Don’t worry, I’m not going to go all existential on you. Leave that to Camus . . .
But I have been thinking a lot lately about what I write and why I write it.
Up until the Master Class, I always introduced myself as a mystery writer. End of story. Let people draw whatever conclusions they wanted. I knew what that meant. However, a weird thing happened during those two weeks in Oregon. All of us wrote well more than 30,000 words. And guess what? Of the three short stories, the ten or so book proposals, and all the other assignments, I came up with exactly one thing that had to do with the mystery genre. Yep. One measly four-page book proposal.
Of course, I didn’t write anything funny either. But that’s probably due to the fact that I was so tired I skipped over being slaphappy and went straight into morose.
What the hell?
The mystery thing, the lack thereof, seriously messed with my mind. I’d established myself with writing traditional mysteries. That’s where I’d garnered nominations, met other writers, relished spending time with readers. And I was abandoning all of that?
Skip forward nine months. I’m writing daily again. Short stories for now. The pieces I’ve worked on so far are all over the place – in terms of genre – horror, fantasy, mainstream, literary. Notice anything missing?
It seems that my identity as a mystery writer has somehow morphed into something far simpler but much more problematic.
I’m a writer.
From a marketing/public relations perspective, this is a disaster. Conventional wisdom dictates that once you’ve established an audience, you should keep writing works that audience expects/wants. That way your readers can find you. But screw that!
I don’t want to be consistent right now. I don’t want to shove myself into any category – not even fiction vs. nonfiction. I just want to write, damnit! I want to have fun, to explore where my creativity wants to go next, to see what’s around all those twisty turns in my mind.
So where do I go from here?
Hell, I don’t know.
I’m just going . . .
(More food for thought: Toni Causey’s excellent exploration about writers and joy and joy in writing from yesterday — right here in the ‘Rati. Go there immediately if you didn’t read it. Go on. I’ll wait . . .)
My questions for discussion today:
1. For everyone: Has your personal myth, the one you repeat to yourself and the public, ever changed unintentionally?
2. Readers: Should writers stick to their successes, write what they’ve written at least some of the time, to keep growing audience? Is it a betrayal when they don’t? Should they use pen names to give readers/editors a clue that they’re going in new directions?
3. Writers: Have you ever had these moments of redefinition? How have you handled them? Have they brought you joy (thanks, Toni) or caused misery?