Hello again, my lovely readers. I come to you a year and seventeen days older. I also come with wisdom from the ages–specifically wisdom in regards to writing and creativity.
The “Cool” Thing
I love it when art does cool things. Put another way, I love it when art goes against tradition and convention to enhance the point it’s making. I love the idea of epistolary novels, fiction in the form of text messages, or even a story written as a list because such ideas, for me, constantly challenge the idea that art has to be a certain way in order for it to be effective. One of my most well-received stories was written as a transcript in the style of an MSDOS command screen, and to this day, I try to strive to be different and unconventional in my fiction. Why settle for ordinary when you can reach for the stars and do something different?
Well, I found the answer to that question this month when I got additional feedback on my novel.
Quite a few people were saying the same thing: The unconventional structure I imposed upon it wasn’t working. I wanted to play with the idea of my protagonist have selective dissociative amnesia so that my readers could remember things right along with her. Yet what I ended up doing was confusing and alienating my readers and myself. By withholding information about her circumstances in the name of trying to do the “cool” thing, I ended up putting myself in a box and stifling all the other cool things I could do in the story.
Eventually, I will attempt to write a novel that has a protagonist with selective dissociative amnesia because I like it when art asks tough questions and I like challenging myself, but the novel that I’m currently working on can’t sustain something like that. It can still be non-linear, sure, but I now see that it can’t be to the degree I had in my previous draft.
To that end, it’s likely that I won’t be publishing my novel early March, but maybe have it up for pre-order by April depending on revisions? I don’t know. I’ll keep you all posted.
For now, I’ll keep doing what works and learn another important lesson: Doing what works is perfectly acceptable.
Doing What Works
When I say “doing what works,” I mean doing what works. Nothing more, nothing less. It’s hitting the bullseye without any extra fanfare, somersaults, etc. It’s doing what you set out to do without the expectation of doing it in a cool, exciting way.
And oddly enough, doing what works is cool is in its own right. Doing what works means you persevered after trial and error. It means you did the thing. It means success!
It took me a long time to learn that, and as you can see from working with my novel, it’s still a lesson I occasionally need to re-learn.
From my thirteen years or so in the American school system, I was taught that doing what works was good, but doing what works well was great. Getting Bs were good, but getting As were great. Getting As made students think you were smart or applying to Harvard when college application season came around. It made you qualify to take AP classes instead of the regular ones. It made you the creme of the crop–the “cool” thing.
Yet what ended up happening once I went to college was that the belief that I had to be better than good (re: perfect) started eating me alive. I did well in school, but little things would start getting to me. I struggled with Japanese in a way that I hadn’t before. I had trouble sleeping (which is normal, given I was in a new environment, but still). I constantly strived for greatness and lost the forest for the trees, and there was always this niggling in the back of my head that I had to be different or special when, in fact, I was perfectly fine exactly the way I was whether I got an A or a B. I’d always known that to be true in my head, but it’s another thing to feel that idea take root in your body and consciousness.
I’m probably making things more dramatic than it sounds, but I hope that even the smallest bit of what I’m saying resonates. I will make sure that it resonates with my as a I head to my new job as well, which will be quite soon.