Have I used that title before? I probably have. God knows I’m not getting any more creative with these titles the longer I keep this little blog up.
Oh well, can’t have a hum-dinger every time, right?
So, the trick to this whole writing thing is finding yourself a great writing buddy. Two if you can. I’m one of those lucky people that has two of the best and a whole group behind me to keep things going when I’ve just about given up on this whole writing thing for reasons I can literally make two blog posts out of.
Maybe I will one of these days.
There’s a moment in any creative person’s life where they come right out and decide that their piece of art is going to “say” something. It can be about the human condition, it can be a commentary on social structure and how we’re all a bunch of assholes anyway; there are Hugo and Nebula winners, Nobel Peace Prizes, and everyone talks about (me included) how Disney has been slowly contaminating our little girls and boys for the last 75 years.
The only one I will argue is Beauty and the Beast. Despite Snow White as my favourite princess in the entirety of the Disney Universe, I will argue Belle and Beast’s as something much more than Stockholm Syndrome.
But that’s not the point of this post. The point of this post is saying something with your artwork and then wanting to say something with your work.
I hold very few authors in high esteem and when those authors win awards for the work they’ve done, it always makes me curious as to why and then, naturally (because I’m a strange, strange person) to emulate them and maybe snag an award for myself. Because, I know something about the human condition too, dammit!
Actually, I don’t know jack shit about the human condition. I mean, okay, I know a little bit of what it means to be a female in the 21st century and there’s something to be said for that, but as to overall; I don’t know a damn thing. But, naturally, I want to pretend I do because if I pretend, then maybe I’ll get an award or something and people will tell me I’m all kinds of smart.
I don’t know. Don’t even ask.
Being a writer isn’t easy. No one ever said it was. If they did, they’re probably one of those people who thinks a book can be done in under a month, and writers don’t really have jobs anyway (that’s why they’re doing the writing thing). Being a female writer comes with its own set of challenges.
We’re fighting against the Mary Sue, gender stereotypes, making sure we have ‘strong female characters’, and asserting that we really can write hardcore science fiction, and that no, romance does not take away from science fiction. Women are told to market toward romance because that’s where are the sales are, ‘fantasy’ is a good place for female books, and god help you if you don’t write YA because of just so many reasons. We’re pigeonholed because we’re women.
Because, you know, BOOBS. Boobs can’t write deep thinking books at all.
Writing Annie’s first book has been one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done. Since her conception and multiple rewrites, I’ve been painfully aware of stereotypes, of gender roles, of everything under the fucking sun. I want to avoid the bad, and come out with a book that doesn’t follow the prescribed gender roles that I have been told are important to the machinations of the world since I was old enough to understand the word pink and everything that comes with that particular color. I want to come out with a book that has strong female characters, that doesn’t rely on the man to win in the end and make everything okay, to come out with a book that features aspects of the LGBT community, that maybe plays around with gender neutrality (if I can figure out what exactly that is), that says something about the world we live in by putting our world in a completely different context, that has absolutely nothing to do with romance (imagine it, a girl that doesn’t need a man!).
I worry, I fret.
Is Annie strong enough? Is she really the hero of her own story or is she going to wind up as a damsel in distress? Is Richard a strong character or is he just a filler? What about Molly? Why is Mickey outshining everyone? Oh god, what about the death, will people think I hate the LGBT community?
Oh god. Oh god. Oh god.
My book isn’t good enough. It’s stupid. It’s not worth the time that I’m putting into it.
The thing that I’ve been denying for so long in my writing is the same thing I denied when I went to business school: I love fairy tales. I grew up with them. I have the complete collection of Grimm’s Tales that I’m going to one day eventually work all the way through. When I was a kid, I had this tape – I think we were in Jordan at the time, maybe Washington State – that was a collection of fairy tales from different countries. My favourite was the Chinese version of the Cinderella story where there is a talking fish skeleton rather than a fairy godmother. I would listen to it over and over and over.
I fell in love with Disney when I was six. I watched all of the princess movies, though I fought my own gender until the time I was 21. I’m a hopeless romantic, and despite my own failed relationships, my favourite stories are the ones where the lovers wind up together at the very end regardless if the hero is doing the saving or if the heroine is strong enough to control her own destiny.
Call me constant reader if you want. Once Upon A Time as won a place in my heart, not only because Snow is a badass princess who does her own goddamned saving, but because there’s a question of the lovers being together at the end or not.
Those are the stories I love. Those are the stories I want to read, the ones that I am heavily invested in by the end of the day. Don’t get me wrong, I read other books too and I don’t touch the YA romance section (with or without a ten foot pole), but it’s the romance/adventure that I hold closest to my heart.
There’s a moment (sometimes) in writing, where everything just clicks, where you stop denying what you’ve wanted to write all along because of different pressures coming in from all sources, and you write what you want to write.
Annie, in her own little way, is going to be a fairy tale. One of those mash ups of all of my favourite tales growing up, because I don’t settle for just one.
Does that mean I’m going to rely on tropes or allow that kind of thing in my story? No. I have enough disdain for the Mary Sue, and enough anger at how women are portrayed to make sure my female characters are strong enough that, even if they do need saving, it’s not because of something they got themselves into and can’t get themselves out of again.
We play the denial game a lot as human beings. We deny ourselves things for various reasons which boil down to “I can’t because…” when we’re talking about creativity, however, denial shows up in our work. If you don’t love what you’re doing, you won’t be able to write it. Maybe you will, but it’s not gonna be an easy thing. When you love something, however, when you’re heavily invested in its outcome, you’ll find that you’re writing it just to get to the end and to see what happens.
The inverse is true as well. When you’re trying to say something about something else through your work, it’ll come off as cheap and inserted. When your work says something, people will find it whether you meant them too or not.
Writing is a job, sure, but never for one moment are you supposed to hate it. Give up? Yeah, because we’ve all been there. I was there with my 3DS Max homework, but that’s a passing thing.
If you love it, don’t force it. And, don’t deny it. You do, and you’re cheating yourself and your readers.