms of art and society.

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6 thoughts on “Revising the “Frankenstory” – fostering creativity and a new mindset in the arts

  1. Thanks for this. I’m very conflicted over the whole high/low art divide, I should say. Years ago in college, I wrote a paper whose title was something like “What an Epic Poem and a Urinal Have in Common” that considered the question with works by the likes of Milton and Marchel Duchamp in mind. The question has stuck with me ever since, and though I want to have a less elitist mindset about art, I still have trouble putting a scribble or little bit of doggerel on the same level as something that took real talent, effort, and time to produce.

    • I understand entirely and I grapple with the same thing. Intriguing paper topic, by the way. I think quality, talent, time, and effort spent are certainly worthy of respect and admiration. I only wish there were a way to convince society that all art, whether it is considered a masterpiece or not, can be appreciated by anyone. I think the issue lies in the language we use to describe works of art and our expectations of what art should or should not be. It is likely that there is no right or wrong answer to any of this, but just having an awareness of perspective and the ability to approach the arts with an open mind creates the space for individuals to make up their own mind about the arts, while respecting the opinions of others. Wanting to produce good work that satisfies your creative and artistic goals doesn’t necessarily mean you have an “elitist” mindset. Your sensitivity to and mindfulness of the issue demonstrates your willingness to acknowledge the barriers, effectively reducing the “elitist” image so commonly associated with the arts.

      What do you think about all this? I appreciate your feedback.

      • So the conclusion I came to in my paper was something to the effect that you can think of art almost as a sort of transaction and that as long as value and expectations line up, everything’s copacetic. To use a non-art example, sometimes you need a spaceship and sometimes you need a simple paperclip; if you’re expecting a spaceship and get a paperclip, it’s not a good transaction; if you’re expecting a paperclip and get a paperclip, it’s a good transaction. So if you’re open to and expecting art that, say, just riffs on a prior work or sheds something in a new light without itself being a terribly effortful piece of art, then the art that fits that bill is, for you, good art. If you’re expecting the Sistine Chapel and you get a doodle, there’s a problem with expectations and audience, and for you, that doodle is not good art, though it might be great art from someone else’s perspective. Of course this all makes canonizing art somewhat tricky.

        And of course, I also do think there is bad work. Some people (and I’m not excluding myself from their ranks, necessarily) just can’t make art that anybody other than their aunt or their friends put in awkward positions is going to appreciate. I think there’s a difference between creative expression (which anybody can do) and art (which is a rarer thing). That’s another rabbit hole, though. 🙂

      • Expectations certainly play a big roll in one’s perception of art. As I mentioned below, maybe the definition of art should be flexible…maybe it is not meant to be canonized. With the advent of technology, I think it is becoming easier for anyone to participate in creative expression. Perhaps that creative expression becomes art when it is able to stand on its own and evoke or produce powerful emotions, engaging conversations, lasting memories, and shared experiences.

  2. Catherine,
    Thank you for responding to my comment on Darryl’s post and sending me to your thoughtful post.
    What a trap it all is…trying to produce art that is “valued” in this society. And if it isn’t published/paid for/given critical acclaim, we feel it is an unworthy “scribble” or “ditty”, etc.
    Any kind of art is TOTALLY subjective. I don’t like the Beastie Boys music, but they just got inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I can appreciate the part they played in music history even though I don’t want to listen to it.
    My husband said some wonderful things to me at one point when I got discouraged about my expectations vs. reality. I don’t send out a lot of my material because my ego is too fragile, and my work is DEFINITELY not for everyone. 🙂 But, a poem I wrote for one of my coworkers was read at her wake; a friend put another in a frame with a picture of her brother that had died…Doesn’t that matter? If someone puts it on the wall in their home is it art?

    • Thank you for your thoughts! You have made some very good points. I respect your willingness to appreciate artistic work even if it does not suit your personal preferences.
      The meaning and emotional impact behind a piece of art is definitely an important piece of the puzzle. Maybe we aren’t supposed to define art in a fixed way…maybe the definition of art should be living and flexible according to the individual artist and observer? It sounds like your poetry definitely has an effect on people. 🙂

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