Thursday, March 5, 2009

Beginner's Ball - Why Erotica?

Come dance with us! This is the first of a series by some writers who are relatively new to the erotica "genre." Marina St. Clare, Helia Brookes, myself, and whoever else wants to join in. Helia came up with the name "Beginner's Ball." It will travel from blog to blog. Please feel free to jump in and comment - we're hoping those more experienced writers will find this just as interesting as us newbies do.

Why write erotica? Because for too long it scared me.

When I started looking through Randy’s work looking for a piece that would work with the topic I had in mind for this, I was drawn to the image above.

For me, it illustrates the line of demarcation.
What separates.
Where air and water meet – the surface.
Windows. Inside. Outside.
Mirrors. Reflections into infinity.
What is shown to the world. What is kept hidden.
Skin. Touching. Skin.

The artist has this to say about the piece above. “This is an example of just “playing around” to see what happens. Some very interesting things can happen when you give up control and let an image create itself. We may not want to delve too much into our subconscious mind, but it is part of us.”

That’s what writers do, only we use words. It’s interesting to me how words, abstract thoughts converted to symbols, can make us feel something. Happiness, sadness, fear, amusement, arousal. For as long as I’ve been reading, I’ve been drawn to words strung together in a way that arouses me.

(There was a great discussion about what books first “turned us on” back in January during the soup course of the blogland progressive dinner hosted by Helia Brookes and Jeremy Edwards).

But for a long time I resisted that pull. Wrote stories and took the sex out of them. Even when in my mind as I was creating the story, it was the main focus. No wonder the stories didn’t work.

For years I’ve toyed with the idea of writing erotica. Even wrote some, but kept it to myself. Didn’t even share it with my husband until a few years ago. Focused on other sorts of writing. But even there, the erotic refused to be denied. It’s part of who I am as a writer. As a person. So, in the past year several things happened that made me realize it was time to stop letting “being afraid” stop me. It feels good to not be denying that anymore.

But now that I’m doing this, I have to deal with the realities of writing. When the words don’t come (yes, pun intended). Endless fussing with a piece. That moment when you let go and send something out into the world. Rejection. Hmmm, just noticed these are all negative. Can you guess where I’m at?

Yes, it’s interesting when you give up control – I had “plans” for this bit of writing. But that’s not what wanted to show up.

A few years back I almost had the chance to work with the artist above. That didn’t come to pass. On the one hand I was relieved – I’d submitted work to the project on a whim, a brief moment of bravery. What was I thinking? Of course I would have gone through with it – I’m a daring chicken. On the other hand I was disappointed. I viewed it as a missed opportunity, and still do. An opportunity to do what? To test myself. To discover something about myself. I’m actually not much of a risk taker. Have spent most of my life playing it safe. But there’s a part of me that is very much the bungee jumper.

That me is writing erotica and sending it out into the world. That me started this blog. That me contacted the artist to find out if he’d let me use his work to help illustrate it. I was so pleased when he said yes, because I love all of his work, please go take a peek.

When the idea for this Beginner’s Ball came up, it was thought of as a way to have an open discussion about all the questions that us “newbies” might have. How did we get started? Is our writing accepted by friends, family? Do we use a pen name or not? Nuts and bolts. Where to submit work. How to deal with rejection. (I just got one in my inbox – it was short and not sweet – and yeah, it stings a bit – always does.)

I’m still trying to answer my question in a more thought out manner. If erotica scared me why am I drawn to it? Why not stick to the other writing? I know I’ve sort of asked this question before, but here goes again – why do you write erotica?


Sommer Marsden said...

"Find what you're afraid of most and go live there."
Chuck Palahniuk "Invisible Monsters"

I was terrified of erotica. But I did it to see if I could. Jumped in head first. Flipped from 3/10 subs accepted to 7/10 accepted. It was my niche. Beyond that I can't say.

I think the reason most people write everything, anything that makes them uncomfortable or nervous would be a dangerous and thrilling mix of bravery and curiosity. So keep your head down and keep going. I say it to myself every day. I say it to my friends. Keep going. Go further. Faster, harder (pun intended). Be stupid brave.

Love the art! :)
p.s. daughter has the flu, think am on cusp of having flu...hope that made sense! LOL

Donna said...

Thank you for this wonderful essay and the inspiring, thought-provoking art work.

