Last updated on October 14, 2013
Recently, I’ve found myself finding better blog topics in response to questions others have asked, rather than the ol’ “what do I blog about this month” question every blogger asks themselves. When a recent poster to an indie-writer list I’m on questioned a choice to write one genre versus another, I had to respond. What I discovered, though, is that my Free Career Advice (worth exactly what ya paid for it), didn’t just apply to this specific situation, or the person asking it, and seemed worth putting out there outside of just the context of writing careers. So I’m sharing. While my original post had to do with choosing a genre in which to write, I’ve annotated it to reflect on creative choices that we make in any career or undertaking. Especially now that I’m in Act Two of my life, I’ve taken to seeking out meaning in my choices, and it’s not bad advice to do that no matter what you’re doing.
If you’re going to write, you have two choices. Write what you love, or write what you’re good at. If the two aren’t the same, then write what you love. You can get good with practice, but if you ain’t that into a genre or subgenre, you’re going to be spending a lot of time on a bus to where you don’t want to go, and maybe with people you don’t want to share public transportation with.
The paragraph is writing-specific. The advice translates. Do something you love, or something you’re good at, and if the two aren’t the same and you have to make a choice, go with what you love. It sounds hippy-dippy to say “Follow your Bliss” but there’s wisdom in them there love beads. By Act Two, you have spent your time in the trenches. You’ve had plenty of opportunities to show how much of a team player you are, plenty of times to put necessity before joy, and plenty of opportunities for Dramatic Self-Sacrifice. But the Star of Act Two is a dynamic role, and if you choose to continue along the same trajectory as you did in Act One, you’ll be relegating yourself to a supporting role.
Unlike, say, digging ditches, writing doesn’t pay you cash money for your time, effort, or just because you showed up (or how deep of a hole you’ve dug yourself into–both literally and metaphorically speaking). Being both craft and calling, writing will demand of you not only your skill, but your heart and soul, too, and if you don’t put at least a little of it in everything you put out there, readers can tell. Because of that, and speaking from personal experience, writing “what sells” when you don’t love it can be a chore so onerous, you’d rather dig ditches. And fill them in again. Because that would be more productive and suck out less of your soul. 🙂
Genre can be a great learning tool. Nothing better than learning by doing, especially when you’re learning good craft in a milieu that lets you focus on that. But no matter what you decide to read or write, there’s also no need to limit yourself to only that genre. Those days are over, thanks largely to the “indie revolution” so to speak. Write what you like, what lights a fire under you to pound on the keyboard every day. There are business and branding decisions you can make to ensure you can have the best career you can in whatever and however many genres you choose.Understand that some people will follow you from genre to genre, some will stick to their “home zone,” and still others will look at your writing in a different genre as the ultimate in personal betrayal (do not engage with those. Smile, and back away slowly).
And if your writing doesn’t fit in any one genre, don’t sweat that, either. *Somebody* had to invent Steampunk, Urban Fantasy, New Adult, Inspirational Erotica (okay, the last one, I made up, but I have heard from more than one editor at more than one publishing house that they’d be All Over That, so the pump is primed, somebody’s just gotta jump on it and roll…). Might as well be you. If you’re calling your own shots by going indie, then call your own shots for genre, too. Go all in, and YOLO and all that. 😉