A question of direction.
Lately I’ve realized that the last few years the main focus of my writing has been something of an untoward wrestling match trying to come to some kind of terms with it. There have many discussions about “voice.” I’ve bristled at the idea of being “pigeon-holed” and in that have tried repeatedly to find something thematically that would cover all of the bases, so to speak, so that if you arrived here there would be sort of something for everyone ideologically and I would feel the wonderful limitlessness of…everything.
However, as things have progressed and continued on there have been recurrent questions and “situations” that have continued to reveal themselves to me and finally, I thought, I need to take a look at those things and that, address it for myself once and for all. There is no judgment of anyone or anything else in this as what we are talking about are matters of personal taste and preference and that is all.
A couple of things, a few things, kept happening in the natural course of things and those things were that my feelings kept getting hurt or I found that I often times was offended by or didn’t appreciate certain social situations. It took a while to realize that there were certain situations that kept revealing themselves, very often in that was the idea of “ladies” and “gentlemen.” Reading the things that I had written about my own personal preferences in life, I became aware of how often I expressed a distaste for crudeness. Going out of my way at one point to make the point that my opinion, and knowing that it is only that, my opinion, is that anyone can easily master those four letter words and express things in that way. It isn’t that there is anything wrong with that, not at all, it is simply that it is not to my taste for matters of public conversation, particularly in mixed company. I realized that while I’m certainly no stranger to profanity, not at all, smiling here, I prefer to save those words within my work and the worlds of public expression for where they will have an impact, are congruous to the story and not gratuitous, believing in a sense of decorum, a time and a place. My feeling being that if a woman, a person, says the f-word all the time then it loses its meaning and impact. The same can be said for the use of it in one’s work. However, there are pieces of writing, and pieces or work, for which such crudeness is most certainly necessary, though one must keep in mind that writers of fiction are not necessarily what they write. I would urge the reader to familiarize themselves with the definitions of the words “fiction” and “imagination.” I began to realize that I prefer, that is that my personal preference is, a more subtle, nuanced, and perhaps genteel, palette.
I had thought, for a time, that, well, there are of these areas of my life that I could “mine” so to speak, and this is true of every writer in some regard, though inspiration isn’t the finished product. So perhaps you got the idea for a story from the time you went skateboarding in a neighbors empty pool when you were in junior high, but the story then takes off from there until it has nothing to do with the reality it sprang from at all. This word “authenticity” kept coming up, a word that I’ve decided is largely the tool of those who have some need to find a way into manipulating others into wasting a lot of time “proving” themselves about whatever all it is. You know, like someone trying to goad you by calling you “chicken” or “fake.” But in that I realized, well what difference does any of that make if what we are talking about is fiction? Fantasy, imagination, and making up stories? And who is it that is so worthy that I need bare all with regard to…anything? That’s kind of presumptuous, isn’t it? I know who I am, and writing about my so-called “past” or my ancestry or whatever else all day long isn’t going to alter what I already know and it isn’t going to prove anything to those who want to doubt. Am I legit? Have I got cred? Can I prove it? Frankly, that simply makes me feel as though I need some soap. But then if we read that Anne Rice was born in Louisiana and lived in San Francisco does it add something to her writing of vampire fiction, does it read slightly more believable to us, Gothicly speaking? Somehow, does it have more of an air of authenticity? Perhaps. Perhaps it is a harder sell if you’re writing stories about the South or the West or wherever, if you’ve never been there and so on. But, no one has ever set foot on Mars, and there are plenty of stories about that. The conclusion that I’ve ultimately arrived at with regards to that, is that the proof is in the pudding. In other words, the work itself should convey that believability and what is the point of writing fiction if you think that you’ve got to have some kind of real world authenticity to back it up? A writer can either write a particular thing or they can’t.
Lately I’ve heard myself uttering the phrase “finding my niche” with regard to my work. As I’ve ventured here and there I’ve taken a look at what I’ve found myself attracted to and what I’ve found myself shrinking away from. Again within that there’s been much talk about “comfort zones,” something else that I have come to realize is sometimes a manipulation of those who want to get something from you or get you to go somewhere that you either aren’t ready to go or simply have no interest in going. Owing to the fact that I’m hardly a little girl, suffice it to say that in my time I’ve been around the proverbial block. I’ve been not a little upset with myself a time or two for “falling” for certain things however that too has ultimately increased my learning and understanding. These are matters of personal preference and taste and that is all.
So the back and forth between not wanting to be or feel as though I had been pigeon-holed, and not wanting to pigeon-hole myself, and finding my niche has been nothing less than an epic interpersonal wrangling that I’d just as soon not repeat. I didn’t want to let go of anything, as it were, I wanted all of the goodies on my plate. However, there were certain things that anytime I got near them I found over and over again that they just weren’t for me and in some cases it seems a subtle thing and perhaps difficult for some to understand. I’m of the firm belief personally that discretion is the better part of valor, in most cases, and erring on the side of caution, a good idea. Cinematically, my taste runs more toward Skeleton Key or the likes of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil than say Sin City. I prefer a sense of the macabre as opposed to more graphic expression, something with more of a sense of mystery and romance to it, or a different element of romance, if you will. Again, matters of personal preference and taste. I prefer Dashiell Hammet and James Ellroy to Quentin Tarantino, in most cases, when it comes to noir, if that makes any kind of sense to anyone. That doesn’t mean that I don’t ever watch or read anything more graphic, not at all. It is a matter of how well something is done and appreciating it for what it is.
I thought, finally, what am I writing? Really? What do I want to write and what it my natural inclination, because I believe that that will always be one’s strong suit, and within in that, who is my primary audience? I’m writing poetry and prose, stories that have meaning to me. I’m writing about relationships. I’m writing about love. Sometimes, I’m writing about monsters. I’m writing about watching the day fade and slip and glide below the horizon each evening on the whisper of a breeze and the promise of night. I’m my main audience, an intelligent, mature woman with a sense of humor, not interested in being disgusted or offended simply for the sake of it, gratuitously, and generally not finding that to be in the least bit entertaining, truly preferring ladies and gentlemen to broads and brutes, not that both don’t have their merits or place, or usefulness, within the telling of a story and/or life. There’s no judgment in that, some folks live gravy on their mashed potatoes, some like butter, and some don’t like mashed potatoes at all. It is only a matter of finding one’s own place and way. I am a romantic, however well schooled in the areas of logic and reason, I’m looking for that sense of escape in what I read. I’m writing fiction. I’m writing whatever I want to write.
It isn’t easy you know, being a writer, it isn’t ditch digging either but it isn’t easy.