the outgoing guts to do it

There’s a quote on the sidebar of my blog. Scroll down a bit on the left and you’ll see it. Sylvia Plath wrote it and it sings to the tune of this:

“And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”

This quote hit me between the eyes about a year ago when I first read it. Anything that puts down self-doubt and elevates guts to the literary has my attention. In light of our recent conversations, this seemed like a very appropriate quote to highlight.

It takes guts to write. We all know that. Even that almost cliched beginning of “Dear Diary” takes courage. You’re telling something to someone, even if it’s just yourself. To tell, to divulge, is to admit. To confess. We’re afraid of confession. Hence the sealed box and Seal of the Catholic confessional. The other side of this coin is that confession is cathartic. It’s healthy and it releases weight so we can take in more oxygen and experience more life.

I’m not advocating spilling your guts about everything you’ve ever done, unless of course you’re writing a gritty memoir and then, by all means, go for it! However, in this instance, I would suggest adopting a pen name and publishing under the guise of fiction.

Everything IS writable about. EVERYTHING. Even that gritty memoir stuff you did in high school. The key is not in vomiting up everything you ever did; the key is knowing your audience and telling the story in a way that will convey the truth to them in the best possible way.

And, lo, we come to the meat of this post:
Your audience is NOT everyone on the face of the planet. Your audience isn’t even everyone you have ever met, you know, or, most importantly, everyone you’re related to.

Your audience is who you choose to write to.

Huh?

Think about it this way. I write dark fantasy with a very heavy slant towards horror. I wake up one morning and decide I’m going to spit out a short story with the intention of publishing it. My first step is to spit that sucker out. Get out of the way and just write. Don’t think about who or what or when or how. Write. The story is written, eight pots of coffee are consumed and I’ve ran around the entire town of Hampton, GA sixteen times. Backwards.

Now then. Who do I submit this to?

Back up. First ask this: who did I write this for?

Myself? Maybe and that’s fine. After all, you should like what you write.

My mom? Nope. I value my mom’s opinion and I want her to be proud of me but I did not write the story for her. Why not? Quite simply, she does not like horror. At all. The only time she’ll even watch anything with a vampire in it is if the names Abbot and Costello are in the film title.

So how about my grandmother? BIG no. My mother in law? Uh-uh. My six year old niece in California? Nope. Nada. No way.

So I’ve pretty much negated anyone I’m related to. My friends fall into the half and half category: half love horror, the other half won’t touch it with a thirty-nine and a half foot pole.

So what do I do? Go back and change things so that my mom, niece, best friend since high school will all give me their approval?

Again. No. And here’s where the guts come in. YOU HAVE TO BE PREPARED FOR THOSE CLOSEST TO YOU NOT TO LIKE WHAT YOU WRITE.

And you have to realize that it’s ok if they don’t.

Running a bit long here today, eh? I’ll leave it here for now. What do you think? Do you value your loved one’s opinions so much that you wouldn’t think of writing something they would hate? Curiouser and curiouser…

Comments

  1. My mom doesn't like science fiction and has never read my book. And that's all right, because I didn't write it for her!

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  2. You definitely have to write for yourself! And if your audience isn't going to include your family, write it anyway. It's worth it! Great post. :)

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  3. I have to block them out as I write. I know that even the closest people might not be drawn to the story I'm writing. But, then again, they might. What I need to do is be true to the stories and characters that are talking to me.
    (love the Grinch reference)
    Write on!

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  4. I hope family and friends like my book, but they don't need to and it won't damage our relationship. It does take guts to get it out though. I remember how long I refused to tell anyone I wanted to write, how long I used to hide my notebooks so no one could see and make fun of me. Now I'm proud of the fact that I'm a writer.

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  5. I don't write the kind of fiction anyone close to me reads. I sort of wish I did--then I could get their opinions on some things. But in other ways it's easier, since there's less expectation from them toward reading it. :P

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  6. I dealt with this when I wrote BECOME. Before the book came out, one of my early reviewers told me she couldn't read it. She'd read 63 pages, but had to stop. It was just too dark for her.

    Being the first reaction like that that I'd experienced, it hurt. At first. But then my wise, wise hubby said, "You didn't write it for her." And oh, how right he was!

    I wrote the book for that ONE girl who thinks she's used up all her good choices. Who thinks her life is written in indelible ink and nothing she does can change it. I wrote BECOME for her, so she could get a glimmer of hope. That it's never too late to choose.

    Once I realized who I wrote it for, it made taking the negative comments a lot easier. It didn't matter if my sister, aunt, neighbor or friend loved the book or not. What matters is what that ONE GIRL thinks. If she, just one, GETS IT, than I'm golden. Because I wrote the book FOR HER.

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  7. Writing does take guts. You have to write as you know you should. Though outside opinions are always welcome and mostly valued, I choose to follow that inner-writer's compass. Thanks for the encouragement!

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  8. FANTASTIC POST! I see so many writers agonize over what they are writing because "what if my mom or my friends or my neighbors read it and think I'm strange/violent/oversexed/mentally ill LOL. But, as you point out, WHO ARE YOU WRITING THE BOOK FOR? You should always write for your target audience, always. In terms of writing for yourself, yes. . . if we're referring to personal enjoyment. However, if we are writing young adult for example and writing it to please ourselves, then perhaps we're missing the boat. Excellent.

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  9. I write for the kind of people who love reading the kind of books I love reading. My goal is always to write a story that I'd love to read even if it wasn't written by me. :o)

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