Not too long ago I was reading a post about the ghetto that genre fiction once inhabited Maybe the neighborhood was not as sleazy as erotica or porn. But still, writing or wanting a career in the genres was the kind of thing a nice girl wouldn’t admit to her fiancé’s upper class parents. Anybody who ever took writing or literature classes in college knew enough not to admit to a respected professor the kind of stuff you loved, read or wrote.
Which is only one of many reasons I’m glad I grew up in a lower middle class Southern family. I grew up reading Ace Double science fiction novels, branching out to HP Lovecraftian horror and then 20th century fantasy and Lord of the Rings, and then private eye novels from the cookie cutter variety to “The Big Sleep.”
I never knew or cared about mainstream fiction and while I made my acquaintance with some real classics, my love was genre. Despite that, I took writing classes at UF, where I was fortunate enough to meet and know slightly the late HARRY Crews. He was an original. I don’t think there was a genre bone in his body, but he wrote great novels about guys eating cars and others that simply can’t be described. I knew I could more easily lift myself up by my shoelaces than write his kind of fiction so I didn’t even try. I wrote what I liked, which resulted in my selling a novel to Doubleday and Robert Hale in England. And later a dozen or so pro short sales in the horror, sf and fantasy genres.
Now to the point of this comment. I never wrote or for that matter read more than a handful of mainstream lit books for most of my life. And then in my early 60s I started reading romance, mainstream male/female stories, some erotic some not. And I wound up beginning a mainstream epic of a modern American marriage that blows up in a cataclysmic divorce and family rupture. It’s up to three novels,more than 500,000 words and it has a long way to go. And is nothing like anything I;ve ever written or wanted to write. Whether it’s good or not, it has loyal followers literally around the world. Which only goes to show that what you write, what drives you to write, comes from your gut. You can’t make yourself want to write what’s popular or esteemed or what you SHOULD write. It’s really more like falling in love than anything else. You love what you love and you write what you write, regardless of how much trouble either decision can get you into.
The point of this post, and most of the things I;m currently doing, is two-fold. The first is to be more open and try to strengthen the bonds with my readers. I started writing when the only practical path to publication was to get an agent and then get a publisher so you could sit back and sip mint julips while your publishers did all the hard work of building your career. I never expected and never planned on having to become at least a pseudo public figure. I come from a generation before Facebook and the whole process of discussing your daily meals, ills and bowel habits still strikes me as more than a little voyeuristic. But I’m trying.
And the second point is to try to provide some information and guidance for whatever it’s worth to readers and fellow writers. That’s the whole point of blogging. And again, this is not something that comes naturally to me. I’ve read tons of blogs and columns and self help books and they’ve always seriously intimidated me. Not only do I NOT walk around burdened with this burning desire to spread the pearls of my hard-earned wisdom about the answers to life’s perplexing questions, I truly have a hard time figuring out what the hell the questions are.
But, recently I’ve begun examining my life and it seems that I do have observations ,some experiences that may be of value to others. One directly contradicts one of the most famous pieces of writing advice ever uttered. Cynics echo Samuel Johnson who famously stated that “nobody but a blockhead ever wrote except for money.”
I’ve written for money my entire life, but I have never written anything I loved FOR the money. The closest I came to being paid to write the things I loved were non-fiction that came close to the kind of things I wanted to write as fiction! For most of my life I wrote fiction to satisfying a driving urge to express sentiments that could never be expressed in non-fiction. And with rare exceptions I was never paid. But that never bothered me because I didn’t write for money.
And now for the point of it all. I’ve written tons of non-fiction over the decades. And if some cataclysm were to destroy every word, I wouldn’t lose sleep. Because they were all just jobs. But Ive had novels and short stories published in the conventional press and as e-books and losing those would be like having someone rip the bones out of my body without pain killers.
Writing without love and passion is like marrying without love and passion. In the end, all you have is a pale, weak imitation of life.