Anniversary Week - Best of the YA Muses: Writers: Why You Should Stay True to Yourselves
It's always fun to go back to the archives and see some of the posts I've written. While there are many things I've learned as a writer over the years, much of the journey is cyclical. Writing doubts. Submission jitters. The joy and terror of feedback from crit partners, readers, reviews. This post reflects a belief that's evergreen for me. I always believe this, even if that belief can momentarily be overshadowed by a passing cloud. Here it is. Why you should stay true to yourself as a writer first:
I think about this topic quite a lot. I fall into these eddies, where I’m circling, thinking about who I should be writing for. Me? My editor? My agent? My fans? My dog?
What kind of story would my dog like to read?
This is tough to answer accurately, so instead I start thinking about all the books I've read and enjoyed. Maybe that'll give me a clue. So I go to my bookshelf or the bookstore or library and this eventually leads me to the realization that there are lots of books out there. You see them by the thousands across this great world. New books. Classics. Reprints. Ebooks. Paper books. Fiction and nonfiction and short and tall and so on.
Most readers will pick one among these fifty billion novels, read it, and move on. That’s the nature of reading. Like surfers addicted to chasing the perfect wave, we are always searching for that next great read,
Considering the odds, considering the sheer numbers, your books (my books? our books) stand a much better chance of impressing something of permanent significance to you than to a reader. This is not to say you won't touch readers. I believe any story that's told honestly will find its rightful place. It's to say that the only true part you can ensure is how you relate to your book.
You will write and revise it for months and probably closer to years. You will need to know your character’s favorite ice cream flavors. You will need to know plot points and reversals and themes. You will spend one million percent (Bret, please don’t audit the math on this post) more time with this book than any of your fans or agents editors or dogs ever will.
Your book stays with you forever. It becomes a thing that you did. That you produced. And, like having a child, it’s a permanent deal.
So. I say be proud of it. Value your time. Value what you have to say. Not what your agent wants you to say or your dog. You. Always start there. Give yourself that. Value your ideas. Books allow you to make them permanent. They are magical that way. And that's worth a quadrillion times (estimated figure) more than any other reward.
Currently, it's late (like 2 am) and I can't think of an image that goes with "staying true
to yourself." So here are some bison that I saw in Yellowstone this summer.
Maybe bison posses a lot of integrity?