Tuesday, April 21, 2009

What We Strive For

I've been having a hard time with writing lately because I feel like I'm trying to figure out my place in the writing world. Not my current place--I know where I am currently. I'm a kid with a novel coming out; I'm in the dug out waiting for my turn at bat, and we'll see how I do. I understand that, even if it's haaaard to be patient sometimes.

I mean as a writer at large. I've been reading so much about the publishing industry lately. That probably isn't a good idea. I've been reading about literary fiction vs. genre fiction, debut novels vs. second or third novels, selling a book vs. succeeding as an author...and I've read so many things about how good, honest, literary fiction is dying.

It's hard as a YA writer. In some ways, it's just plain hard to be a YA writer, the same way it's hard to be a science fiction or a romance writer. There's still that stigma that I'm not a "real" writer--that my books are more formulaic than contemporary adult literature, that I'm just churning them out. And I wonder, in a lot of ways, if that's true.

How do I reconcile my desire to feel important with my desire to accurately portray the honest life of a teenager?

I don't want to sacrifice good story for a message. More than that, I'm not sure I have a message yet.

I feel like a hack a lot lately. And I'm blogging about it because, in bitching about that to my friends the way that I do, I'm finding I'm not the only one. Is this a universal thing? Does everyone feel like they're striving for something they can't reach because they don't know who they want to be?

I'd like to be important as a writer, but I don't know what type of important I want to be. I want to be remembered and fresh and original, but not gimmicky. I want to be serious but not morose. I want to be funny without being a joke.

I wish I knew where the line is that divides real writers from unreal writers. I don't think it's publication anymore.


kristin-briana said...

I totally understand what you mean about wanting to have a message but still write a good story. I struggle with that every time I start a new book - does this MEAN anything, or is it just me spilling my imagination onto paper? Does it HAVE to mean something? Is it okay to spill myself onto paper? What do I want to say to my generation, or do I have to say anything at all?

It's tough. But when I write, I try to write first and foremost for myself. I want to give myself a message or a moral before I give it to anyone else, and then I trust that my "message" will translate to others who read it.

Just adding a little to your rant here. ;)

chris said...

Hi, Hannah. Just found your blog and am excited to see your book when it comes out. Sounds like you're asking the questions I wish I had asked about 16 years ago, and I think that probably asking those questions makes you a spectacular person. Even if you don't have the answers.

Sadly, no, not everyone feels like "they're striving for something they can't reach because they don't know who they want to be." Only the really interesting people whose books I want to read. The other people--who don't ask those questions--are sitting in the cubicles next to me.

I hate wanting to be important--it's so exhausting. I've limited my scope, though, and i think that's helped. Like kristin-briana, I am writing now mainly because I can't find what I want most to read, so gotta do it myself.

Good luck to you!

James Klousia said...

I think that every writer should feel like a hack at some point, perhaps even all the time. How else are you going to continually challenge yourself to grow?

For awhile, I read everything I could get my mouse on about the publishing industry, and now I just feel burnt out. Only a few months ago people were saying that ebook readers weren't viable, and now there are half a dozen out there and major players getting into the game (Google and possibly Apple). Who knows what's going to happen in the future? The only thing to do is to keep writing.

You asked: 'How do I reconcile my desire to feel important with my desire to accurately portray the honest life of a teenager?' Perhaps the two go hand in hand. Isn't it the desire of all (or at least most) teenagers to be noticed, to be important?