April 7 question – Are you a risk-taker when writing? Do you try something radically different in style/POV/etc. or add controversial topics to your work?
True confession, I wrote a way too long version of this post, edited it multiple times, deleted it, and am now rewriting it from scratch on Wednesday morning.
Chaos and creative chaos are my natural state of being. Curbing that into “safe” fiction people can read is the hard part. If there is some out there way of writing and I have thought of it, I have probably tried it. As a friend once told me: Anne, you have a lot of great ideas but if no one can understand them what’s the point?
This month is autism awareness month. For the past few months, I have been reading a lot of literature and talking to a lot of people, exploring whether I might be on the spectrum. I might be. Maybe that’s why this month’s optional questions threw my brain for a loop. What do you mean by risk? What does POV have to do with that? How is that a risk? I associate risk with things like running into a burning building to save a child or sharing details about yourself people may not understand. I’m not saying it’s wrong to associate experimental writing with risk and controversy. I simply don’t understand, personally, how the two connect.
Two writers came to mind. Rebecca Roanhorse and Lil Nas X.
Rebecca Roanhorse because her Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience is my go-to anytime people ask me questions like this, the kind of question where my brain is like – why are you asking? In her story she is a native writer writing about a native writer who may be selling pieces of his fictional soul to create art for people.
That’s how I feel all the time as a writer. What do you want me to say? What will make sense? Is it okay if I take a break in the middle of figuring that out to go be quietly, uniquely crazy? Thanks.
Lil Nas X is starting to be associated in my brain (is it just me?) with an artist where being controversial might actually be part of his public image in this crazy meta way. It works for him. A few points that stick with me from the song and video Montero (Call Me By Your Name.) I’m pretty sure he is deconstructing his own image in much the same way as Roanhorse was deconstructing what it means to ask a native writer, to give someone an “authentic native experience.”
He names the song for his real name (Montero),and he references a gay film Call Me By Your Name where the main characters use each other’s names as a kind of code for when they’re apart.
There is so much to unpack there, but the main thing I got from it is that some people think because he’s gay, he is going to hell. They also think because he is a rock star, he must be on drugs. He’s calling out these stereotypes. Scanning the lines (reading the poetry and breaking it down) I am especially impressed by this part of the chorus: “I cannot pretend/I’m not fazed, only here to sin.” A line-break and double negative trap. He is fazed. He is not here to sin. He can’t even pretend otherwise. But, it doesn’t matter. People see what they expect to see. He still cares for his lover, but until that lover gets Eve (temptation, pretending to be something you’re not) out of the garden. Lose his number. Montero is that kind of person. Because he loves the guy too much to enable OR abandon him. That is deep.
That’s how I feel in writing all the time. It helps to simultaneously keep in mind that sex sells, thrills sell. So does deep and honest reflection, but not too deep or too honest, just enough so readers don’t have to navigate ALL the halls of my complex brain, but they get a peek in the foyer. A work of art is not the same thing as an actual person. It is only as Stephen King put it, a “Bag of Bones,” an outline of reality. That’s all it is. So, risk taking? This honest answer is my honest answer to the question. It probably goes beyond the boundary of what the asker meant. I’m probably “over-sharing.” But that’s okay. I suspect no matter what I say, I’m going to be over-sharing or under-sharing, anyway. Might as well share some of my favorite reads while I do it. No harm in that.