What does it mean to stay true to yourself?
A few weeks ago Chris Daughtry performed in the reveal night of American Idol. And he gave great advice to the contestants. Stay true to yourself.
Um, yeah, that’s great Chris, I mean Daughtry, but what does that mean for me as a writer? I’ve been asking myself the hard questions.
The top ten on Idol are all good singers. But there are some that are definitely artists. They stick out. They are branded by their looks, their song choice, and their style of singing.
I think it’s true with writers too. There are many excellent writers that do not get published. There are many excellent writers that do.
So, what does that mean for me? How do I stay true to myself and what I like to write – while pursuing a career in writing?
For me, it means:
I can explore other genres or styles of writing. It’s okay.
I shouldn’t chase market trends. Because we’ve all heard it’s like chasing the pot at the end of the rainbow.
I should be writing the kind of book I love to read.
What does it mean for you? How do you stay true to yourself? If you love the idea of flying polka dotted ninja pigs but the market is flooded – should you still try to write about them?
What are the tough questions I should be asking myself? Help me out.
This is an interesting question to think about. I definitely agree with #2 and #3. I need to write that I want to write, without thinking about what might be “hot”. Each writer has a unique story to tell, and a unique way of getting it written.
I guess my answer is that Chris should have said ‘Be true to yourself, but be smart’ ?
Sometimes it is really easy to sit back in the big comfy easy chair and write what comes easiest to you… <- for me it is epic fantasy. <- Which includes traditional prince/princess/dragon/steed fantasy and also the other kind of fantasy which is essentially modern character types in a traditional fantasy world who go on a quest or are captured by enemy warlords and must escape with their wits and a little sword/wand skill. So much fun. 🙂
Problem is that very few agents are taking epic fantasy right now. It won't be like that forever, but for right now it is a shut door.
So, while I have a large handful of completed traditional/epic fantasy novels that are set to go when the market changes again, I'm learning to write other genres. That doesn't necessarily mean I'm a sell out.
I guess the translation is – I'm writing characters and situations that I can identify with, giving my own spin to things. I'm writing a different genre… my way.
The result is that people who know me can generally pick out the one story I wrote from a clump of others. Hopefully, not because of bad writing. 🙂
I don’t have any tough questions for you…only that I think you’re doing it all right! And, the market won’t be flooded forever. You can shelve your flying polka dotted ninja pigs for now — or kick the market on its ear by doing it better than anyone else has. 😉
You said it yourself, we’re all pursuing a career in writing. Pursue. Chase. Like a Lion chasing down an antelope on the Savannah. The Lion doesn’t give up, and neither should you. (not that you are, it’s just that it sounds like you’re a bit down today!)
There, I’ve been philosophical today. I’m tired.
I do think writing what moves you, thrills you, grabs you around the throat and won’t let go are the stories to write. If you don’t love your story, who will. That said, you might make choices regarding the timing of when to write a particular story. For example If you’ve just published a debut contemporary edgy YA-novel, you might want to stick with that style for your next book, and hopefully you’ll have a story that inspires you in that sub-genre.
Andrea – Yes! We have to focus on our uniqueness. Good way to look at it.
Cate – Smart move. Recognizing a trend and trying something new.
Kris – No, I’m not down. That comment from Daughtry has just stayed with me. I guess I’m being philosophical.
Thanks Paul. Great advice!
And for some crazy reason, I have not been able to comment on anyone’s blogs today! I have no idea why not. But, I’m reading them!
Paul’s right, write what thrills you. I tell my students to focus on the writing, not the career because it all starts with a great manuscript. And great manuscripts are ones that show your passion for the characters, and the story. And that happens by writing what thrills you.
Experimenting with genre’s,(reading as well as writing),trying new things,reading what we love is still being true to ourselves. Writers are creative and I think this kind of activity keeps us fresh. As far as writing something that is a trend–that works for the few lucky “copy cats” but who remembers their books?
Great advice Andrea!
Thanks Catherine. I agree with the copycatting. If I have an idea that is remotely close to a book I’ve read, I scratch it. It’s good to be rebellious sometimes.
I guess I think of being true to yourself by not trying to copy other writers or genres because they’re “popular”. Write because you can express it in only the way you can. 🙂
Good definition, Jennifer. Thanks. I’m not sure what it means for me yet. I think a little bit of what everyone has said.
I think there are days when I’m still trying to figure that out.
I took a class on finding your voice once. The writing one… My kids are well acquainted with my loud voice. 🙂
One of the things that stuck with me was when the instructor asked us to review each piece of work that we had in our arsenal… what did they all have in common? What themes ran through them?
It was an eye opener because I found that each of my stories has some theme regarding siblings and the bond they share… and other family related themes.
So I guess no matter what I write, as long as I stay true to that voice I’m staying true to myself.
To me it means staying true to my convictions and not being persuaded to be someone hat i am not. It helps for me to step back and review my priorities and goals.
Patti – I’m sure it’s a process to figure out and different layers to it too.
Ansha – I definitely have themes in my writing. Usually friendship or family relationships.
Karen – I like that definition!
I am definitely writing about a topic that I love and not towards the trends right now. Some of my pbs are the same way. Eventually I hope my passion for the topic and writing will shine and be published.
One simple question works for me: Am I writing the book I would love to be reading? That’s it. That’s all I can do. Beyond that it’s chasing rainbows.
I only understand writing what works for me. That’s after a career of writing promo stuff for a school for the blind. So I know I can write what’s needed, what the boss wants… I think that’s similar to what the market wants. But that kind of writing doesn’t fill my soul. Will all my stuff get published? No. But I feel that everything I write – everything that anyone writes – brings us to the next level. So we keep going, seeing what’s there and how we fit in, and keep writing and going to yet another level… Who knows where the love of writing will take us.
Yes, that’s what I want to write–the type of book I love to read.
Never giving up. That’s the best way to stay true to yourself!