I received a helpful piece of advice from one of the member’s of my writing group yesterday, which I thought I’d share.
I’d hit a low last week. I was questioning everything – what I’m doing with my life, whether or not I even want to be writing genre fiction. Underneath the perhaps legitimate question of “Do I want to be writing romance?” was an insideous, underhanded question: “How can you devote your life to writing trashy books? Shouldn’t you be writing something more ‘serious’, more ‘worthy’?”
My writing friend pointed out that the problem was I was viewing the whole situation from the perspective of a ‘looser’ – i.e. my novela was rejected, I think of genre fiction as ‘trash’, I’m embarrassed to tell people I write this stuff, I set out to write genre fiction because I didn’t think I was good enough to write ‘real’ fiction, etc…
He said, “Any decision you make from the perspective of a ‘looser’ is bound to be a bad decision!” He then suggested, “If you imagine the situation from the perspective of a winner …. for example, let’s imagine we’re in an alternate universe and you’d sold your story, it made good money, you showed your work to people and they loved it, the genre is as legitimate as any other and full of infinite potential to be whatever you want it to be … now, ask yourself, “do you want to write romance?”
My answer, when I really mentally inhabited that “winner’s perspective”, was an enthusiastic, “YES!”. For a moment I saw out of my doldrums and felt the enthusiasm that had originally drawn me to the genre: I believe fiction can be both sexy and smart. I believe books should be fun, and that the element of fun needs to be brought back to literature, if it’s going to survive. I believe in women having access to a wealth of quality erotica, and I’d like to contribute my piece to that.
Just thinking about it made me smile. And I realized that all that was holding me back from polishing up my story, so I can send it out, was shame. I was worried, and still worry, about what people will think of my life choices. But the fact is, I used to write more ‘serious’ things – a literary fiction manuscript, freelance journalism articles, etc.. and I wasn’t happy doing that. I’m much happier on my current path.
It reminds me of the quote from “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” about dolphins:
“On the planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much – the wheel, New York, wars and so on – whilst all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man – for precisely the same reasons.”
When something is really fun, and makes you smile, and get all giddy like a little kid whenever you think about it, I think that’s your dharma calling.
I’d always been tortured by the desire to write someting ‘great’ – a ‘great’ book, a contribution to literature. That’s an immense amount of pressure to put on oneself and one’s writing, and the result didn’t lead to good writing; in fact it led to quite the opposite. I suspect, though, that ‘great’ writing is mostly accidental. Chalres Dickens (whose 200th birthday is today) wrote FUN stories, which were considered “vulgarity” in their day. And somewhere, amid all that florid, fanciful, often over-the-top writing, there emerged moments of real genuis, deep insights into the human condition, immortal moments of great literature. Now, I don’t know, but I would bet that Dicken’s didn’t sit down on at his desk to write “great literature.” His goal was to entertain the masses by spinning good yarns – and somehow, serrendiptiously, accidentaly, perhaps, greatness occured.
I’m not sure if ‘greatness’ is within my control. I think all I can work on is the craft of spinning good yarns (and then hope the Muses drop some pixie dust!)