We're all beginners when we face the blank screen. Truly. I relate to absolutely everything you say now as much as I did twelve years ago when I wrote my first sex scene.

Not that some things haven't gotten easier--which is another reason to keep going. The main reason of course being that a voice inside of you that says "this is right for me."

I also write because of a question I can't answer, a feeling I can't figure out, a mystery. Sex is always a mystery.

The "Beginner's Ball" is a wonderful idea and I hope to learn a few dance steps myself :-). Lead on!

Craig Sorensen said...

First, I'll point to a comment Sommer made:

Flipped from 3/10 subs accepted to 7/10 accepted.

The rejections come, and will continue to come, even when you have appeared in dozens of anthos and written umpteen books. As you refine your understanding of the editors out there, you'll have a better sense of what of your works will appeal to each. Your writing will refine, but only if you get out there and get dirty.

I love the idea of a Beginner's Ball. I recall when I was a Beginner and cool, more established writers like Donna, Sommer, Jeremy Edwards, Nikki Magennis and others welcomed and encouraged me. It's great to have a kind of formalized venue; a sort of workshop.

I have said before that I write simply because I must. The stories are in there, and need to come out. Further, much of what I'm compelled to write is erotica. That's what the ideas are. I relate to Donna's comment about the mystery of sex. That is certainly a key element.

I'm glad to be on this beginner's journey with you!

Helia Brookes said...

What a great way to open our Ball--this post inspires me all over again! Bravo for your courage, and it's paying off as it should. The fear shows the way to where the growth comes, where the action is. A long time ago, when I was terrified of public speaking, the notion of taking the fear and turning it into energy for a good performance (because the physiological effects of fear are so close to those of being "revved up") really worked for me. Ideas and places that evoke "here be monsters" are those full of potential and mysteries.

Why did I start writing erotica? In part, because I was curious if anyone else could possibly respond to my own private fantasies--do they have anything universal about them; am I up to the task of turning nebulous thoughts into concrete words that will evoke a reaction in someone else? It still amazes me that the answer is yes--a tentative yes, but a yes nonetheless. And that very tentativeness is attractive to me to; I'm experimenting and testing, something I love to do.

Whoo-hoo, our dance has begun!

Marina said...

Robin - this is wonderful!

Sommer said, "...I did it to see if I could." I guess that would be me, too. In my day job, I do some other types of writing. I met some folks who were into erotica, and that intrigued me. I decided to give it a try.

But, now, I'm really drawn to it. And, it has come into my life at a time where I am really pondering some big issues: Who am I? What do I really want out of life? What do I need? What really matters?

The writing has been a big part of the process of exploring all of these questions. I was definitely scared at first. Heck, I'm a middle-aged mom who has lived a rather sheltered life - what business do I have writing about sex? And, who would want to read what someone like me would write? I worried whether I knew enough, whether I had any right to even try.

But, I've discovered a lot about myself, and have gained a good bit of self-confidence. I'm learning so much - about writing, about sex and sexuality, about who I am and who I want to be. It's been empowering.

I'm a musician and a writer. Both of these arts are at the core of my being. They are the essence of my self-expression. They are how I connect with the rest of the world.

I happen to choose to express myself musically though classical music and jazz. And, I choose to express my written voice through erotica. These are genres that fit me. Everyone has to find their own voice, something that feels right for them. I'm not sure where this writing is going for me yet, but I'm just going to keep doing it and see what happens.

Let's break out some champagne - a toast to Robin and the Beginner's Ball! Thanks, Robin, for getting the ball rolling! Come on, everyone, let's dance!

Erobintica said...

Sommer - that is a wonderful Chuck quote. It's been a long time since I read "Invisible Monsters." Thanks. I may have it tattooed somewhere. ;-)

I've never been one to jump in head first - dip the toes, recoil, dip the toes. Eventually though I do tend to jump in - though feet first.

I love this - Be stupid brave

and I will be using more of Randy's work here. :-)

as a mom you do know the rule? you can't get sick till they get better - then they drive you nuts ;-)

Erobintica said...

Thanks Donna. Wow, twelve years.

*tries to think of what I was doing twelve years ago* hmmm, not writing, that's for sure - that was a dry period for me.

I've always liked the "beginner's mind" idea - I think I was first introduced to it in one of Natalie Goldberg's books. Maybe that's why I've gone in the erotic direction right now - it takes me to beginner's mind.

