Thursday, October 13, 2016

A Writer's Mission?

Kameron Hurley's latest LOCUS column begins with the declaration, "Most writers quit." Having grabbed our attention with that statement, she goes on to explore why many authors become discouraged and realize a writing career isn't what they actually want. She discusses the dissonance between writing as an art and publishing as a business:

The Mission-Driven Writing Career

Some writers decide early on that they don't want to be "career writers." Some may "quit" at a later stage when they've accomplished what they originally set out to do, e.g. publish a story or a book. Hurley devotes most of her essay to writers who get discouraged at mid-career, "having books published and paid for, and staring ahead into a grinding future of deadlines and release dates, working toward a breakout book." She asks, "What drives you, then, when you have reached the goal of selling work, and perhaps making a little money doing it? What drives you when you have finally achieved the financial freedom afforded by your writing career?"

This question has some current relevance for me, having seen the two publishers that released most of my works closing within a single year. That's definitely discouraging (even though a new publisher, happily, has picked up the reverted books from one of the two).

Hurley's answer: Writing should fulfill a "personal mission." She defines her own as to "inspire change by imagining a different world." I must admit I've never conceived of my writing as the expression of a mission. My goal is to give readers harmless entertainment in the form of characters and situations that depart from mundane existence as we know it. Offering people temporary escape from the tedium and stress of everyday life is a legitimate vocation—even my idol C. S. Lewis says so. In the process, I try to create believable, sympathetic characters and convey authentic emotions. Of course, my writing inevitably foregrounds certain recurring themes and tropes; the core ones, I've discovered, are the Ugly Duckling archetype (an overlooked or abused character whose apparent flaws turn out to be valuable gifts) and the idea that no matter how different you are or feel, you can find someone to love and a place to belong. But I've never thought of my writing as a mission. The weight of that word sounds daunting. I do, however, agree with Hurley "that storytelling is how we make sense of the world."

Tomorrow we have a guest blog by award-winning, multi-genre author Karen Wiesner.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

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