Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Being Yourself Isn't Easy

I think we spend a good chuck of our lives fighting to be true to ourselves. As writers, that struggle is doubly dramatic, and twice as hard. Not only do we have others telling us how to behave as people, but we have others telling us how to write (or not to write). In both situations, there is what is known as "acceptable" behavior. Bute often times, "acceptable" or "normal" behavior, or choices, conflict with the uniqueness inside us.

So we dare to be ourselves, writing stories that don't fit standard genres about topics that aren't mainstream, using characters who are quirky enough to make an editor uncomfortable. And we get rejected.

It's like being a rowdy child, or a child who doesn't want to dress off the racks at Abercrombie, or the boy who prefers ballet to baseball. Sometimes we dare to stand out, but often times we wind up following the parade everyone else follows.

Being different comes with a price.

Doing your own thing means alienating people who don't feel comfortable with odd, novel, or unique. You won't make friends with these people, and they might not respect you. That's not fun, no matter how cowboy you claim to be.

Being normal when it's not in your heart means you fit in the crowd and receive pats on the head, maybe even publishing something because it met all the "conditions." But inside you are empty, and writing loses its joy.

You pay a price. Yes, we have to eat. The bills have to be paid, and stepping too far out of line might mean a zero bank account. You might take a non-writing job to cover expenses, doing tasks that bore you to tears. You've sold your soul . . . and you give up writing.

It doesn't have to be that way. The key is to do what you have to in order to support yourself. Look at it as subsidizing your writing, enabling yourself to have the freedom to write.Just don't get so caught up in following the norm that you forget the strange, exceptional, bizarre magic inside of you. Don't sacrifice and forget what you're sacrificing for. That exciting eccentricity that you're afraid to show needs your attention, too.

Even if you never publish those crazy stories, that side of your persona feeds your happiness. Don't let it starve because it's not what everyone else eats. Gorge on it, and feel good.


Mary Ingmire said...

I've considered myself a mystery writer but have to reconsider based on the short story I'm writing. Perhaps I'm a romance writer. Sometimes being oneself means reconsidering the way I've defined myself.

Lyn Fairchild Hawks said...

Agreed. There's no one-size-fits-all box to stuff ourselves in. I have YA, short stories, essays, and contemporary women's fiction on my list of loves, and I've published books for secondary teachers. I've experienced reactions of agents saying they're not sure where my book "fits" (what market) and after a lot of persistence, finally found an agent who took my hybrid book and says, "Here's how it's YA." I write a lot of hybrid works that could be read by more than one genre audience, and yet I'm open to making changes to streamline my work so that it's more palatable to a particular group. I believe I've still kept my YA still literary and that keeps me happy.

Gdub said...

You do have the best damn blogs...

Hope Clark said...

I damn well try, Gdub - LOL - thanks.

Michelle said...

This was just what I needed to hear today. Thank you!