Transitions, Ink

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Sunday Scribblings #24: I will never write...

This week’s Sunday Scribblings pushes us to write, or write about, what we never imagined ourselves writing. For me, this is a great prompt for rooting out thoughts that limit me in my writing because they scream in my ear: “don’t go there.” Don’t go there because you can’t, you shouldn’t, they won’t like you if you do, you’ll embarrass yourself, you have no talent in that area, you have no idea how to get there, you won’t be taken seriously as a writer if you do, only crazy people go there, only gifted people go there…

A while back, I was having lunch with a friend who writes beautiful and elegant short stories, some of which have been published in small literary journals. She told me about two people she knew. One woman she had met in a writing class and judged to lack talent was making money hand over fist writing greeting cards. Neither of us could see ourselves feeling rewarded by writing greeting cards (I still feel that way). The second was an old friend who she’d recently reconnected with and who, she discovered, was an avid hobby writer. Every night when he came home from work, he would settle in at his computer and write wild stories in the genre of speculative fiction (which, I take it, is a blend of horror, science fiction and fantasy). He had never sent anything out. She encouraged him to try. Within a few months, he had placed two stories and been paid over $1000 for each of them. Up to now, my friend had been paid only in copies for her literary work. “Maybe,” she said, “we need to think outside of our comfort zone.” I agreed, and had a blast writing a science fiction short story that summer. Pleased with my effort, I showed it to another friend who is an established writer and usually very encouraging. Her reaction: “I didn’t realize you were interested in writing for young people.” Ouch. It wasn’t really intended as a story for children. I never went back to it, even though I know full well that a first attempt is hardly going to set any sort of standard for future possibilities. And anyway, who says I can't write for children? I just never thought about it.

Despite how much fun I had writing the sci fi story, and despite how much I actually enjoy reading in the horror and sci fi genres (Ray Bradbury is one of my favourite authors, and I love reading Stephen King novels), I have never thought of “going there” in any serious way. Why not? Others do, why not me? It’s for the simple fact that I have placed a limit on myself by saying: I do not have the imagination required to do “that sort of thing.”

Comedy is the other kind of writing that I don’t think of myself as capable of because, again, I’ve decided that I’m not really all that funny. I would love to know how to make people laugh, but bad humour is worse than none at all, and so I back off from it. I am always a bit chuffed when I’m told that some scene that I wrote was funny.

And what about writing for television or movies? How does a person go about doing that? I admire good scriptwriting, both for tv and films, but it has always struck me as a mysterious world that is even harder to break into than the published word. So I’ve never thought of myself as capable of writing for television or films. Again, I consider this a limit that I have placed on myself for no good reason. I may or may not enjoy that kind of writing. But why rule it out in advance? As I become more and more serious about writing full-time, I see that there are a wealth of possibilities out there for writers who are willing, as my friend said, to “think outside of our comfort zone.” Of course, there are no guarantees that I can do it, but if I am convinced that I can't do it, then I've pretty much set myself up not even to try, thereby guaranteeing that it won't happen.

10 comments:

FatCharlatan said...

Love the line: "Why not me?"

I've been trying to make this my mantra (I usually set it up like this: "Some team had to win the World Series, so why not the Red Sox? Somebody needs to publish a book, so why not me?" and then I go from there).

As for writing for TV, do you remember my mentioning in my memoir-in-progress about my colleague who used to write for General Hospital (an American soap opera...you probably have it up there)? Well, I was talking with him the other day, and I asked "How DID you get that gig?"

He looked at me, smiled, and said, "Do you really want to know?"

I nodded, and he smirked, "I was sleeping with the producer."

He got paid $2000 per script, and this was back in the early '90s.

Great post--thanks for sharing. And dust off that sci-fi story and revisit it.

Peace,
FC

Chelle Y. said...

Well, from just reading your post, I think you're a very great writer. You should pursue your dreams.

Autrice DelDrago said...

Don't let the comments of one "professional" hold you back! If he thought it was something meant for children, why not expand upon it?

TI said...

FC, that's hilarious. the fact is, I wouldn't even know how to go about sleeping with the producer of a soap opera (not that I would do that to get work!)!

Michelle said...

I would also like to write comedy. I know what you mean about bad being worse than none, though. I am funny in person when I am "on", but translating that to the written word...yikes!

Good for you for stepping outside your box. One of my favorite genres is YA fiction. For myself, not the kids. I think it is just how it is marketed much of the time.

giggles said...

My friend and I were talking tonight about how one damaging criticism can send an artist into defeat. Exposing your soul is a tough thing to do…. Many of the points you mentioned are questions I have asked myself. I know so many incredible unpublished writers sitting in the wings. Don’t hesitate to say “Why not me?” I think it’s those with the strongest constitution that make it.

Peace and giggles

paris parfait said...

Great piece! I think you could write about any subject or in any genre, if you just do a little research on the topic first. Don't limit yourself - you may find you have hidden talents that surprise even you! Keep writing.

Bug said...

Great post! I love how honest you are, sharing your friend's comments about writing for children.

And I like you goal of thinking outside the comfort zone. It's amazing how we get stuck there in so many aspects of our lives.

(BTW, I'm caffeine free so far today, and I meditated for 10 mins this morning, and I finished another baby hat!)

Repeater said...

I think you should go for it- I think we all should go for it. I was feeling the same way about non-fiction, and as it turns out that's all I'm doing on the blog, that and poetry, something I also did not think I could do--Only time and practice will tell....

Flood said...

What I've learned is that everyone has imagination. The problem is that some people have trouble expressing it because they either second-geuss their creativity, or they eagerly set their jaw to forcing it out onto paper in. Coaxing one's imagination into revealing itself is probably the most difficult task a meek writer could ever face.