We will begin today’s post with a simple quote from the late great Kurt Cobain:
Wanting to be someone else is a waste of the person you are.
I have been writing something whether it be short stories, poems or now mostly novels for the better part of my life. I can remember as a teen wanting to be Stephen King, writing stories about demonic black cars (too close to Christine) but more like the B movie The Car, stories about vampires who get annoyed that a younger vampire moves into the neighborhood. Mostly they were amateur forays into my own teen age angst.
When I went to college I wanted to be like J.D. Salinger or Wendell Berry, writing from the guts of American life. I wrote short stories and poetry about the act of writing, about the human condition, and generally bored people to death with it.
When I left college I didn’t write for some time, focusing more on finding a mate, and after a long time I found the most awesome wife that God could gift me with. It wasn’t until I had my third child that I started working at writing again.
This time I was older, more seasoned, had an English degree, and had taught writing for some time in the local high school. At this point I had become somewhat of an amateur Tolkien scholar, reading everything I could find about the great writer of Middle Earth, and that led me to discover (again) C.S. Lewis.
Lewis was a Christian writer, but because he did not find a niche for his writing wrote in the secular world, writing what seemed to be secular stories, but each of them had a deeper message of faith. I decided that I did not want to be a Ted Dekker or a Frank Peretti, two writers who have had some minor success breaking out of the “Christian Market”. I wanted to follow in the footsteps of Lewis, writing secular stories that had faith based messages or themes.
I also hit upon the idea that many of the evangelical churches in America are (in my view) following a non-Christian paradigm, being soft on sin, negligent of repentance, and generally straying away from the long held tenets of the faith.
And so, my mission was born. I decided that I would be somewhat like C.S. Lewis or Tolkien, writing stories in the vein of my favorite science fiction writers (Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Philip K. Dick, Harlan Ellison) while using that genre to thematically address the issues that I hold near and dear, mainly the lamentation of my Christian brothers and sisters’ abandonment of biblical truths in favor of wishy-washy, non-committal weekend church going.
My question to you, dear writer, is “Who are you?”. Are you simply copying what you think will “sell” or are you writing from your gut, from your heart? Maybe it is time you took a long look at what you are writing, what type of thing you are writing, and figure out if it is really you. Perhaps you will find a powerful niche that no-one has grasped or attempted to write within.
4 thoughts on “Question for the Writer: Who Are You?”
I’m not sure who I am yet. I feel like I try to be Tolkien, and I can’t decide if I want to avoid that or embrace it. On the one hand that lofty and romanticized high fantasy stuff is what I love, but I also want my stories to be something of my own and not thinly veiled genre fanfic. Obviously part of my problem is that I’m just not writing nearly enough to develop my own voice. I’m not really interested in getting published, at least not at a commercial level, so I’m not writing to sell but I’m not sure if it’s truly me either.
That’s a great comment, Eric. It’s good to learn about what the public is buying and what type of writing people like to read from an esteemed source (whoever we happen to value), but you are right in being happy with your own standards, too.
I think, in today’s market, a human-condition piece is a hard sell anyway. But not as hard as writing a good one. I’d love to be brilliant, but I’d settle for entertaining.
I’m not interested in copying someone else (though I certainly don’t mind being influenced by my favorite writers). In fact, lately I’ve gotten to the point that I’m quite sick of chasing some unattainable writing form in which I am writing deep literary fiction with broad commercial appeal full of brilliant plotting and loaded with incredibly rich characters who spout perfect dialog (supported by perfect tags), each of whom has an arc that makes readers laugh and cry. Because that seems to be the expectation, if you take the message in agent and publisher blogs seriously. Yikes. Steinbeck and Hemingway couldn’t do that.
So I write whatever comes out, and if I like it, I’m happy with it.
Thanks for the insight, Eric. I love to hear from other writers. Everyone is unique!