My mom makes these cookies that are still famous with my friends. She calls them “Everything But the Kitchen Sink” cookies. Each time they are different, and each time they are totally a product of what is in the pantry at the time we get hungry for cookies. One time there might be chocolate chips and M&Ms, the next time there are butterscotch chips and raisins.
I learned early that you can take the ingredients that you have and mix them all together to create something delicious. And something that’s different every time you put it together.
Lately, I’ve been fascinated with artworks that deal with the same kind of “finding” things, collages of images and sounds that recontextualize things to make them new. I find Girl Talk’s albums of musical samples layered upon samples endlessly fascinating. And, of course, there’s Marcel Duchamp‘s Fountaine that recontextualizes what we know as a urinal.
I’m fascinated with these remixes because this is essentially how I view my own work as a writer. Writing deals with found objects, with recontextualizing experience and making it new. When people ask me if I am a character in my book, I have to say yes. Everything in my books stems from my own experience and understanding, but I’ve taken and remixed it, recontextualized it somehow to make it new. Like taking the angst I felt in my earlier years at being a clumsy oaf and making my historical character feel the same way. Erica’s post last week about “writing what you know” addresses this same thing, I think.
But even more than just taking emotions and putting them in new contexts, I’m interested in physically taking whole stories and tropes and putting them in new contexts, sometimes remix them together to produce a new experiment in writing.
The project I am working on now is what some people call a mashup or a remix. I look at it like those delicious cookies my mom bakes. I’ve taken some of my favorite things and combined them to make something new. Something a lot of “artists” or “writers” might look down on as unoriginal or, indeed, might consider wholesale robbery.
Is Elizabeth Gaskell’s story mine? No. Are superhero stories and tropes mine? No. Is the idea of remixing things mine? No. Other people have done it before me. Witness the spate of Jane Austen mashups that have come out in the last few years. Or the amount of things featuring zombies and vampires and cats. If you use the internet, you’ve run across some form of remix.
So why do a project like this? One that’s been done before and, arguably, will have little value to anyone.
Because it’s damn fun. 🙂
And, I think, is a good exercise for me as a writer to flex some imagination muscles and see what I can do. Do I expect this story to go anywhere or make me a million dollars? Not really. This is a project for me. It comes from all the ingredients I currently have in my cabinet. I’m in the mood for sweets and so I’m making something sweet for me. And if someone else happens to be around to enjoy it, so much the better.
How do you feel about remixes? Would you ever create one? What remixing do you do in your own writing or other work? Do you like to read/watch/listen to remixes?