How do you feel about what you write?
I'm not asking about the quality of it: we all wade through the crappy first (secondthirdfourthfifth) drafts. That's normal and understood.
I'm talking about the actual topic. The genre. The style. The guts of your writing. The center of your universe of words.
How do you feel about it?
I'm hoping that your answer is along these lines:
I love, love, LOVE it, Lucy. Maybe I don't have all the plot stuff figured out, and I'm still working on a lot of it. But the world I've created with these words, and the main things that I'm talking about, and the kinds of characters I've created, and the genre that this all operates in, and the style of my sentences... I can't get enough. I'm loving this.
Is that you, saying all that? I really hope so. But if not: I get it. I totally understand.
For a long time, I couldn't have said any of that.
When I started writing full time, I felt pulled in two directions.
First: I wanted to be a clever writer. I had just studied all kinds of beautiful literature in college. I honestly loved reading Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath. Sylvia Plath's poetry gave me chills. We read so many brilliant short stories that did astonishing things with their sentences.
I felt like, to be a SERIOUS writer, to feel PROUD of what I'm writing, to be able to hold my head up when I'm saying what I do: Then I should write that kind of thing. Clever, prize-winning sentences.
Then, there was the other direction. When I got stressed out, I would always read kid lit. And complicated, beautiful YA fantasy. And smart, funny, middle grade adventure novels.
That's what I read when no one was looking, what I read for fun, what just plain made me happy.
So, I thought, I should write that. Probably I should write that.
So I started writing this young adult fantasy.
But not whole-heartedly. Because I was SO EMBARRASSED.
Whenever someone asked about my writing and my work, I had a zillion apologetic ways of slanting what I wrote. Trying to sound smart and clever about it, while also trying to cover up the truth about my novel.
I ended up sounding very sheepish. And like someone was forcing me to write this silly crap. And like I pretty much hated my writing.
Guess what. I ended up pretty much hating my writing.
And hating my writing life.
It was a grim season.
It took me a long time to realize what I was doing to myself (and to my poor work-in-progress!).
I was letting other people determine the value of what I wrote.
And--even worse than that--I was guessing at what they would think about what I wrote. I decided beforehand that they would think it was ridiculous, and then I gave my long cringing apology.
Ack! Ick! No, no, no.
This is not the kind of writing life we want. Right, lionhearts?
Here's an incredible, powerful quote from Ray Bradbury. Read this slowly, and think about your writing life, your current project, the things that you love to read. All that. Here you go:
Love. Fall in love and stay in love.
Write only what you love, and love what you write.
The key word is love.
Are you getting that?
We can't write to suit someone else's idea of what is acceptable. What is "worth" reading or writing. We can't try to please other people with our choice of genre or style.
When I read a novel that I just flat-out LOVE, I am not trying to impress anyone with my choice of loving. I'm not trying to seem all clever. I'm just loving what I love. Because I love it.
A sense of what I SHOULD or SHOULD NOT appreciate... well, that really doesn't come into it.
The same is true of what I'm writing.
I am now happily writing a middle grade adventure trilogy. And I'm putting characters in that I just adore, who are quirky and funny and strange and full of secrets. I'm adding crazy details (I've mentioned the telepathic lizards?).
I'm building a storyworld based on love, on my love for this book, and not based on anything else.
And now, when someone asks what I write, I tell them honestly. I tell them that I love it. That showing up for work feels like an adventure. That it's exactly the kind of trilogy I would have eaten up when I was in sixth grade.
I don't apologize. I don't try to sound super clever, like I'm a really impressive little genius.
I'm frank and clear and direct.
And guess what happens. No one says, "Sorry, but you're not smart enough to keep talking to me."
Actually, people sound a little . . . jealous. A little envious.
Because my full-time work sounds thrilling and funny and interesting and exciting. (WHICH IT TOTALLY IS.)
No apologies necessary. Imagine that.
So what are you apologizing for? Are you trying to justify your choice of story, your genre, your style, your anything? Do you feel sheepish about any part of your writing life?
Today I'm inviting you to just let that GO. Get rid of it.
If you're writing something out of some weird internal obligation or some sense of what you ought to be writing--maybe shelve that project. Or radically change it, into something you madly love.
If you're writing something you like, but feel ashamed of that: kick that sense of shame OUT. It's not serving you or your work. And it might not even be based on anything real. Okay?
Let's decide to just love what we love. To love what we write.
To operate from that excitement, that energy, that truth about who we are as writers and artists.
I double-dare you to be passionate and unapologetic when you talk about your work this weekend.
If you want an even bigger pep-talk about how to deal with other people, check out this post on how to talk about your writing (without throwing up).
And, if you're struggling to figure out what kinds of stuff you love to write (because we can get so muddled, right??), read this post on getting permission to play.