I'm currently dealing with a leak in the water heater upstairs, so I'm not in the best of possible moods. That said, I've been thinking about this for a while, so I thought I'd get it out there.
My question is this: Is it bad form to want to do a research project about the rhetoric of one's own discipline? Specifically, I'm interested in working with the rhetoric of creative writing. Creative writers and literary critics often have a peculiar relationship (parasitic isn't the right word, but it's close), and they often occupy the same department (or, in the case of my M.A. program, the same students).
As someone who is almost certainly going into composition and rhetoric, I consider myself blessedly outside this loop of production and critique. Still, literary critics and compositionists trade in a certain type of language, a certain way of writing, a certain mode of production, that values completely different things than creative writing does. And yet, literary critics rely upon (to borrow another biological metaphor, prey upon) the literature produced by creative writers.
So, the point of this is: creative writers are given a lot of leeway in their writing processes. Hemmingway is allowed to write naked at a podium. Robert Frost is allowed to throw coffee mugs at undergraduates who ask him what "Two Roads..." "means" (true story!) and just generally be curmudgeonly. In fact, we might go so far as to say that creative writers are encouraged in their eccentricities. They are encouraged to have a very specific place to write (even if that place is anywhere). They are encouraged to drink a butt-ton of coffee (LSD for a new generation of artists).
Most of all, though, they are encouraged to be fickle. I have several creative writers in the courses I'm taking, and the topic of "inspiration" has come up several times. As a compositionist (and former literary critic; damn it feels good to say that), I find the concept of inspiration equal parts baffling and infuriating. Either I have never been inspired to write in my life or I am always inspired to write. Because I know I never have any flashes of ideas. I either produce writing (usually when I have to), or I don't. Perhaps other academic writers have a "muse" and go on long streaks of productivity. Not I.
I am interested, though, in the concept of "inspiration" and how it works in creative writers. There appears to be a dichotomy in the field: some writers say that you must sit down and produce something every single day, not waiting around for inspiration to strike (it's like lightning, see). Others embrace the fickle nature of inspiration and only write when they are "inspired."
Of course, both of these camps recognize the existence of "inspiration." I wonder, and perhaps this is heresy, but I wonder if "inspiration" is not merely a rhetorical device (I will not step over the line and say "an excuse") used by creative writers. This is why I want to do a rhetorical analysis of creative writing, particularly its relationship as a field to the larger context of English studies. I simply do not know. And so I return to my original question: is that bad form?
I doubt very much that I will ever figure any of this out. In the meantime, I'm going to put a bucket under the leak and hope that some inspiration drips out of the hole in my ceiling.