From Sarah, With Joy

Sarah Allen on the craft, business, and joy of being a writer.

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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Why Aren't Good Things Good for Everyone? (Or Why Isn't Everyone A Cumberbabe?)

So I've been thinking about something and it's sort of why doesn't everyone freak out at the thought of Benedict Cumberbatch's cheekbones but it's mostly more than that.

Do any of you remember that part in The Office where Pam is talking about how Jim's new girlfriend doesn't like her and she says something like "I just hate the thought of anyone not liking me. I mean, I think even the Taliban, that if they actually met me and got to know me they would like me." Sometimes I feel like that. Okay, all the time.

But with writing specifically, I think we always want all our work to be loved and adored by EVERYONE. I get to feeling like that and want everyone to know about my work and then I think of some of my favorite things and remember that even people who have read Wallace Stegner don't love him. I don't understand it, but it's the truth.

I guess it's just something I personally need a reminder of every once in a while, and it's something interesting to think about philosophically. Sherlock is Good. All the Little Live Things and Persuasion are Good. But not everybody loves them, which says a lot more about us as humans then it does about the books and art and shows and music. We are all different, and we all need to hear and feel different things at different times, and some things just click while some things don't. Maybe that isn't a novel idea, but it makes things look a little more beautiful.

So our job as writers is to reach those people who we connect with, and help them feel less lonely in the world. If we do our best work there will be plenty. I also think the best way to reach the largest audience is to write a wide variety. Focus on our contemporary novel, yes, but also write YA and picture books and middle grade and maybe romance and articles for magazines and a non-fiction book and maybe some personal essays and short stories too. Not just to get a wider audience, but to stretch ourselves as artists as well.

Anyway, those are my thoughts for the day...yours?

Sarah Allen

7 comments:

  1. I had a similar situation like this. A disagreement arose over my second book. One person loved it and thought it was a strong sequel that really set things up for the third book. Another, however, didn't like my protagonist at all and felt I didn't do enough to make the setting believable.

    Sometimes people won't like that we write. We can't do anything about it, nor should we try. I think the fact that tastes and opinions can vary so greatly is a wonderful thing; it means everything can have its own place and nothing is ever completely good or bad.

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  3. It is interesting what strikes some as fantastic may not be appealing to others. Looking at your TV examples, I think of the show House, which some people absolutely loved. His character drove me crazy and I couldn't stand the dose of negativity and snarkiness. Just my personality. But here's what I think IS good. If we're writing from a place of authenticity, then I think our personalities, preferences and emotions will come through and by their very nature, they won't appeal to everyone. Maybe we shouldn't be trying for a universal appeal.

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  4. I admit that I don't understand the appeal of Benedict Cumberbatch. ;)

    I've actually been thinking a lot on this subject lately. Readers (and consumers of media in general) are so varied but the big media companies often act like we're all the same. There are way too many references to "readers" and what "readers" want as if we're some sort of borg like entity that all think exactly the same way and have the same needs. But that's just not how it is. There isn't a story in the world that appeals to everyone. And that's not a bad thing.

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  5. I love this advice. Sometimes I'll get an idea, and I'll sort of push it away because it's not what I usually write. Wouldn't that be going against my "brand"? But eventually I just realize it would be going against my desire to grow as a writer. :)

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  6. Great advice. And interesting post.

    Nas

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  7. I enjoyed your thoughts! I do think it's great to write in different genres to stretch yourself as a writer!

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