Today is Life List Club Friday. For more information about LLC, click the tab at the top of this site. For a complete listing of LLC members, check the LLC Blogroll in the right margin of this page. Today, my guest is Sonia Medeiros whose blogs appear at http://doingthewritething.wordpress.com. You’ll find more information about her at the end of this post. When you finish reading Sonia’s post, travel over to Jennie Bennett’s site, http://abookagirlajourney.blogspot.com, where she’s hosting my post “On Being a Christian” today. Enough intro—let’s get on to Sonia’s post.
Word Wars: Attack of the Should-Shouldn’ts
Does it ever seem like everyone else knows exactly what we should write and they just can’t wait to tell us?
• You should write a story about…
• You shouldn’t bother writing short stories because nobody reads them anymore.
• You should write like Stephanie Meyer or Dan Brown or J.K. Rowling or Stephen King ’cause then you could make a ton of money.
• You should write something important, not like that dreck Stephanie Meyer or Dan Brown or J.K. Rowling or Stephen King writes.
• You should write mystery or romance because they always sell. Or maybe YA supernatural romantic suspense about corporally-challenged vampire-hunting ghosts with boyfriend problems because that’s so hot right now.
• You should pick a genre and stick with it because it’s too confusing for readers if you write in more than one genre.
For the most part, all these should-shouldn’ts seem well-intentioned. It comes from folks who want us to succeed. Or it comes from folks who are excited about an idea and convinced that they could never write it…but you could. Or they’ve read or heard what some mega-famous writer has to say about writing and they’re convinced it’s the word.
Sometimes it’s not so well-intentioned or maybe just unintentionally hurtful.
• You know, not everyone has the talent to write really great stories.
• It’s all been done before and you can’t really come up with a unique story. So why bother?
• Or, as someone once asked me after reading (yet another) of my horror-ish short stories: Why don’t you ever write nice stories?
I haz to rite wat?
And it isn’t always other people dishing out the should-shouldn’ts. Sometimes we tell ourselves we must write a certain story or we can’t write another kind of story. We want our friends and family to read our stuff and brag about it. And maybe our friends and family don’t read romance, horror, fantasy, literary fiction or whatever it is that really floats our boats. We try to limit what we write so we can fit in the tiny box we’ve made for ourselves out of all of this advice, theirs and ours.
But stuffing ourselves into that little box means there’s no room to breathe, to grow. There’s no room to flail about and find out what really works. Our passion is what gives our stories life, whatever the genre. If we put limits on the stories we tell because we think that’s the kind of story we should write, we kill the story. Maybe the story we have to tell isn’t hot right now, in an always popular category, isn’t going to make us a ton of money, or nice (or maybe it’s too nice) but it’s the story we must tell.
We have to tell the stories that thrill us. The stories that knock around in our heads and demand to be told. We have to follow where the words lead, even if it means tripping out of the genre we always thought we’d write or writing in several unrelated genres.
Then they all die. The end.
There’s a place for business decisions about writing. A time to tailor what’s written for the reader and market. A time to worry about whether we have a solid brand.
But when we’re opening ourselves to the inspiration around us and when we’re first outlining our ideas or putting the first words on the page, we have to shove all the should-shouldn’ts in the basement. And lock the door. We have to listen to the stories that call us. We have to be true to ourselves.
Have you been on the receiving end of these should-shouldn’ts? What are some of the things you’ve been told? How’ve you held yourself back with shoulds and shouldn’ts? What stories call you?
Sonia G Medeiros is a writer of fantasy, science fiction, and horror. She’s the author of more than a dozen short stories and flash fiction pieces, blogs at WordPress, and is working on her first novel, a dark fantasy. When she’s not wandering along the tangled paths of her wild imagination, she wrangles home life with one fabulous husband, two amazing, homeschooled children, three dogs, one frog and two cats who battle each other for world domination.