Write what you know.
Write what you want to read.
Write the story you need to tell.
Don’t write for anyone but yourself.
These are all wonderful thoughts.
I read weird books. Or so my wife tells me. I listen to weird music too. I enjoy weird movies and most of the TV shows I watch are canceled after the first few seasons. I’m not trying to say I’m hip or cool. I am certainly not making attempts to stand out and be different.
I like what I like and that’s all there is to it.
When I was making music, I played what I was passionate about or I didn’t play at all. I’m certain that’s the reason I didn’t do very well as a session player or hired gun. I was always vocal about what I liked and didn’t. Perhaps I was a mite too vocal.
I have friends that are very successful in that business. They get along fantastically with other artists and are amazing musicians in their own right. They make a good living helping the visions of others come to life. While I envy them sometimes, I’m also completely baffled by it. I was never able to completely surrender myself to the sound inside somebody else’s head. It’s a powerful talent in and of itself that I could never get a handle on.
Writing’s really not all that different. Though it’s definitely a more solitary endeavor. In the early stages I don’t need the input of anyone else. I have my idea, I build on it in my imagination and translate that to the page all by my lonesome. After I finish the first few drafts, I ask for the opinions of a couple people whose opinions I trust. If they chose to, they read it and give me some feedback. Some I might agree with, and some I might not.
Some opinions might even piss me off.
After all, I am a sensitive artist type.
After that part of the process, an editor comes in. They make the all too important grammatical corrections. Much more intensive than spell check. The Editor might give suggestions on plot and character too. Once again, my hackles are raised and I might just as easily shoot death rays from my eyes through the computer screen as add their suggestions to the story. Whichever is going to make it work better.
Then I must find a cover image with an artist that can encapsulate the previous two years worth of storytelling in a thumbnail sized image to fit on all of the book selling websites. What? Sounds easy? Fortunately for me I’ve been very lucky thus far to work with the incredibly talented Greg Simanson on the covers for my first three books. He actually does make it easy. Don’t ask me how, he’s just that good.
After all that, the book is released to the world. It is completely out of my hands. Will people like it? Will people buy it? Will it get good reviews? Will it get bad reviews? Will it get any reviews? Does that matter? Should that matter?
Unfortunately, it does.
As an artist of any kind, of course the process of making the work itself is for you and no one else. Once the work is finished, it is for everyone else but you. People will respond how they do. You have no control over that. You have no opinion, no rebuttal, not one iota of input. The art will speak for itself. In soothing earthquakes or in screaming silence.
I like weird stuff. The stories I write are weird. I don’t explain everything. I leave loose ends. I leave some of the work up to reader imagination. Ive seen the reviews. That upsets some people apparently. As much as I’d love to tell you those opinions don’t matter, they do. Nobody enjoys being kicked when they’re down. Being defenseless is unpleasant.
However, I don’t see myself changing. Those people just don’t happen to be my audience. Maybe I’ll find them. Maybe I won’t. It could be that there is only a very tiny audience of people who enjoy my slice of weirdness. It could be that the only important part of the process is the writing itself.
I have more ideas. I have more stories to tell. I plan on telling them in my way, with as much of my own voice as I can muster. Sometimes it’s okay to not play well with others. Would it be great to be on the bestseller list next to the big names? Of course it would! But I’d much rather be telling my weird stories in my own weird way than sound just like the guy whose books sit next to mine on the shelf. (Though Stephen King is a pretty big deal)