Writing. Write. Develop a thesis and a plot. Create memorable scenes and characters that are unforgettable. Develop themes and fantastical but well thought out worlds. Write and fit your writing into this box.
No, that isn’t good enough. No, that isn’t what I think you should write. That isn’t what I like.
How often do budding writers hear these things? Convention is what drives teaching and writing. It is what forces people to think but it doesn’t teach the whole subject of what it means to write.
For writing a novel, or any piece of written art requires more than just an idea on a page. In today’s world one must follow formulas and plans and stick to a certain way of things lest you fall off of the band wagon. Just take a look at all of the commercial fiction; at the formulaic styles that encourage a writer to write about vampires as well as create a swooning female lead. Then you have best seller. Oh, add sex, lots and lots of sex.
Where does that place writers like myself? Are we stuck in the gaps? We can write moderately well and remember to follow grammatical rules most of the time but we don’t have the zest to create a story that grabs others. We are seen as lazy, as impossibly stupid people who will never make it. Stuck between two types of writing- that which explores the writing process and that which destroys the imagination by formulaic processes.
Jane Austen wrote in a manner no one else did. She was unique and created stories for people to read but I highly doubt that she would have been published in today’s world. Could you imagine if she lived in this day and age? What would she write? Would she write stories similar to that of the Jersey Shore? Back then her novels were seen as frivolous writings; entertainment. We take them as great literary genius.
Is that the key to creating fiction that sells? Disregard the conventions and write in a manner that suits you? Should one write and make fun of society? It takes a special kind of person to do that. Someone dedicated to exploring the world through different eyes.
When in college we studied writers who created great literary works. We didn’t touch on the aspect of commercial fiction because commercial fiction was garbage. It had no merit in the literary world but maybe we should have studied popular fiction because maybe we, as writers, would have had a better understanding of what sells.
I graduated with a minor in writing but I didn’t learn about how to create successful pitches to agents nor did I learn about how to edit my novel or how to create a complete story. I was taught the basics; I was taught essays and writing short stories. I like my professor but she lacked a certain element. She immersed herself in the literary side of things; to the point that she didn’t like fantasy and imagination. I didn’t do well in her classes; although I did learn a lot.
Most importantly, I learned that I shouldn’t do what I think I should do. I learned I should do what I am told. I was taught to disregard my creativity and to ignore the desire to write free of grammatical expectations and proper placement of ideas. In short I went to college and I learned everything backwards. I took the hard classes first and the easy classes last. I march to my own drum and I always have. When I get told I have to stand at attention and I have to be in line I have the urge to be a hair in front of the line. Except that there is a part of me that follows the rules. I was never one who wanted to follow rules but I do follow them because that is what is expected of me.
There is so much talk of mental illness and of mental diseases that I think I’m a bit of a hypochondriac. Or maybe I’m just more messed up in the head than I want to admit. My generation is all about solutions to the problems but we also create problems and new definitions to things that most generations dealt with without focusing on them. We do not want to be defined and yet we define ourselves by saying we are undefinable.
I think the term most often used for my generation is lazy. We are lazy. We have no desire to do anything. We want to sit around and stare into space. The question is why? Why are we that way? I think we have been overstimulated and pushed to do too many things at once. We have been forced to be everything. Athlete, drama queen/king, star student and perfect child. We have been forced to be perfect and now we are lost. We are suffering mental breakdowns because we are expected to do great things. Look at the generations before us; look at their advances. As a culture my generation is seen as the salvation to the problems created by those before us. We are supposed to be the problem solvers and yet we just want to be dreamers. We just want to pause and take in a moment or two of peace.
Even as we get older we are still expected to do as we are told. That is why in my creative writing classes I found that I just wanted to write without persecution or fear of failure. I just wanted to be told that what I wrote was good. That I had talent. Instead, I was told it is not good enough. You must do better. My generation is on the fast track to falling apart because the expectations placed on us are overwhelming.
In high school I took art classes. For my senior year I drew a beautiful fantasy piece. It was in pencil, I love pencil, and it was of a marsh with a castle in the background. In the foreground was a Pegasus with wings. It was the only piece I truly loved. We handed it in to be graded and guess what, the piece went missing. I have a feeling my art teacher kept it for herself. After that I stopped drawing. There is a part of me that refuses to create or to be good at anything because it seems that anything good I create is taken away. Maybe I should be pleased that my art was pretty enough that my teacher wanted it but mostly I wonder why would a teacher take a student’s artwork when it was obvious I wanted to keep it. I liked the idea of being and artsy person but after that happened I stepped away from that creativity. I didn’t want my stuff to be taken.
I know that this post is haphazardly put together at best but I want you to know that not all writing is well done. Not all writing is polished and developed into a cohesive whole. Sometimes writing is raw just like sometimes music is raw and sometimes life is raw.
Sometimes imperfection is perfection enough.