I have to get my haircut today-which naturally gets me thinking about writing.
Oh-you don’t see the connection?
My philosophy, choosing a haircutter, is that it’s useless to tell the guy how I want my hair cut. He does what he does well. If you ask him to do what I think I have in mind, he’ll do a half-assed job and it’ll come out terrible. So I’m better off taking what he gives me-at very least, it’s the best he can do. If I really don’t like it, I should find someone else instead of trying to change him.
I think that same principle holds true for writing and most other occupations (also for marriage, but that’s a whole other essay/book/series/what have you). Every writer starts out emulating someone, the Writing God, whoever their writing God is. But there’s a moment when you reach a crossroads-either you write what comes natural or you continue to try to be the best version of what you started out loving.
I think if you look around at your own reading, you’ll see easily-recognized examples of both decisions. There are plenty of successful writers who are pale copies of other successful writers. There are successful writers who are vivid copies of other successful writers. I’m sure there are writers who are vivid copies of unsuccessful writers, but I’ll bet we don’t hear so much about them.
The point-and I’m sure you’ve beaten me there-is that you go down a different path when you do what comes natural. From my vantage point (at a distance), it seems to me that’s not what the book business favors these days.
I’ve written a thriller, ‘Mindbenders’. The people that have read it love it, including respected writers, total strangers and the friends whose judgment I trust-ie, the ones who told me in the past when I put them to sleep. An agent wrote that she thought the book was very good but she couldn’t take me on because she didn’t ‘do’ paranormal. To which my answer was, Perfect. You’re the one I want. Market it as ‘I don’t like paranormal but I like this.’ No vampires, no ghosts. A thriller about people who see a bigger world than the rest of us. But she couldn’t.
That’s not how the business works and the business is poorer for it. And because we want people to see our work, writers pursue the business-and are made poorer by its narrow-mindedness.
When you do what comes natural, you end up between genres, outside genres. You’re writing about people, about life, about what makes you squeal and what makes you squirm. You break ground. That’s where writing ought to go. That’s where readers look to us to take them.
E-books offer that opportunity, for the voices that d0n’t fit the straitjackets the business promotes. That’s why I’m here and why you’ll see most of the vitality in books coming from this direction in the future.