Let me tell you a secret. I want to be Stephen King.
[Warning: This post is animated GIF-free.]
Okay, I don’t actually want to be Stephen King. I don’t want coke-bottle glasses and I don’t want to live in Maine, nice as it is in July. I’m also happy being a few decades younger than King is.
But I’d still like to write like the man writes.
Here’s the thing. I’m not Stephen King. (apologies for the rhyme — it’s not my fault his surname rhymes with ‘thing’)
I’m just me. Christina, Tine, that chick from Somewhere in the American South, or whatever I happen to call myself on Friday evenings.
Take-home message? Sure, I have one. It tastes like “write what you love,” not what you want to/pretend to/hope to love.
Wanting and pretending and hoping are terrific things, especially for a writer. Aspirations are good, as is reaching for the sky and submitting that short story to The Atlantic or The New Yorker (sorry if I got those in the wrong order, New Yorker people). But you can’t force this stuff.
Real life story:
I’ve been trying to write pieces that fit what other people want. No, I haven’t tried sci-fi or fantasy because neither is my bag, but I’ve tried horror and monsters and dialgoue-only and Christmas-themed invasions and god knows what else. Hell, I’ve even tried writing a middle-grade short story based (loosely) on the prompt “the carrot is mightier than the sword.” Honest. That last piece actually turned out to be something I’m really proud of — whether the market I send it to is in agreement, well, time will tell. The other pieces, not so much.
Good news: I think I’ve figured it out.
Looking back at my Duotrope submission list, every single one of the fourteen flash fiction acceptances I’ve had in 2015 was something I wrote in under an hour, off the cuff, and edited only minimally. The rejections and retired pieces (and there are way more than fourteen of them) are, generally, things I’ve sweated over and forced.
Sure, I’d love to have my literary ramblings published in The Dark or Clarkesworld, but not at the cost of forcing myself to write what those markets want if it’s not something I want to (or am able to) write.
Reiteration of the take-home message:
Write what you love, what comes naturally, and don’t worry about trying to fit your square self into a hexagonal hole. All you’ll end up doing is having to amputate some part of you. And self-amputation doesn’t sound like fun.