Today I would like to introduce you to my favorite writing quote in the world. I like it so much that I have it engraved on the back of my iThingy (even though my husband complained that an engraving would hurt the re-sale value…as if anyone is going to want to buy this thing from me when it’s old and broken and I need a new one *rolls eyes*). It is from Jean Rhys:
“All of writing is a huge lake. There are great rivers that feed the lake, like Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky. And then there are mere trickles, like Jean Rhys. All that matters is feeding the lake. I don’t matter. The lake matters. You must keep feeding the lake.”
I found it during one of my writing crises. You know, those moments when you feel like nothing you could ever write will matter, because so many “greats” have come before you, and all you write is <insert genre people turn their noses up at here> so who the fuck are you to think you can do this, anyway?
This quote, though…it made me realize a few things:
- ALL writing is valid and important, whether it’s a Pulitzer Prize-winner, contemporary YA, science fiction, romance, whatever. What speaks to me may not necessarily speak to you, so it’s important that ALL tastes and interests are represented so that we can ALL find the books that change our lives. You do not have to be “high brow” to matter as a writer. There are some people who will tell you that the classics are the end-all-be-all of fiction. There are some people who will tell you that literary fiction is the only respectable genre out there. They are wrong. I have read my fair share of literary fiction, and while there are some books in that category that have truly moved me, nothing has ever hit me full-on in the chest the way my favorite science fiction and fantasy books have. If you feel that way about your Pulitzer Prize winners, good for you! But that doesn’t make MY preferred genres less valid. Never look down on ANYONE for what they love to read or write.
- Fun exercise: Look up your favorite/least favorite books on Goodreads or Amazon and read the reviews. It’s the best way to understand that everything in the creative world is subjective, no one agrees or has the same taste, and we all get different things out of different books. Books I hated have plenty of rave reviews, books I loved have reviews that rip them to shreds. It’s humbling.
- Some people just want to read for fun. That’s where genre fiction can be really important! We don’t all want to read Monumental Books About The Meaning Of Life all the time! Sometimes we just want an insane space-opera! And you know what? Some of those insane space-opera type books can be incredibly meaningful as well!
- Because the truth is: IT DOESN’T MATTER WHAT YOU WRITE AS LONG AS YOU WRITE IT *WELL* Books that are written well will make you *feel things* even if they are insane space operas. The “Red Rising” trilogy has made me cry like 1,000 times so far and I’m not even done with the third book. But there are some people who won’t give it a shot because they think science fiction isn’t worth their time. I feel sad for those people.
- THE ONLY THING THAT MATTERS IS THAT YOU DO THE WORK.
There’s another quote that I came across on Twitter forever ago. I wish I had saved it somewhere prominent, because of course now I can’t find it and I can’t remember the exact wording. Basically, though, it was:
“We can’t all be Mozart. But we CAN be Mozart’s friend doing fun trash opera.”
(if you have the actual quote please share it in the comments. I know I mangled it but it’s a really good one)
We can’t all be famous, timeless creatives like Mozart, or Dickens, or Twain. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do the work. Frankly, I’d RATHER be Mozart’s trash-opera friend. It’s more fun.
Write what you love. Put your heart/soul/blood/sweat/tears into it. Make it as best as you can. It is valid. It is important. You may just be a “trickle” in the lake, but THE LAKE DON’T GIVE A FUUUUUUCK. The lake wants whatever you GOT. Maybe you’ll have to do MORE work to feed the lake than the people who are “great rivers” like Tolstoy. But that’s okay! We all have fifty fucking million ideas anyway! It doesn’t matter.
Because ALL that matters is FEEDING THE LAKE.
NOM NOM NOM