Saturday, July 08, 2006

Juicy Behinds or You can't change the writer you are

One evening this past week, hubby and I went to a mall. I won't tire you with my shopping experience (it bored me already), but I will share one little incident:

At some point we went up an escalator. I was still trying to see if anything on the rack near the escalator was something I desired when I noticed hubby looking at me with a very uncomfortable expression on his face. Facing the front now, I saw the source of his discomfort: a Juicy bottom. Meaning? Some woman, standing a couple of steps up, was wearing sweat pants with the word Juicy right across her behind (hubby's eye level).

I was delighted at hubby's reaction, but since I cannot leave any stone unturned, I asked him later in the evening what was it about that whole situation that made him so uncomfortable?
He looked at me dumbfounded. "I wasn't uncomfortable."
"But you looked like you were," I insisted. "You looked away from her."
"Yeah, well, she was just disgusting," he said.
Now it was my turn to be confused. "So it wasn't the juicy butt that made you uncomfortable?"
"Nope," he said. "The butt was just fine."
And I had to agree with him on that one.

What does all this have to do with writing, you're probably asking by now.

Well, the way I see it, as intelligent and 'sensitive' a guy is, he remains still and always - a guy. Can't really fight it (who would want to, anyways?).

Similarly we can't change the person we are nor the writer we are. Writing in order to satisfy markets, readers, editors isn't something any of us should to do. Writers should write what they want to write and how they want to write it.

This isn't really a "rules vs. free spirit" discussion, or genre confines or anything of that sort. It's more a question of how much writers hinder their own creativity by worrying about markets/readers/editor. I know that some of you may argue that readers should always be in mind of a writer, but I'm thinking, 'readers in mind' is a tweakable thing to do after a sale, after there are actually potential readers.

If a writer concentrates on writing and is good, persistent and lucky, s/he might even get published one day.

Okay, so maybe my allegory was a little far fetched (okay, a lot), but I wanted to share the incident and my latest writing thoughts and this seemed like a great way to combine them.

Categories: , ,


rdl said...

I like it!

CrazyComposer (aka Peter Amsel) said...

Your comments are especially relevant to me at this time as I’m working on a project in which my main characters are female. I’ve discovered that it goes beyond “getting in touch” with your feminine side as a male writer creating a believable female character, you have to retrain your mind (while you are in the creative process, which some might argue never ends) to think and feel like a woman.

At the moment I’m not entirely sure how successful the entire process is turning out, but it has been one of the most interesting creative endeavours that I’ve ever been involved with, that I can say without reservation.

Your blog is very interesting – thanks for the information about the Amazon competition. –p

Melly said...

rdl, count on you to like this - LOL!

Peter, thanks :)
Is it the first time you write from a female's perspective?
I remember the first time I had a male protagonist. I way overdid the macho thing. It was quite funny really :)

Jaye Wells said...

Something like that happened today at the mall to us. Hubby turned to me.
"Did you see that girl in the pink shirt?" he said.
"The one with the big uh, you know," he said.
"No," I said with an edge.
"I was just trying to read her shirt, I swear. I just worried she thought I was checking out her cleavage."
"Really? What did the shirt say?" I asked.
"I have no idea."

Yes, guys will be guys. And writers will be writers. I don't think you can totally ignore the market nor potential readers. You want to write something people want to read. The catch is to not be formulaic.

michaelm said...

I will read ANY post that contains the words "juicy behind". ;)
This is a great post, Melly.
I agree with you 100% that we must first write for ourselves.
Damn the torpedoes, it's what makes us all writers in the first place.
Your creativity and insight shines in this post and I find the juicy bum/writing angle an inspiration of sorts.
It makes me cognizant of the fact that I have to be forever viligant in seeking material to write about.
It's there right in front of me most of the time. I just need to open my eyes.


Nienke said...

Recently, while trying to figure out why I was having such a hard time writing enough, I realized that my goals were skewed. I was focused on word count and perfection. Now I've changed my goals to how much time I spend on my writing. I brought back the original reason why I even started writing - because I enjoy it.
I agree with your statement that writers should write what they want and how they want to write it. The true passion will come through this way. And, like you said, one can always tweak it.
I know a lot of people write with the sole goal of being published. I, too, have that goal, but not at the cost of my enjoyment of writing.

Melly said...

Jaye, that's absolutely hilarious!
I will probably disagree with you on that one. For example, one short story I wrote ended up selling to a YA market. What we did is to change one scene where the protagonist spends with his girl-friend. So even in this extreme example where I might tend to agree that writers may need to have readers in mind, it worked out without having readers in mind.

