This is an idea that has been tumbling around in my head ever since I started this site. In fact, I suppose you could call a lot of my earlier posts a sort of fumbling around as I tried to articulate this idea. The idea that I’m talking about is the concept of what furry is. That is, not only what a makes a furry a furry, but how is furry a thing, and where did we all come from. A lot of the articles on this site have come at this idea from different angles, but usually focusing on a single aspect or in a stream-of-consciousness manner.
When I write posts for [a][s], I do so in what’s called the “watercolor strategy”, as named by Daniel Chandler in The Act of Writing. That is, for the most part, I start at the beginning, and when I get to the end, I stop. It’s a strategy that, to my mind, would work almost solely for the introspective writer, one who internalizes a subject, then blasts it out on to paper (or screen). The idea is that one works as one does with watercolor, where there is no real way to correct a mistake or change what one has done – one must simply start at the beginning and continue until one feels that the work is done, then stop. There is no editing along the way, as there would be in the “oil painting strategy”; with oils, one has the ability to paint over the paint already in place without worrying about muddying the painting or ruining the paper. As Chandler quotes in the section on the watercolor strategy, “rewrite in process…interferes with flow and rhythm, which can only come from a kind of unconscious association with the material” (Plimpton, 1989, quoted in Chandler).
In a lot of posts, this has worked well. I think that I often work in short enough sections that I can hold most of the article in my head with only the barest of sketches taken down mostly as reminders to what I had already planned rather than a true outline (which would be the “architectural” or “bricklaying” strategies).
My process has occasionally come back to haunt me in that I’ve incompletely captured an idea. It happened very early on when I wrote about the default furry, which eventually turned into the post about doxa: what I was trying to name in the “default furry” post wasn’t so much trends in character creation as the fact that there is a factual basis for much of what we take for granted within the fandom.
One of the big things that keeps me coming back to these subjects is the standard artist’s complaint that I’m never really satisfied with the product. I can barely even call myself an artist, here – so much of what I’ve done with [a][s] is rehashing ideas I’ve heard of or learned about in a non-furry context within the context of furry, and this piece here is no exception. Rather, I’m one with artistic habits.
I was unhappy with both of my posts on “participation mystique”. It’s such a wonderful concept and fits so perfectly with the contiguous fandom that I couldn’t get it out of my head. All the same, I couldn’t seem to get down exactly what I wanted to with it. The first post turned into an idea of how members identify with the fandom, which is close to, but not exactly participation mystique. The second post veered off course and into (still related) waters of the definition of our subculture.
That those posts feel as though they inadequately captured what I wanted to grates on me, so I feel that, as the person best in a position to correct my mistakes, I probably ought to. In order to do that, however, I’m going to have to start with a little bit of background that I’ve picked up over the last few weeks of study and years of background on the subject even if it isn’t immediately applicable to this furry site, and I’m going to have to abandon the watercolor strategy and at least work toward the architectural strategy. It may be a bit of a long travel, and I’m sorry if I wind up coming off as boring, but I believe that a lot of these ideas are pertinent to figuring out what is going on with the fandom, and why the concept of membership is important. If nothing else, I find the concepts very interesting, and I think that many others will as well.
Continue reading Meaning Within a Subculture – Part 1