This was going to be an April Fools’ Day post.
I was going to come up with a really clever concept and execute it in a sneaky enough fashion that you would reach the end of the post and realize you’d just spent several minutes reading what you thought was one thing but was actually another. April Fools’! The joke is on you. Heh. In the meantime, I’d be sitting somewhere in front of a computer screen giggling. It was going to be great.
Then the deadline got closer. And closer. And I never came up with a really clever concept.
I’m not a humorous writer, not like Bart and Lauren are. I understand this about myself. I kind of pretend like I forget sometimes, though. Then I go through this whole range of emotions: tasting possibility, hopefulness rising, sitting down to a blank screen, words coming out and taking me on a journey with them. And then I end up with another earnest, heartfelt, introspective collection of thoughts that’s nothing like I wanted at all. I’ve been a journaler since graduating from high school. This is the kind of writing that comes out naturally. Or, fine, also when I’m being lazy.
This is okay. Not everyone can be everything they want to be, do everything they want to do. Most of the time I don’t want to be a funny writer. When the urge does strike, I think it’s more that I want to prove something to myself.
A couple of days ago, one of my friends made a very deadpan sarcastic comment about my hoarse, recovering-from-laryngitis voice; then, about a minute later, he asked, “You realize I was joking, right?”
Am I supposed to interpret this like I don’t know how to take a joke? I didn’t take it this way. But am I supposed to?
If there was one thing I learned from four years working in publishing, it was that positioning yourself is everything. If you can’t pitch your project in one sentence, maybe two, preferably referring to mashups of already existent works—”It’s Hunger Games meets Game of Thrones starring Jane Eyre”—you won’t even get in the door. You won’t even make it past a cursory skim of the cover email. You will fit into a genre and you will be sold in this genre. If you try to leave the genre, or the age range, people will grow uncomfortable about giving you that new contract (well, if what you’ve been doing is working, anyways). So knowing what category you aren’t is almost as useful as knowing what category you are.
I’m now almost three months post-publishing, and I’m finally easing into a frame of mind where I’m ready to think about writing again. Like, actual writing. It’s kind of like I’ve been detoxing, or recovering from trauma. This sounds terrible, and it wasn’t really; it was just that my mind had been so taken over by other people’s words and ideas and phrasings that it sort of shut down in terms of producing its own words. I miss editing, but I’m reading real books again. It’s wonderful.
But when I tell this to people, my writing hopes and dreams and thoughts, the first question they invariably ask is: “What do you write?”
At this point, all existent categories totally flee my brain. That’s not true. It’s true that I feel silly saying, “Well, I’m working on a young adult fantasy novel. It’s a fairy tale retelling.” It’s also true that I am being exploratory in my writing: I’m interested in trying out poetry, more creative nonfiction, maybe even a middle-grade novel or a beginning reader. I am also in the process of co-launching a food blog. I don’t like limiting myself. Or being taken not seriously. (Hmm. Maybe I do need to lighten up.)
Anyways, usually I just say, “I’m figuring it out.” Which, I have just realized, sounds like I’m not really doing anything at all. Though it’s truth.
I think there is also something to be said, though, for owning the fact that I’m in the middle of a process and I kind of dislike it and wish I were at the other end saying “I am a [insert genre] writer and I own it.” Then I could sell books and make money and my writing itch could be satisfied somewhat. Kind of like a dear friend of mine who left publishing and is now a successful, twice-published young adult fantasy novelist.
For now, I’ll be the non-humorous one on this blog and send this in.
Don’t steal my mashup idea, by the way.
After graduating with an English degree, Amy (Allen) Frieson (’10) moved to New York City and spent several exhilarating years working in children’s book publishing. Now, she works as a career consultant and has much more time for writing, reading, wandering the city, cooking non-vegetarian meals (a new thing), dreaming about apartment renovations, and leading worship along with her husband at their NYC CRC.