Glad you've come to the dance. You're an inspiration to us newbies.

Erobintica said...

Craig, yeah, this is new territory for me - though I tend to be rather dense when it comes to figuring out what editors want. They're so fucking fickle - but hey, that's what makes a good editor I think - they go by what they like - no formula - no "reason" - and the result is interesting selections.

So, yeah, I've got to get dirty. Don't worry, I'm not afraid of that - hahaha.

It's great that you were encouraged by other writers. As much as we might like the "romantic idea" of the lonely writer in the freezing loft, I have to say that I'm glad we're not back in those days.

Glad you're with us!

Erobintica said...

Helia, when I was young I hated those butterflies - but now I can appreciate them.
"here be monsters"
I'm noticing a theme here ;-)

It's very interesting how you say one reason you started writing erotica is to see if anyone else would respond to what is in your head. I think that's also partly why I started doing it. I haven't gotten there yet - still being tentative too.

This dance should be interesting!

Glad you could tear yourself away from vacationland and stop in.

Erobintica said...

Marina! Yay and congrats on another first place in AT's contest! I'm so glad you decided to try your hand at writing erotica.

And, who would want to read what someone like me would write?

We probably all wonder this at one time or another (and keep returning despite any evidence to the contrary).

I'm so glad you're ust going to keep doing it and see what happens.

ooo! champagne!

Neve Black said...

I think this is an awesome idea, ladies!

I'm a beginner at this erotic game too. I've only been swimming in the warm, and inviting erotica waters for about a year now. And everyday, no scratch that, EVERY MINUTE I find something new and exciting about this particular genre.

I love eroticism because it allows me to dig deeply into the center of a character where all the good stuff is hidden: pain, love, fear, absurdity, embarassment, is the catharsis that percolates those emotions to the surface.

Yes, and in my bones, I just know eroticism is the right place for me. :-)

Erobintica said...

Neve, only a year? Really? Wow. Well, I'm sure you can show us a step or two. :-)

I love eroticism because it allows me to dig deeply into the center of a character where all the good stuff is hidden: pain, love, fear, absurdity, embarassment, is the catharsis that percolates those emotions to the surface.

One thing I'm looking forward to doing is to revisit some characters that I left "the good stuff" out of their story.

Yeah, it's fun when you feel something in your bones. ;-)

Unknown said...

This was amazing, Robin. Thank you so much for sharing this with us.

I sympathize with much of what you wrote here. Except I think I was always that curious kid. You know the one who hid in her mother's closet looking at the dirty magazines and reading the books I was forbidden to read. I tried for many years to do the mainstream thing. I always left the naughty bits out and it affected the overall tone of the piece. It was a huge step for me to say to myself and others "I write erotica". In mixed company I still find myself mumbling it under my breath or calling it by some other name. Over on Sommer's blog I mentioned how nervous I was about submitting and I recieved some great advice. Since then I have submitted three pieces! I'm feeling pretty confident and even if it doesn't work out I have several more places I could sub to lined up.

Again, thanks for this, Robin. I like the idea of a writing community even if it is online.

Erobintica said...

So glad you made it Elle!

Oh, I sat in the closet reading too! Hahaha - that delicious, juicy fear - oh, what if I get caught?! - I think that made it all the better - I'm sort of hoping I can keep that to some extent. Does that make sense?

Hooray on the submissions! Yeah, Sommer's got a great post on her blog about that.

Jeremy Edwards said...

Why erotica? I guess my personal answer has a lot to do with synergy. I was (and am!) drawn to writing erotica because I wanted to give expression to my erotic imagination and create literature that would turn me on and appeal to my literary sensibilities. But as someone who also loves the sense of connecting with an audience for whatever I'm doing creatively, I also became attracted to the possibility of writing erotica for publication. And then the synergistic factors kicked in: finding markets and an audience prompted me to further explore my own creative possibilities. And the process of exploring those possibilities, in turn, nurtured—and expanded—my eroto-artistic impulses and resulted in more creative work, along with the impetus to continue seeking outlets for it ... and so on, until I was so immersed in the ongoing process of creating erotic literature that it has become my lifeblood in many ways.

Erobintica said...

Love your synergistic answer Jeremy. Sounds like a positive feedback loop - or a snowball.

About the time you got to in turn, nurtured—and expanded—my eroto-artistic impulses and resulted in more creative work my head was spinning.*

I think I'm going to keep coming back and reading that.

