Thursday, April 19, 2012

Chasing a Symmetry of Feeling

I stumbled across a quote some time back. I bookmarked it, intending to write something on it, and finally came back to it. Only, now I no longer remember what I meant to say about it back in January.

The quote was: We wish for a symmetry of feeling, but we rarely get it. It is painful to be the one who loves more, and painful to be the one who loves less. I found it here which is a site that, among other things I think about it, I think could well someday save some modern English lit student's life when they fail to read the short story that was their homework assignment. (I also think if my English lit courses had been more like her blog, I'd have given my teachers less grief.)

As I said, I'm not sure what I meant to do with it, originally. If this were a different kind of blog, I could wax philosophical about my social life. Whereupon this would probably digress into a discussion of the wisdom of the Dread Pirate Roberts about life and pain, though it would end well enough because at heart I remain an incurable romantic, even if my head is committed to a life of cynicism.

However, this is not that kind of blog. And so, in pondering what I'd been pondering (I think so, Brain, but...) I came to the conclusion that as writers, especially genre writers, we have to often feel as if we're on either side of that equation, in a number of ways. There is that short story or novel that you, as the write, adore, but yet which does not seem able to find a home. Or conversely, that piece of work that all your betas rave about, but which you yourself are never quite happy with. I think we all fall along that spectrum, somewhere, with at least something we've written.

There is also the difficulty of the market itself. We can write what we love, and watch as the market passes us by in favor of whatever's trendy. (For the record, I was writing about vampires long before anyone other than Anne Rice was making big money off of them. Although I don't think vampires are ever going to be completely out of fashion.)  You can stick to your guns, knowing that these things tend to be cyclical - how long can zombies last, after all - or you can attempt to go with the flow, in which case by the time you have something written the moment may pass. These things, like love, can be fickle.

We are constantly chasing that symmetry, that moment when what we write lines up with what's in demand. A fellow writer was lamenting the lack of good werewolf stories (which, in no small irony, the good ones seem to be cropping up in the literary section), in particular because I think he has a story or two on werewolves sitting on his hard drive.

Which brings us to the inherent dichotomy here that, as genre writers, we are often in both positions at once. We cling to our vampires even as zombies shuffle into first place, knowing that zombies just don't quite do it for us even if they are selling. We love what we love, and sometimes that means we're left waiting for it to come around again, if it does so at all.

The bright spot in all this is that, unlike in relationships, as writers, if we are any good, we can sometimes pull ourselves out of this. There is little you can do in a relationship when she's moved on, even if you haven't (I say "she" solely because I am a "he"), but when it comes to writing, if you're good enough, sometimes the story sells anyway.

Sometimes you get to make your own symmetry.

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