I don’t typically advertise the fact that I write unless I’m speaking with someone who I have reason to believe might find it interesting. For one thing, nothing is served by my prattling on and on and on to some person who is only listening to be polite, bless his or her heart. For another, there’s the follow-up question that invariably follows: “What do you write?”
I hate that question, but I don’t fault anyone for asking it. I Understand what they’re asking. They’re trying to connect with me as a fellow human being, and I appreciate that.
I just don’t know what to say in response.
What do I write? I don’t know, man. I just write. I take mental screenshots of my thoughts and observations, my perceptions as new input is introduced, and I later articulate them into words that I hope will accurately convey my vision to the average reader.
Each reader’s mind will process that vision in a unique way, essentially creating his or her own own alternate version of the work in question. It’s out of my hands at that point. I give birth to it, and like a child finding its way in the world, it achieves its own identity almost completely apart from me. But if I’ve done it correctly, the core of it stays me. And my message is this: Life is full of nuance. Nothing is black-and-white. Think outside of your box.
That’s what it’s all about, for me. That’s what I write. I slice off bite-sized chunks of life and arrange them in an appetizing manner on the dinner table of your mind. I write because I want to tell people things. I want them make them think about those things and form their own opinions. I want impact and resonance. Real feelings invoked and explored. Depth. And I’ll use whatever genre serves as the most suitable vehicle to transport an idea from point A to point B and beyond.
If I attempt to write sci-fi, I’m not a sci-fi writer. Was Ray Bradbury a sci-fi writer? Does his body of massive body of creative work exist entirely under that umbrella, or even primarily?
If I write horror, I’m not a horror writer. Stephen King isn’t a horror writer. He might hover comfortably around that end of the spectrum like a Halloween decoration swaying lazily on a string in a gentle autumn breeze on a New England porch, but he transcends genre and he writes stories about people and how they deal with adversity and fear. Sometimes sewer clowns and haunted cars are involved. So what? His writing is chock-full of him and his own personal essence. He’s connecting with a wide range of people because he just writes. He writes about things people can relate to on multiple levels.
What did you picture when I said “Halloween decoration?” I left that up to you, the reader, to fill in with your imagination. Did you picture a ghost? A bat? A skeleton? A witch? Chances are you assumed it was one of those things and that’s what it became to you. You perceived that sentence differently than someone else did, but you’re both right. Get it?
If the Harry Potter films didn’t exist, we would each have a unique mental picture the characters, settings and situations presented in the books. Even with the films, they’re obviously perceived and processed in many ways, since some people love them, some people are indifferent to them, and some people flat-out hate them. There are millions of Harry Potter micro-universes out there, each one contained within the head of a single reader. If we all perceived everything in the same way, we’d all like the same things. It doesn’t work like that, thankfully.
I suppose my answer to the question “What do you write?” Needs a more succinct reply, so the next time I’m asked, I’m just going to say “Me. I write me. It’s all I can do.”