It’s starting to look like Winter outside. She glided in softly yesterday evening, readying herself for a proper appearance. Unlike previous years, Winter didn’t show up in October and steal Autumn’s thunder. (Winter had one prequel visit before this, but it was brief so she’s forgiven.)
I live in an area where I should be able to enjoy all four seasons. Winter shouldn’t be gluttonous, show up early, and stick around for the next six months. It’s just bad manners. Come on Winter! You need to share with Autumn and Spring. I’m glad you’re learning to play nice with your sisters.
Anyway, I had an epiphany this month. Perhaps two epiphanies. Maybe more. Fine! Several epiphanies. A herd of epiphanies. A gaggle of epiphanies. Apparently, amid all the tinsel and nonsense of the holiday season, December was a generous month for self-discovery. Who would have guessed? Not me!
First of all, I had a great conversation with a small-town bookstore owner, at a place called The Lyons Den. I’m a book junkie. There’s NOTHING like visiting a bookstore that’s not part of a chain. There’s something about the smell of actual books and the creak of 100+-year-old wooden floors squeaking under your feet. I buy a lot of digital books from Amazon, but it’s not the same experience. It’s not the same as talking one-on-one with a live person, someone who’s willing to give you recommendations.
Anyway, the bookstore owner gave me some great ideas for book-gifts, but I also noticed that she’d casually throw out which books were “clean” reads. She wasn’t pushy or offensive about it. The woman knows her books and sells primarily young adult/new adult novels. And while I’m not a prude or a “Mary,” I found myself thinking about my own writing.
I’ve been writing at my novel(s) for years, but for MANY reasons haven’t loaded up any of them for publishing. Short stories, sure. Entire novels. No. It takes time to find your voice as a writer and honestly, my first novel attempts were craptastic at best. This is not false modesty. I’m a reader. I know a stinking pile of cliches when I read them. WHEW!!! Stinky. My newer stuff is better, but it doesn’t pour out of me like the other stuff did. I suppose it’s the difference between diarrhea of the words…and the opposite. Not to be graphic, but nobody wants any form of diarrhea, not even in written form. It’s just…YUCK. It’s not pleasant for anyone involved in the process.
After my conversation with this bookstore owner, I went back to my work in progress and deleted a handful of words that might be considered offensive. The words came from one minor character, and while I know this is the way he talks, I felt I could convey this in a different way. Is this censorship? I don’t know. They were okay for daytime TV words, but I write for a young adult/new adult audience. As my kiddo once said, “I know ALL the words, Mom, even the really bad ones. I just don’t use them.” Personally, I don’t feel that ANY word is good or bad, it’s how the words are used. I’m a creative person. I have the power to curse in ways that are so foul, military folks would blush. However, I feel like “curse words” are the ghost peppers of language. Used sparingly, you make a dramatic point. Dumped randomly into EVERY dish…well, who wants Ghost Pepper Sugar Cookies? Ghost Pepper Pie? Ghost Pepper Coffee? A little cayenne pepper in chocolate is exotic. Hot peppers in chili, a must. But too much spice in everything, and your taste buds grow immunity. The spice is no longer effective.
In general, I keep my blog PG rated. I feel like my stories should reflect in a similar manner. It’s not that I don’t know the words. I watch mature content. I read mature content. But I don’t write mature content. I’ve decided it’s not me. Something about seeing those spicy words, words that I’ve written, on a page…makes me uncomfortable. When I wrote them as part of my work in progress, I felt myself justifying them, making excuses. Who cares! We all know those words. But some people do notice. They do care. That bookstore owner noticed. How many other people notice? If I choose to write a word that might offend, I’d rather use it deliberately. Give it some power for what it is. I don’t want to sprinkle spice with every keystroke. I’m more creative than that.
My other December epiphany came from a book written by Brittany Gibbons, Fat Girl Walking. She writes:
“I went to work building my site, never calling myself a “blogger,” because that’s a bizarre word (think: moist) and because in my opinion a blog is simply a medium. I’m a writer. I just happen to put my words on the Internet because it’s the twentieth century and I’ve forgotten how to hold pencils.”
I think most people would have glossed over this statement while they were reading. But for me, this was PROFOUND! I’ve blogged for years, on and off, but I’ve always felt like blogging takes me away from “real” writing. It’s as if this form of writing were a candy bar, and writing a novel was like cooking a chicken dinner from scratch. I write because I enjoy writing. I didn’t start writing because this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. It wasn’t a childhood dream. It’s not my career. Would I like to get money for slinging words onto pages? Sure. I do like paying for stuff. It would be nice to have something tangible to hold in my hands, but that’s not why I write.
It never occurred to me that what I’m doing right now is “real” writing. Each time I send my blog posts out into the universe, I’m publishing my thoughts, my ideas, my words. If you’re reading my words, if anything I’ve written connects with you or made you laugh, I’ve done my job as a “real” writer. A published writer. Besides anything else I’ve done, I am published on this blog. In the scheme of things, it’s nothing. It’s my blog. I can slop anything I like onto its virtual pages. There’s no safety net. There’s no one to say, “HEY! You can’t write that.” (And if they do, I can block them.) But…does that make it less real? Until a few days ago, I thought it did. If there’s no gatekeeper, how do you know you’re worthy of marching your happy-self inside the city?
I started my blog to go along with the book(s) I was writing. Over the years, it morphed into its own thing. I’d like to update this site to go along with this new phase in my life, the new outlook I have towards this form of publishing. I don’t know what the final product will look like, but it’s on 2016’s bucket list of goals.
Thank you soooo much readers!!! If nothing else, December’s epiphanies have given me a new appreciation for you all.