|"Study drawing shows the allegorical figure of Romance nude. She bends her head to read a book on her lap. Romance was one figure in a painting, The arts, in the north end lunette of the Southwest Gallery in the Library of Congress' Jefferson Building." Graphite drawing (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
And, How Are You Overcoming It?
Last week, I looked at strengths. This time, I want to take a gander at weaknesses. We all have them. I know what my major weakness is, one of many, but this one is the most important: I spread myself too thinly.
What do I mean?
I do this in many ways:
1. I divide my time between many activities instead of concentrating on what's most important.
2. I can't settle on any given genre, spreading my ideas into many different types of writing so that I find it difficult to label myself as a practitioner in any one field.
3. I support too many different campaigns, giving my voice and action to a multitude of worthy causes.
4. I read many differing titles, failing to concentrate on a specific topic or genre.
Okay, I hear many of you choosing one or more of these instances and arguing that these are not necessarily bad things. And, I agree. Variety is essential to anyone who creates. A wide-ranging interest is vital to the development of knowledge and intellect. Compassion is a response given by a caring heart and restricting it may seem selfish. Ideas can either be adapted and crammed, made to fit a specific genre of writing, or they can be given the freedom to express themselves in whatever form seems most appropriate for the story.
Let's deal first with those things that are outside the narrower field of writing, those things that fall within the normal life choices of us all, regardless of what we do for a living.
The causes are always a personal matter. I feel as if I get involved with many, but, in reality, I tend to concentrate on 4 main areas. (a)The environment and those things that impact on the future of the planet. (b) Poverty and it's destructive effect on those under its heel. (c) Religion and its negative input to society in general. (d) Education for all, especially women. Of course, these interests tend to spread and merge with others and bleed off into associated topics. And, yes, I do find myself sometimes pulled into a fight for farm animals, wild animals, even pets. It would be possible for me to spend my entire waking life fighting for causes in one way or another. But I feel I wouldn't be doing the best possible with the few talents I possess, so I have to consciously curtail and restrict those activities. They do, nevertheless, consume large amounts of my time and energy. Will I stop? Of course not. It's who I am and I'm willing to put up with that for the sake of those things I care about. Could I do more? Of course. Will I? Probably not, simply because I have a limited amount of time and energy at my disposal and there are other aspects of life I wish to become involved with.
Reading is another personal choice. The experts and pundits would have us believe that we, as writers, must read all we can of the contemporary genre(s) in which we write. I have some sympathy with the point of view. But I'm interested in many different things and my reading time is as limited as all other aspects of modern life. Let's have a 72 hour day and the need for no sleep and I might get close to reading some of what I'd like to sample. But the reality is that we are, again, limited by time and energy and therefore must select those books that we feel are most likely to entertain, inform, educate and inspire us. I currently have a 'to read' list over 130 titles in length, all sitting on my shelves. I had made a decision to read them all before I bought, borrowed or accepted as gifts, any new books. But, in writing this piece, I find myself subject to a small epiphany. I shall go through that list and extract all those titles that I was going to read in reality because they 'ought to be read'. They can go back on the shelves, to be read at leisure once I no longer have the urge to write. So, they can accompany me in my coffin and I'll read them by the light of slow putrefaction. I'll read those that I actually want to read and the rest can wait. I'm curious to see how that will reduce the list. See, this exercise has already produced positive results, for me at least.
Finally, my inability to settle on a specific genre. Will I tailor my future writing to, say, thrillers, or perhaps that most popular genre, romance? Maybe I'll concentrate on science fiction, or its brother, fantasy. Should I dive into the dark world of horror? Maybe I could dig up some crime. A bit of mystery? History calls from afar. A bit of sex in the form or erotica might spice things up a little.
But, actually, I'm not the sort of writer who can even begin a story with an idea of genre. When an idea takes me, I start to write and the genre emerges from the tale as I tell it. I am, at heart, a story teller. I love character and those threads of event that characters cause during interaction. I cannot envisage sitting down and writing out a plot. Oh, believe me, I've tried. Plot is a device, an artificial construct on which a story may be built. It's suitable for many types of stories. But not for the stories I develop. I write organically, I write by the seat of my pants. A plot would simply get in the way and, in any case, I'd deviate from it as soon as the first character decided he or she didn't want to go in that direction. So, I guess I'm stuck with being a multi-genre writer. I accept that means I'll never be known in any given field; I'm unlikely to be considered a commercial prospect by any publisher. I understand that my chances of making a million with my writing are significantly reduced (as if that chance ever really existed anyway. Even if it did, it was never a motivator for me). But I write because I must and I write because I love it and I write because I have things to say. If I don't do that in my own way, with my own voice, what's the point?
So, those are my confessions, which, they say, are good for the soul. This has been a useful exercise for me. It might help you; it depends on the sort of writer you are and what motivates you, I suppose. Why not share your thoughts in the comments? I love to know what others think.