Have you ever been struck with a “golden” idea at two a.m. that lost its luster the next morning when viewed under the harsh glare of a computer screen? Or, have you had a good idea but its execution went horribly awry? I’ve certainly had a couple of ideas crash and burn—okay, more than a few. You may have, too. But instead of being discouraged, CELEBRATE! In fact, celebrating a creative person’s right to fail gloriously seems to be a burgeoning trend.
One popular writing contest, the Bulwer-Lytton, “…challenges entrants to compose the opening sentence to the worst of all possible novels.” It takes its name from the Victorian author, Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, who began his 1830 novel, Paul Clifford, with the immortal line that set the standard of excellence for writers everywhere:
“It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents--except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.”
To be fair to Mr. Bulwer-Lytton, he did coin phrases still in use today such as, “the pen is mightier than the sword,” “the great unwashed,” and “the almighty dollar.” Perhaps the dark and stormy night sentence was a one-off event.
Museums are also getting into the swing of celebrating less than stellar artistic expression. A current exhibit at the National Building Museum in Washington, DC, showcases “terrifying near misses” from the designing of the nation’s capital to the present day. For instance, in the 1990s it was proposed that a large National Sofa be placed facing the White House with a giant video screen nearby giving visitors a first-hand look at the happenings inside the Executive Mansion. (Perhaps this idea would have been accepted if the creator placed a National Fridge next to the National Sofa and stocked it with beer.) While Americans may be perceived as a bunch of couch potatoes, I’m glad it’s not one of our national symbols.
However, the winner of commemorating art-gone-wrong goes to The Museum of Bad Art (MOBA) in Dedham, Massachusetts. With typical wry New England humor, the art exhibit--collected from dumpsters and personal bequests--is located in a basement next to the men’s room of a community theatre and illuminated by a single fluorescent light fixture. It’s become so successful they even had an art theft! (I’m not making this up; I’ve visited and have the t-shirt to prove it.) While this collection perhaps doesn’t live up to elite art standards, it has been featured in the New York Times, discussed on NPR radio, the CBS morning news and now Writers Who Kill. Do you think the artist who painted the masterpiece, “Sunday on the Pot with George,” ever envisioned that exalted outcome?
In the spirit of sharing a failed art project, I proudly present my hamburger Christmas card. Every year I make my own greeting cards and one year I aimed for a southwestern theme. Nothing says Christmas in the Southwest like a barbecued hamburger in the shape of a Christmas tree decorated with mustard and ketchup, right? Luckily, I realized my folly early on. That blunder did inspire another, better image of cowboy boots with the greeting, “Kick off your boots and have a comfy, cozy Christmas (or holiday season).”
I think in order to achieve great epiphanies in creative expression we must be willing to take risks, embrace and even celebrate our failures. After all, there is usually another, better idea lurking around the corner. A radical thought, perhaps, but then this blog idea seemed brilliant in the middle of the night.
Have you ever brutally mangled your writing or perpetrated a visual atrocity?
WWK Blogger Paula Gail Benson has two short stories running in Kings River Life Magazine this weekend, "Pelican Spring" and "The Mama Factor." Both are Mother's Day short stories. You can read them by going to: http://kingsriverlife.com/category/kings-river-reviewers/terrific-tales/
Linda Rodriguez is a finalist in two categories for the International Latino Book Awards (given out at BEA the end of May)--one for Every Last Secret and one for editing Woven Voices: 3 Generations of Puertorriquena Poets Look at Their American Lives (with Gloria Vando, Anika Paris, and Anita Velez-Mitchell). Congratulations, Linda!
The second SinC Guppy anthology, Fish Nets, has been released by Wildside Press. WWK authors, Gloria Alden, Warren Bull, Kara Cerise and E. B. Davis have short stories in this volume, which can be bought at Wildside Press, the usual retailers and will be available at the Malice Domestic Conference. Look for "the story behind the stories" on May 1 here!
Upcoming Salad Bowl Saturdays include authors Carolyn Mulford on 5/25 and Liz Mugavero on 6/1. If you are interested in being a guest blogger, send a message to Jim Jackson at email@example.com.