Michael, my my, thanks :)
I'm glad someone like the angle. I thought it was funny, but people around here seem to be shying away from anything smelling of not sure even what ;)
And I especially like the torpedoe analogy, don't believe I've heard that one before.

Nienke, oh, you put it so much more elegnatly than I did. Goodness. Thanks. I guess that's a much better way of putting it - the goals and focus when writing.

redchurch said...

I don't think writing for your own satisfaction and writing for the market are mutually exclusive. Not in the slightest.

I think a better frame for distinguishing the two is primary and secondary goals. Enjoying the writing process is a primary goal, because without that why bother writing? You won't have the passion to be good at it, either.

Publishing, or being marketable is the secondary goal--but equally as important if you care about being a pro. If not, that's ok too.

So... primary is enjoyment--for the simple fact of motivation. If you're not motivated, you can't write. That's obvious, isn't it?

I think the problem is when people confuse the primary and secondary goals. Or when one of the goals is missing--such as a case where someone only writes for themselves but they also want to be published and marketable, but have no goal established to address that.

redchurch said...

More primary and secondary goals...

Mel said:

"Writers should write what they want to write and how they want to write it."

What if a writer wants to write something generic or formulaic? :)

It's like a saying we have in the game industry. "Nobody ever intends to make a bad game." Likewise, nobody ever sets out to write a bad novel.

Writing what you want is the first step--it's the step to enjoying the writing process.

But what if the subject matter the writer chooses is boring?

What if the person wanted to go pro? Say they're already writing exactly what they want to write, but it simply doesn't sell, and no team of publisher marketing experts can make it sell. Then what?

Should the writer sulk back into the world of being an amateur? Or should they try and mix up their ideas a little more, and maybe find something a little more culturally resonant?

Does that always clash with what they want to write? And... what should the writer do if it does?

Just asking... and playing a little devil's advocate. :)

Even if you write what you want, it's hard to ignore these kinds of questions... unless you just don't care.

Is not caring what the world thinks part of having artistic integrity?

Melly said...

Eric - "What if a writer wants to write something generic or formulaic? :)"
Then by all means, that's what the writer should write!

"what if the subject matter the writer chooses is boring?"
It's not boring to the writer, is it? And if he already chosen one boring subject, who's to say he won't just choose another?

"What if the person wanted to go pro?"
Who says one can't go pro writing what they want? They may need to improve the writing or tweak it once they have a market in mind.

Eric, do you really think that once (amateur) writers starts putting constraints or change their writing to accomodate markets and readers they would become better writers or become pro? That's a big assumption on your part. I think it's more likely they would probably remain amateurish, only amateurs who don't enjoy themselves.

So you see where I'm going with your questions...
Maybe if we take your primary and secondary goal approach, I might explain my point of view better -
any beginning writer should at first consider themselves only.
Any beginning piece should at first be free of constraints.
Once a writer goes pro, a writer could change some things to accomodate things.

redchurch said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
redchurch said...

I guess what I'm arguing for is a Darwinism that each writer applies to his or her pool of ideas.

Writing what you want doesn't necessarily mean you're picking your best ideas.

Writing what you want can just as easily be choosing your weakest, poorest, least marketable ideas, and running with those under the justification of "I want to write about it."

So before dashing off in the writers' rage to write a bad story concept just because you want to, maybe think about the different ideas you have for stories, and pick the one that you think has the best shot for seeing the light of day, or one that others might like?

My point is, writing what you want is the ultimate motivation, but doesn't imply you'll have a great story concept. Not in the slightest...

But a writer can easily have both by simply applying a more rigorous sorting process to the pool of ideas.

Melly said...

Eric, you make a while slew of assumptions here that I don't really agree with, hence I get to different "conclusions."
I'd say that the execution matters sometimes (although not always) over ideas. That's why it's importnat to concentrate on that.
Ideas come and go and are rarely original anyways, so it's vital that the execution is as good as it can be.
That's the way I see it.
As for having many different ideas, great! Writers should choose the idea that would complement themselves most to create the best work. That's what counts at the end.

redchurch said...

Mel, which assumptions don't you agree with?

I agree writers should choose the idea that complements themselves most to create the best work. I think where we disagree is the idea that blindly following what you 'want' will achieve that automatically--and I don't think that it does.

I want a lot of things, some better than others, and not all of them are good. Hence my point. :)

redchurch said...

Dare I call the "want is everything" approach, hedonistic? Melly's Hedonistic Approach to Writing.

Muhawhaw! Ok, now I'm teasing. :)