Writing and Uncertainty
Every once in a while, I go back through all my books on writing and becoming a great writer. When I first started writing in college, I thought it would be the coolest thing to have my books make it to the classroom as part of some professor’s lecture. Something like: Trends in 21st Century Writing. But after having written ten books or so, I’ve realized that I actually don’t want to be a “literary” author and it would probably be better if no professor ever knew I existed. I just want to give people a bit of enjoyment, a laugh, a shiver, or a warm, cuddly feeling at the end of the book. I’m just not cut out to be the next critically acclaimed author. For one thing, I don’t live in New York, or Paris, for that matter, so it would be highly inconvenient to attend all those functions that critically acclaimed authors are supposed to attend. Not to mention the fact that I don’t think I’d fit in, at all. I’d wind up checking my Droid for unusual bird sighting and leaving early to see the Peregrine falcon someone spotted just a few miles south of town. So I'd probably go to the function in boots, snake-proof chaps, bug spray and a sun hat, because I'd want to be prepared for that early exit.
Besides you see, I know of very few literary books that leave you with any feeling other than a strong desire to slit your wrists and end it all now. Why wait? Life’s a misery, people are mean or cruel or both, and really, why bother? Most people already know that by the time they’re 21 so they really don’t need a book to point out how miserable life can be. Which is mainly why I don’t read a lot of literature and instead read genre fiction like mysteries, the old science fiction from the 50’s, and a few romances. And Chaucer. I do like the Wife of Bath’s story. I’m don’t want to give you the impression I haven’t read vast quantities of literature. I’ve even found a few gems, like Jane Austen.
I love Jane Austen, so you can see it’s not like I don’t read any literature at all. I’m actually thinking, though, that if one were to really be serious about classifying her work, it would probably fall in the romance genre. I think you pretty much have to make everyone completely miserable, or die, or both, at the end to escape the genre fiction label. ;) (Okay, you got me. I’m being a wee bit sarcastic. But think of Tolstoy and Kafka, not to mention the interestingly misogynist D.H. Lawrence, and you kind of see I’m not exaggerating too much.)
In a way, after reading all the books on writing and going through my shelves of real literature, I feel like I ought to apologize for my books. They really aren’t lasting works of art that someone 50 years from now is going to buy and read. But you know what? That’s okay. Because I’ve finally realized my real goal. I just want to give a few folks a bit of a laugh or a happy ending to make their day a little brighter. Or put them to sleep. Whichever is needed most.
Perhaps not all books need to be great works of art. Sure, my goal (as I once told my boss) is to be perfect. I’d like my books to be absolutely perfect with rich writing, endearing characters, and a whacky plot. I’d like to be Louise Penny, Jane Austen, P.G. Wodehouse, Shirley Jackson, and Saki (H. H. Munro) all rolled into one. So I’ll never give up working, working, working to make my books better. When I have a moment, I go back and study the books I love the most. Then I try to extend my reach as a writer just a bit more with each chapter.
So, I hope there are some readers out there who aren’t looking for the next “Moby Dick” and just want a few hours of enjoyment.
What do you think? Leave a comment - I'd love to hear your thoughts on books, writing, and what you love to read.