*could just be the head cold ;-)

Craig Sorensen said...

T. Elle Harrison wrote:

Since then I have submitted three pieces! I'm feeling pretty confident and even if it doesn't work out I have several more places I could sub to lined up.

Glad to hear it, Elle.

Oh, and I was clearly the naughty stuff kid. In a big, big way.

This certainly is a great first dance at the Beginner's Ball!

Craig Sorensen said...

My verification word after the last post is syche.

I'm syched!

EllaRegina said...

This is so thoughtful, generous, educational and inspiring! Thank you all for sharing!

Erobintica said...

Craig, I'm pretty sure the spamwordgenerator is ... sychic. ;-)

EllaRegina - I know - and I guess I'm a sucker for hearing/reading writers talk about writing. My husband is impressed with the seriousness we erotica writers approach our craft and also the nurturing community - wishes he had that in his job.

I'm off to an all day poetry workshop - but feel free to chat away if you care to - I'm sure someone will bring a plate of goodies to share. Beverages are in the kitchen. ;-)

Emerald said...

Hi everyone -- lovey idea Robin, Marina, and Helia.

I did answer this question in Robin's last post about it. I don't quite remember what I said, lol, but even if I did, there could be a new answer every moment. I also have an interview with Dr. Dick that I believe (the first part of) will be posted on Monday in which I also answered this.

It's an interesting question, of course. I've been writing since I was seven; I started writing erotica sometime around my mid-20's, I think. (I'm 31 now.) I think for me the segue into writing erotica corresponded to some degree with a segue in my real life into a freer exploration of sex/out from under some degree of sexual repression. At that point, sex/sexuality became such an important subject to me because I could see first-hand what sexual repression was like and why it now seemed to me like such an inhibiting, misguided, on some level even tragic phenomenon (not just in me, I mean, but as a social and individual phenomenon). Writing about sex was a way to invite unfolding out of sexual repression in others as well as appreciate said unfolding in myself. In fact, all sex work I have done and my attraction to it I believe is centered around this.

Erobintica said...


Ah, the topic of repression and shame is something I'd originally thought I'd write more of in this post. But writing has a life of it's own. I'll probably riff on this over and over again here. Right now though my brain is somewhat worn out.

Thanks for stopping by - I will look for that interview.

Anonymous said...

I'm very very very new to erotica, and will definitely be reading here often I think!

I grew up reading Harlequin romance novels. Friends used to give BAGS of them to my mom. She used to take each one and flip it open to three or four spots - if she found a sex scene the book didn't go into the pile I was allowed to read. How thrilled I was when she missed the best parts!

It took forever for me to admit that I loved writing those scenes though. I tried writing romance, mystery, fantasy, all flavors of fiction. But it took forever for me to realize that I was just writing that other stuff so I had a reason to explore the erotic scenes. Everything was written to frame those erotic explorations.

So, now, just months from that realization, I'm diving in with both feet. I haven't submitted anything formal yet(Though I did respond to the library challenge on I hope to soon.

Glad I found the Biginners Ball!

Erobintica said...

Welcome Lady Stone!

Ah yes, the good bits. We all like the good bits. Glad you're diving in.

Gina Marie said...

Love you Robin! Feels good to spread those wings and fly, doesn't it? I danced around the edges for so long.....I'm in deep now, on my black pony racing a train. I'll never stop, not even when I get to the sunset.

Thanks so much for this & rock & write on!


Erobintica said...

Hey KM -


ste said...

I want to see if I can do it. I want to find a way to express myself creatively, to explore my imagination (erotic and otherwise) and give it a bit of a workout. I've read so many stories that are wonderfully written and really really erotic, and I just want to try and achieve that. So... self-expression, self-discovery, that kind of thing.

Vegetarian Cannibal said...

Writing erotica is like exploring a different part of yourself. Sexuality is as natural as eating or sleeping. Across all cultures and nations--everybody has sex but for whatever reason in America, we try to hide it in the closet. Hahaha! I love writing's fun! AND it empowers me.

Perhaps you were drawn to erotica as a subconscious way of mastering your fear of it. In psychology, we call this method "flooding." The longer you expose yourself to the fearful object, the less intense the "stress response" (aka Flight or Fight) will be.

Keep writing! Your erotica is very good, as I've said before!