“You are not a mistake. You are not a problem to be solved. But you won’t discover this until you are willing to stop banging your head against the wall of shaming and caging and fearing yourself.”
Yesterday, at about this time, I was all set to get my Monday post up on schedule. It’s probably still somewhere in my drafts folder, lurking under (no title) or something else equally obscure. I had pictures embedded, all good to go, feeling rather smug about staying on track with the “other” tasks of the day so I could buckle down and write, and then…because there is always an ‘and then,’ an email notice popped up; could I possibly write a post for Heroes and Heartbreakers on the all-Caryl (Carol and Daryl shipping) episode of The Walking Dead that aired the night before? Well, yes, of course, I’d be glad to. Which meant the world’s fastest rewatch of the episode so I could verify some quotes and count scenes (which ended up being all of them.) Do the first draft blabber, which is basically throwing words at the page like I’m talking, which is fast and rambly, and then whittle it down to the suggested word count. (Fun bit of Anna Trivia here; word count is not a problem with nonfiction, but comes darned near close to paralysis in first drafts of fiction) Anyway, the end result is here, for those curious to see what i can turn out in about ninety minutes.
Today’s quote is from Geneen Roth, and is a new addition to my quote file, but is among those that have had the most effect on my current writing adventure. I haven’t read Ms. Roth’s books, been to any of her events, and I’m not even sure where I found this quote in the first place, but it has stuck with me. Since the gist of the post I was going to write yesterday wandered off after getting that request for the Walking Dead post, I’ll go with this instead.
The big thing that tipped me away from NaNo this year was the word count, and realizing that I was not the problem, that I did not have to change myself to fit into a program, that meant something. I don’t know that I got that before now. Even so, it’s scary to let go of things I’ve thought should be my guidelines. I should aim for a word count. I should plot. I should pants. I should do character charts and GMC and I should make sure there are
absolutely no adverbs and whatever else piles on in there, because shoulds tend to multiply.
One thing I’ve noticed in the should family -and I have no idea how this happens- is that I often find myself in proximity to people who say lovely things about my writing…but I should be writing in their preferred genres. I’ve kept a list: contemporary romance, SF/F, YA, inspriational romance, nonfiction, historical mystery, literary, erotica, children’s books, thrillers, suspense, humor, and (I am not making this up) standup comedy aimed specifically at people with IQs over 150. There was a time, and it went on for longer than what I would care to admit, when I would bash my head bloody against a brick wall, trying to force myself to fit into that should, when it was never, ever going to happen. I love big, sweeping, emotional historical romance, high on the angst with a big payoff in the end. So that’s where I’m concentrating my time and energy. There are other authors who do all of the above amazingly well and love doing it, so those genres will not mourn my loss.
Is it possible to write in a genre or style one doesn’t love? Well, sure, it’s possible, but is it advisable? For me, generally not. No matter how much an intended audience might like a story, if I don’t, I will begin to hate that story. Avoid it. Cross the street if I run into it in public, metaphorically speaking and pray we don’t make eye contact, because it’s going to be awkward. On the other hand, there are those stories, long buried in notebooks and printouts and floppy disks (oh yes, that long ago; some of them may be painted on cave walls with swamp mud) that whisper and beckon because they are not done with me yet.
I suppose that’s a big takeaway for this month’s experiment. Lock the shoulds in a closet and do what I do. I wrote before I got tangled in shoulds, didn’t I? Then I can do it again. I’m doing it now, and there is nothing at all wrong with that.