Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Write What You Write

I was reading this post and decided it's high time I talk about genre. That post, by the way, is about genre prejudice. As Mary Lindsey says: not a wise platform strategy.

The other day I was hanging out with my writing professor and two other people from the writing program after class, and the conversation went something like this:

Me: Gosh, I don't think I can do the creative option for this paper. I am burned out from writing my thesis.

Prof: Well, you could always write a fantasy novel.

*laughter all around*


Don't get me wrong: I love these people. I think they're sweet and smart and great writers. But she said "fantasy novel" like the thought of a serious writer working in that genre is plain ridiculous with shame frosting on top or something. Meanwhile, not wanting to take a giant poop on the conversation, I did not say something clever like:

Me: Been there, done that.
or
Me: Too late.

After said conversation, I proceeded to have a Writers Crisis of Vast Proportions. I think a part of me always assumed that someday, sci-fi/fantasy or YA or love stories would just stop interesting me and I would move on to write something "important." But now I'm pretty sure I won't.

Okay, first of all, Dumb!Veronica: what, exactly, is "important"? And why is it that a well-written love story is not "important," considering that 80% of movies have a central love story and that 75% of popular songs are about love? (Percentages not accurate.) And why can't sci-fi and fantasy be important? What about 1984? Lord of the Rings? Brave New World? Ender's Game? These are genres that are used to SAY something. Sometimes. I mean, I haven't been using them to SAY something because I think setting out to SAY something can be tricky and dangerous, but still.

Also: just because what you write doesn't have some deep allegory embedded in it, doesn't mean it's not important. If it affects someone in a positive way, that's important.

And WHY did I want to move on from what I love? I'm going to go ahead and blame snobbery. I've been around snobbery for a long time and I think it's rubbed off on me, like when you hug someone with really bad smelling perfume and it's lingering on your clothes for hours. You know, snobbery? That thing that makes people say their favorite author is William Faulkner and that they really did enjoy Ulysses? (Does ANYONE enjoy Ulysses?)

Okay, if you actually like that stuff, more power to you. I hear it's awesome. But I...just...don't. I've tried, I really have. But I do not sit down on the couch over Christmas break and read Ernest Hemingway. When I am forced to read Hemingway for class, I readily acknowledge that he is great at writing. But I. Get. Bored. SO BORED. Am I supposed to force myself to be un-bored, or pretend to be un-bored? Why? Why on earth would I want to do that?

In the difficult times of my life, I have always read books in the genre that I'm currently writing. I have enjoyed them and they have awakened my mind to new possibilities without making me want to poke myself in the eye. What more can a girl ask for? So I shouldn't feel the need to defend myself to...myself. Or to the people who love literary fiction (bless their hearts) at NU.

So, I refer myself to the quote in Mary Lindsey's post, from Kimberly Frost:

"Before that reader email, I had occasionally wondered if I should really be writing paranormal romantic comedy. It wasn't, after all, serious writing, right? Afterward though, I never questioned my choice again. My book eased the pain of someone who was shouldering a very heavy load. Nothing will ever mean more to me than that."


There's a lesson here. And I think it's got several parts. Ready for them?

Dear V,

A. Beat up the snobby part of yourself. With a blunt object.
B. Stop caring about what other people think about your genre.
C. Be proud of what you've written.

And most importantly:

D. Write what you write, and write it well.

Sincerely,

V

That is all.

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