I started off today’s blog entry by spending nearly 10 minutes looking for silly memes about variety being the spice of life. I have major focus problems at times. I’m not sure if it’s because I woke up this morning at 6:45am and decided I needed to get a head start on my blogging, my coffee is kicking in, the homemade egg white and avocado sandwich I just ate has my tummy so full that I just want to veg in my computer chair and look at weird things on Google while I digest, or I’m just really that much of a procrastinator. It’s a flaw. It’s a mystery. It’s who I am. Either way, I finally got my word doc open and am hoping to deliver a thoughtful, well written and witty morning blog. One can hope.
It goes without saying that variety is essential to the life of a writer. One must always push one’s limits, try new methods, new perspectives, always keep honing one’s craft. When I was a teenager, I had the idea that once you started writing, you had to stick with the genre you began in. After all, when I looked at the writers who were popular during my teen years, book reviews and adverts were pretty clear that Stephen King was the master of horror, John Grisham was the master of lawyer suspense drama, Danielle Steel was the master of romance and Judy Blume was the master of children and young adult lit. They never really changed. At least, I didn’t perceive them as changing. And I was destined to be a master. By the time I was 18, I thought I understood what writers and the publishing world did. I was wrong. I had a typical teenage view of books and the personal repertoire of books I had read and books/authors I wanted to read was minute. Tiny. Pequeño. Yet, as I grew, as I read, as I approached my mid-twenties, I realized how naïve I really was when it came to writers. By the time I started working at Barnes & Noble, the real world of books exploded on me. I became familiar with more authors, more genres, fiction vs. non-fiction, biographies, humor, romance, sci-fi/fantasy, and literary fiction vs. everything else. And more shockingly than anything, I began to realize that authors crossed over. Stephen King actually wrote non-horror. Julie Garwood started writing contemporary. Anne Rice wrote about more than vampires? And she used a different name? Hold a tick, so did Stephen King? What is this craziness all about?
Pigeonholing an author is probably the worst thing one can do and is something I’ve often done. I don’t do it intentionally, but it happens sometimes. I don’t think it had anything to do with my favorite author stepping away from their comfort zone, but there were certain styles and genres that I liked and I stuck with them for quite a while. Fortunately, as a student of creative writing, I had to get out of that comfort zone and read stories I was unfamiliar with, genres I would have never picked up on a random day at Barnes & Noble, writing styles I would have thought of as foreign 10 years ago, and authors I might have ignored because the book cover was plain or didn’t “speak to me”. I held a lot of strange beliefs when I was younger about writers and what they were meant to do and I realize now it was a bit detrimental to my growth as an author.
I say all this because while in school, I not only stepped out of my reading comfort zone, but also my writing comfort zone. I experimented with styles. I experimented with genres. I shucked the shell of what my fellow students might have thought of as weird, taboo and not popular. I wrote the typical funny stories, I wrote characters that were young, college types, hip, rebellious, whatever I thought my fellow work shoppers might find good and cause them the least discomfort. That changed dramatically my last semester when I decided I wanted to push a personal envelope and write a story with an unusual POV (first person plural) and I went further in writing a story about religion. It came with its due amount of fear. One being, I hate people who proselytize to me because they perceive my religious beliefs as different from theirs. Granted, they probably are, but they are surprisingly similar. I was raised in the American south in a southern Baptist family. It’s not a far leap to guess what my religious upbringing was like and what beliefs and doctrines I still carry today. But they are still different and more than anything, personal. So I don’t proselytize to others. It’s a courtesy thing. So writing a religious story made me nervous. Having others read a religious story made me nervous, because the story isn’t so much based on proselytizing, it’s based on a speculative view of human nature. Its base was a human story about one of the most famous events in human history. I really wondered if my fellow student of differing religious upbringings (or lack thereof) could read it objectively and give me good feedback on the form, the craft, the new style of POV I was attempting and not get their panties in a bunch that I dared to write a religion story and present it to a state college classroom. It was tricky, but I did it. Not only did everyone give me good feedback, I didn’t have any students chastise me for “forcing” a religious piece on them. I hate that I live in a world where people are afraid to speak of religion. I’m fascinated by religion. It’s history, after all. And all I can say is if you don’t want to live your life based on religion, at least live your life based on what history has taught us. It comes back; sometimes with a vengeance.
Forgive the early morning rambling. I seriously only wanted to post a little blurb about the new story I have published today, “The Grace of None, Save One” featured in the October 2013 edition of The Wordsmith Journal Magazine. I was happy when this one got picked up, wondering for months if it would be unpublishable in typical literary markets. (the amount of rejections was staggering.) In the end, I submitted it to a religious based magazine and was happy when I was informed it was picked up, (with another publishing contract. Publishing contracts always make it feel more official). I hope everyone enjoys it as a well-crafted and thoughtful story. As my personal repertoire of readings has grown over the years, so does my list of publications. None can begrudge me of that.