Provenance

My Muse is abundant. She has an orchard full of crisp apples, plump blackberries, and chestnut trees laden with dreams of braziers on damp Parisian streets. At the very edge of the grounds, beyond the field of lavender and the beds of profligate zinnias, there is a bee hive. Five-pound glass jars full of golden honey slumber in the root cellar, summer’s sweetness saved. These are the elements of inspiration, the ingredients of artistic creation.

I have written before about wondering where stories come from, and have told you that when I write, it feels like a conduit opens up and the story is transmitted to me. It is a little like waking up each morning and finding a basket of fresh produce and a bouquet of wildflowers tied with twine on my doorstep. It is beautiful and humbling. Who am I to receive this largess?

More importantly, is any of it mine? Yes, I spend the time stringing words together. I give them expression, but the underlying form of the story is something that I believe – and quite literally feel – is beyond me. The story is independent of me. It exists whether I write it or not. It is a Platonic idea that my words only aspire to approach. In that sense, I am a conveyance, not a creator.

This leads to all sorts of awkward questions clustered around the concept of ownership. Can a story belong to any one person, even the author? What is the provenance of a story? Do I own the fruits of my Muse’s inspiration?

Maybe the most I can claim is that I own the final product because I harvested it, cleaned it up, and shipped it to market. I try to tell myself I am charging for the convenience of the packaging; i.e., you could have extracted this Platonic form from the ether yourself, but I have extracted it, translated it to English, and made it readable on a Kindle. I tell myself that because otherwise, I can’t justify what right I have to charge for something that belongs to the universe. I could solve the problem by not charging, but it costs me money to transfer the story from ether to Kindle, and I’m an obligate financial being like any other working Joette. I could solve the problem by not sharing the stories, but that seems even more of a blatant travesty. How selfish would that be, to take the bushels of apples, the jars of honey, the fresh roasted and still fingertip- scalding chestnuts and then keep them all to myself? If I did that, the apples would grow mealy, the honey would crystallize, and the chestnuts would grow cold and then molder. It would be wasteful and wrong to withhold the bounty. My Muse deserves better than that, and the stories she gives me deserve the highest-quality production I can afford. The question of ownership aside, it is my duty and my honor to share what I have gathered in the orchard of my inspiration.

 

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19 thoughts on “Provenance

  1. That is one heck of an extended metaphor. I’ve seen writing like this before, but only by the hands of the classics. This is very Dickensian, bursting with allegory. I love it. Might be the best post I’ve read from you, Aniko. Though, truth be told, I haven’t had time to go too far back into your treasure trove of wondrous wandering words you have stored away.

    I’d tell you to keep it up, but I never expect you to let me down, so I’ll just say farewell for now.

    *waves buh-bye

    E.

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  2. Wow. I think this is my favorite of your posts that I’ve read so far as well.

    The sky right now is going crazy with bright glowing clouds and also dark ones, and everything feels rather potent with a passing storm. I looked at the sky and thought about what you wrote and the relationship of money to stories, and one thing I was thinking was that really, it benefits the reader in many ways to be charged money for what you write. It’s an exchange of energy; yours to put the ideas, wherever they come from, on paper and learn how to get it onto a kindle, and theirs to pay for it in some way. It helps us respect things, I feel, when we make the choice to pay for them. At least for me.

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    • I am glad you liked this post. I had a draft written on Thursday, but it wasn’t until that storm was raging that I was able to bring the final paragraph into focus. Then, the clouds did their light-and-dark magic and it seemed like a good time to post. 🙂

      I like your view on the money issue. I know that I prefer to pay for another writer’s books, and feel a little strange picking them up on the Amzaon free days or whatnot. I know my few dollars aren’t going to pay the mortgage, but I do treat that money as a kind of spiritual donation that recognizes my awareness of the work and soul that went into creating the book. Until I read your explanation, that didn’t click for me. Thank you!

      -aniko

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    • I love the first paragraph. I write these on my lunch break, and often I have no idea what I am going to say until I start typing. The image of the orchard was born whole, and needed almost no revision. That is something of a miracle and I’m grateful that everyone who reads it seems to appreciate it, too. There is so much beauty, but we have to be willing to sit first, and wait for it to arrive in its own time.

      xoxoxo,
      bug

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  3. A truly eloquent and beautiful way to describe the Muse and what gifts they give us…I too often wonder where the stories come from. They are like plump purple plums hanging on the tree branches above me and all I do is pluck them and then savour them. Our stories are gifts of beauty, gifts of pain, gifts of tenderest sorrow, gifts of sublime bliss…We do have a duty and a purpose as the tellers of stories – it is our purpose to tell the stories the world needs to hear. To do anything else would be to squander that gift and would indeed be sacrilege. It is a wild, precious gift that gives back to us when we give it out to the world.
    LOVED this post hun!! xx
    🙂

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  4. I have often wondered if the muses live inside of me or outside of me. Some days it feels like I’m guided by the stars, sometimes it feels like the stars live in me. I guess it doesn’t matter, as long as the words get on the page.

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    • I have never felt that it is within me, but I think I feel a resonance with the ideas when I am in the flow. Based on these comments, it’s starting to sound like the experience of Muse is as individual as the stories we all write. It’s fantastic and wonderful, isn’t it?

      -aniko

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  5. Wanna trade muses one day? Mine is a deformed, hair little beastie that lives under my cat’s water bowl. He’s often cranky, but on the plus side, he’s always there when I need him. I just hate having to find all those hissing cockroaches to keep him fed.

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    • If there were a ‘like’ button for comments, Hunter, this would get Liked. I laughed out loud when I read this: “hairy little beastie that lives under my cat’s water bowl.” So funny!!!

      Seriously, now,though: keep your Muse well-fed with those hissing cockroaches because your Muse has delivered nothing but the finest in horror since I met him.

      -aniko

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  6. I love this post, Aniko! It’s interesting that you feel like your stories exist independently of you; I often feel the same, about both stories and characters. Getting to know and understand them takes time, and is one of the great pleasures of creative writing.

    As to the vexed question of charging money for your work – well, even on the most basic level, most indie books only cost a few pounds/dollars at most, so it’s hardly going to break the bank. You’re unlikely to become a millionaire, but you know that anyway (well, we can dream… :-)). The story may exist independently of you, but only you can tell it the way you do; your perspective is unique. I think of it as a token recognition of the effort that went into transferring the story from the aether and into ebook form.

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    • Mari, hi!

      I agree with you about how not only the stories, but also the characters, exist independently. It does take time to get to know them, and I like the idea of viewing that time spent as a joy rather than being frustrated with it. I realized that setting hard deadlines for myself based on “marketing goals” was sapping the fun by making me feel frustrated and rushed. The characters and the story remained out of focus, probably because they couldn’t get through the static of my impatience.

      When I decided to publish my book – a decision that took six months of consideration – I wrote a statement declaring my intent. I wrote that I wanted to make quality horror available at a reasonable price to anyone who is interested because it is my obligation to share the stories I have been given. I still feel strange about the money aspect, but the roots of that go deeper than just publication. About once very month, I consider making the book available on every free site there is, and doing the same with everything I publish in the future. My husband is very much against that; not because of the negligible money the book makes, but because he feels it has an intrinsic value and that, as a society, we agree money is the way of acknowledging that something has worth. He makes sense, you make sense, and I leave the book on Amazon.

      Thanks for visiting – it is always lovely to hear your thoughts!

      Like

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