I don’t make a habit of trying to be controversial in my writing. I have stories I want to tell and I do that to the best of my ability. It wasn’t until a friend of mine pointed out that my stories tend to have some common themes that I was even aware of them.
Now, before you ask me what the common themes are, I will tell you right now, I’m not saying. If you want to figure it out, there are ways to do it. But, for the record, this post isn’t about me for a change. Yes, I will still talk about myself. It IS my post, after all, but that still isn’t the point. 😉
So let me begin by saying, even before I knew what my inner voice and theme was, I tried to write something “commercial”. I tried to write in a genre I loved with all the typical tropes.
Hardest thing I’ve ever done (writing wise, anyway).
I think the difficulty came from writing outside my own head. I know, that sounds odd, but hear me out. I was essentially writing for someone other than myself. I wasn’t trying to come up with something that I liked. Now that I know what I tried to do I see the foolishness of the exercise. I mean, it’s hard enough to know what the potential audience you have will like. If you’re not writing for the one person you truly know, you are doomed. (Okay, my flair for the dramatic cut me up there for a moment. Doomed IS pretty strong. How about, “Fighting an uphill battle”?)
So, let’s just say for the sake of argument that you are a writer who believes in strong female characters. You also intrinsically believe that women can do anything they set their hearts to. Do you think you might write some very strong female characters who are able to overcome incredible odds to win the day? I know several authors who display those beliefs in most of their stories (and I whole-heartedly agree and approve, just for the record – no that’s not a hint about common themes in my writing either).
Does that mean that those writers can ONLY write stories with strong female leads? Not at all. In fact, most of the authors I’m thinking of wrote several stories that had strong leads that were male and “other”. It’s just that, if you really look, you will see that they also don’t tend to have weak female characters unless there is a damn good reason to.
So, what am I trying to say to you with this post? Well, in its simplest terms, you the writer need to understand yourself. What is important enough to you that it leeches out into your work without effort? Once you understand that, you have power over your writing because you can see it coming out and you can plan around it and craft work that is truly outstanding.
For example, John Scalzi (disclaimer: whose work I love) writes with a strong social commentary in his essays, blog posts and fiction. He knows it and uses that voice and passion to put out some very thought-provoking work. Does everyone love his work? I daresay not, but the point of writing is not to please everyone. It is his understanding of himself and his own voice that allows him to do what he does.
So, my challenge to you is to think about your writing and what you are instinctively trying to say. Does your work reflect it everywhere? Is it easier writing to that internal vision or harder?