Recently, I’ve noticed a lot of tweets and posts from friends excited about the new television season. Most of them talked about the dramas–obvious favorites. But no one mentioned my favorite:
The Walking Dead.
Here’s the thing. I have a husband and three teenage sons. I have not only missed, but probably never even been aware of, anything remotely pink-tinged or female-oriented that has been popular the last two decades. This includes Downton Abbey (gasp!), Legally Blonde (say it isn’t so!), Glee (I know, right?!), and Dancing with the Stars (oh, the shame!).
Instead, I can recite several monologues–without pause–from the Lord of the Rings trilogies by heart. I can impersonate Batman better than Christian Bale. And I *might have* wept at the new Star Wars 7 movie trailer.
Although the novels I write might be more likely to be read by women, I think my immersion in all-things-male helps my writing. (The exception would be that I tend to kill too many characters off in early drafts. Thankfully, my editors remind me I have to keep a few alive.) While I do binge read within my genre, reading and watching movies outside my genre often sparks my imagination anew, and in turn, helps refresh my writing voice and helps to keep me from writing what’s expected.
Writing what’s expected helps us avoid feeling ashamed of our art. And yet, in the same way you didn’t expect to see a title like “On Zombies” here at the WordServe Water Cooler, writing the unexpected often grabs a reader’s attention.
A favorite resource for many writers is Stephen King’s book, On Writing. Here’s what he says after a teacher accused him of “writing junk” and “wasting his abilities” on horror and science fiction:
“I had no answer to give. I was ashamed. I have spent a good many years since–too many, I think–being ashamed about what I write. I think I was forty before I realized that almost every writer of fiction and poetry who has ever published a line has been accused by someone of wasting his or her God-given talent. If you write (or paint or dance or sculpt or sing, I suppose), someone will try to make you feel lousy about it…”
If King had listened to that teacher, if he had not continued to think and write out-of-the-box stories, we’d really be missing out.
I’d like to challenge you to consider reading or viewing something completely unexpected for a change.
Silence the voices in your head telling you what you should write, and discover what you want to write, what compels you, what compels others in out-of-your-genre work.
In the meantime, I think I’ll go rent a copy of Legally Blonde.