Before I start with this blog post, an explanation as to my absence over the past ten days or so. It’s been a busy week here at the Out Where the Buses Don’t Run compound. Haven’t had much of a chance to to write or do any blogging, no less read anyone’s blogs. I’ve been filling in for a colleague who’s taking a much-needed two-week vacation, and his workload is a doozy; my work hours have increased somewhat, but I’m getting the work done. I swear, when he gets back on Monday, I’m going to make him take me out to lunch. And not to Taco Bell; he’s got a reputation for being a bit of a tightwad, so I’m going to make him buy me a steak for my troubles.
We’ve also introduced a puppy into the family. She’s an eight-week-old pure breed Black Lab we’ve named Sadie. When we picked her from the breeder’s farm, she was the quiet one, but she’s been anything but quiet since she’s come home. Still, she’s a cutie, and I’m glad we have her. It’s been more than 12 years since we’ve had a puppy, so it’s been something of a re-learning process for me, having to re-learn how to break a puppy out of doing things like peeing indoors, and biting, things a puppy think are normal, but are correctable behaviors.
Lastly, we put our house on the market. Before that, a flurry of activities taking place to get the house into a “show-ready” condition. The house was repainted, which meant painters moving everything around and being in the way. I can’t complain, though; the paint crew I hired did a phenomenal job and finished a day earlier than expected. I told them I’d send some business their way. Last Friday, the “For Sale” sign went up on our yard, and the house was listed online. We’ve had three showings already, with another one scheduled for Monday night. To say I’m slightly unnerved by this is an understatement.
No wonder I feel as if I need a shot of whiskey and a cigarette. And I don’t smoke!
I did concentrate this week on an old short story I wrote almost a decade ago. It’s one of my favorites, but I always felt something was missing. I’ve been re-writing it, expanding it a few hundred words more, to give it a little more of a backstory. Not sure what I really want to do with the short story; I’m contemplating expanding it into a long short story, and submitting it to Kindle Singles, something in the 15,000-25,000/25 page story entry.
Before all the nuttiness that took place, my wife and daughter and I did go see Pacific Rim. I absolutely enjoyed it; it reminded me of all those Godzilla movies and Mega-robot cartoons I watched (Voltron, Shogun Warriors, Gobots) as a kid. Pacific Rim was fun, a rock-’em, sock-’em blast with a ton of heart, and I appreciated most that this came from the fertile and childlike imagination of Guillermo Del Toro.
As I watched Pacific Rim, I got the sense that Del Toro was given a rare gift: the ability to make exactly the kind of film he, if he were the filmviewer, would want to see. And that got me thinking about one of the best pieces of advice one can give and receive about writing, or about creating art, in the first place: write the kind of novel you want to read. My thoughts on this were more evident when I read some of the very few bad reviews Pacific Rim garnered, all of which seemed to focus on how Del Toro, a critically acclaimed filmmaker, could make what one critic dubbed a two-hour robots vs. monsters slugfest? The negative criticism seemed to miss Del Toro’s point: Pacific Rim was his childhood, reimagined on the big screen. And it was my childhood, and many other filmgoers’ childhoods as well.
What I could tell as I was watching Pacific Rim was that this film was a deeply personal statement and experience for Guillermo Del Toro. As it should be.
The point being, if we wrote the kind of novel we imagined other readers might want to read, or directed the kinds of films other filmviewers want to read (and that’s something of a slippery slope, considering filmgoers tend to be very finicky, as evidenced by the giant turkey that is The Lone Ranger), then we’re just creating the same kind of art, all disposable, all gunning for one singular and not-so tangible experience. If Quentin Tarantino made Django Unchained as a run-of-the-mill Western that bypassed the issue of slavery and violence, then he’s just making another run-of-the-mill Western; instead, what makes Tarantino’s films so successful and provocative and memorable is that at their core, he’s a fan of cinema, and he’s making the kinds of films he would want to see. A film about a freed slave going after the plantation owner that kidnapped his wife? No one else is going to make it, so I’m going to make it, and it’s going to be spectacular. He writes and directs exactly what he wants to see, were he the filmgoer, paying his money to see your film.
So, as a writer, it’s our jobs to write not for trends, or for what someone tells us “will sell copies.” We must write precisely the kind of novel we as readers enjoy reading. Whether that’s writing for YA or paranormal romance or literary fiction or sci-fi, what we create as writers should reflect exactly our reading preferences. Because writing, like any art, should be a deeply personal experience, no matter what it is we’re writing.