I was thinking about this a bit a couple months ago. I was thinking about how noble a thing writing literary fiction is, or less sensationally, what a noble thing me writing literary fiction is. Noble seems a strong word, and it is, but I can’t find another word to describe what I was feeling at that moment.
I had really never read literary fiction until I took a creative writing class. My professor knew I had lit scholar potential and encouraged me to read a few books of literary short stories and books. I picked up Best American Short Stories 2008 and was blown away by the quality of the writing and themes. I had never written like that but knew it was worth a shot.
So I picked up more and more literary novels. I didn’t always “get” what I was reading or understand the themes and techniques but the more classes I took, the better I got at writing and reading literary fiction.
There was a moment not too long ago, a moment of life introspection where I realized that I had a morality outside of being a Christian or religious person (staunch atheist, proud of it) and I felt like I could move people beyond their clandestine lives and into the stratosphere of introspection and effect change. Change a life. That’s all I really felt I had.
So the noble thing to do was write serious fiction because only serious fiction can help, can change a life.
But then after talking to a few writers, who write all genres, I thought about it some more. At the end of the day, if you can write something so well that it transports someone to another time and place, and they are safe in that moment, outside of their reality because their reality is wrought with abuse, sadness, or just stress, then as a writer you’ve done your job. It doesn’t matter, really, what genre it is. You’ve just helped that person off of the ledge. And that is all anyone of us, as writers, can really ask of ourselves. To believe enough in what we are doing that we write it well enough, transfer our intentions to the page, light an emotion inside our reader, takes them away, or in my case, takes them away and makes them think, challenges them. Whatever you write, you have to believe you are doing something worthwhile, regardless of if you’re the next Twilight or the next The Road, because if you don’t, the reader will know it and your book will fail and fall flat on that nice dust jacket from the bookshelf.
Are you confident in what you write or are you wishy washy and timid? I am both at times, and that’s okay. Just don’t stay stuck on the wishy washy part of it. That can kill a career dead.