Write What You Love

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I’ve known I wanted to be a writer since age eleven. It just occurred to me one day that books don’t magically turn up on shelves; people write them. So, I started writing and have never stopped. I have not gone more than three days without working on a book in the twenty years since. Some people choose a life purpose, and that’s mine. Even at a young age as a writer, I was headed for speculative fiction… and didn’t know it. Many of even my more serious early novels had elements of “magic” in them.

Over the years, I’ve tried writing different things… mysteries, historical fiction, fairy tales… and I found that trying to remember and stick to dates and historical events was tiresome. You can’t (or, at least, I don’t think you should) change history, no matter how much you want to. See, if I was in the history rewriting business, I’d have Katharine of Aragon run away with Thomas More before she ever married Henry. But, since I’m not Philippa Gregory, I can’t write “serious novels” without being sincere to the truth. So… why write serious novels in the first place?

I started writing novels with a bit more magic in them, and a few less facts, and found my “writing happy place” at last. I get to “play” with historical figures but any changes I make are forgivable because it’s not straight up historical fiction. Not really. Unless hell hounds and Shades really exist, in which case I’m in trouble. But… it’s fun writing what I write. Of course, I want people to read it, but I mostly just have fun writing it. (“Fun” being a subjective term, that also includes “this is hell,” “tears of blood,” and “hair pulling” as I watch a plot unfold chapter by chapter, doubting my ability to tie it all together at the end. Yet, I always do.) I then force my poor mother to read it. I say “poor” because speculative fiction, and magic in general, is not really her thing. She admires my ingenuity but often complains about the deviations from reality. When stressing how crowded my recent endeavor was with dramatic events, I told her, “Mom… this book practically has werewolves in it. You don’t need to fret about events happening too close together.”

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My delighted, history-manipulating, magic-infused brain giddily traipses from one light-hearted topic to another. I threw a talented girl into a hellacious wood and forced her to confront a dark adversary. I took unfortunate characters for a trip on the Titanic. I then set another set of characters on the trail of mysterious dark happenings in London while the Ripper ran amuck (that book is coming soon! Mom finally let me pry it out of her hands to prepare it for distribution). And now, I’m five chapters into a stubborn young woman’s sojourn in an assassin’s school during the time of Napoleon. Whilst I’m brewing diabolical plot twists for this book, in the back of my mind I’m stockpiling ideas for my next book, which involves Tudor England. On my desk is a jar filled with slips of paper with brief plot ideas written on them. Oh, I won’t be climbing off this magical bandwagon anytime soon. I am having way too much fun.

For awhile, I considered writing about what people want to read, but then I decided that would kill me. Someone would walk in one day and find me dead and stiff in my office chair, a half completed romance novel on my screen. Or worse yet, a mystery set in some quiet little hamlet. Or even more horrific, a realistic story of some sort, about real people, none of whom are psychic. What a truly heinous notion. After discovering my writing calling, I then considered that perhaps some people might object to my books. After all, “magic” and “Christianity” unfortunately do not mix unless you have “Tolkien” or “Lewis” after your first name. Even though my books deal with symbolism, and each gift is representative of a spiritual gift, that worried me. Then, I realized… I don’t care. I don’t care if you read fantasy, and I don’t care if you don’t. I enjoy writing what I like to read, and if it makes others happy along the way, because it allows them to read a historical fantasy without lewd content, so much the better.

As writers, we worry too much. Many of us write, and never share out of fear of rejection or imperfection. But if God planted in us the seed of a writer, we need to use it. Write what you want to write. Write what you feel called to write. Write what makes your heart sing. Don’t write to sell books; write what is in your soul. Don’t let fear of the opinions of others threaten you into silence. Don’t be afraid to tell a good story well. Don’t doubt your talent, just use it. So often, we want acclaim. We think that big audiences mean success, but the greatest success is in inspiring someone else. If you can touch one heart, and plant the truth in one life, those hours of work are all worthwhile.

What are you still doing here? Go write something!

16 Replies to “Write What You Love”

  1. All the best writers I know and read say the same thing. Write what makes you happy and don’t care about what everyone else thinks.

    I don’t think I have just one thing I like to write, though my favorites are short stories (usually a bit dark), fantasy, sci-fi, and fairy tales.

    1. (I replied to this last night and… I think my laptop ate my comment. Boo.)

      It’s good that you have more than one thing you like writing about; variety is the stuff of life. Just make sure whatever you are writing is something you’re passionate about, and you’ll do fine!

  2. For awhile, I considered writing about what people want to read, but then I decided that would kill me.

    AMEN!

    I was 14 when I realized I wanted to be a writer. I’d been making up stories for as long as I could remember, but that was when I started seriously learning to write. That was 20 years ago. And it wasn’t until I wrote a YA western that I realized westerns are what I really, truly love to write. And I don’t care that westerns aren’t a popular genre anymore. This is what I love to write, this is where my heart lies, and this realization has liberated me and excited me in so many ways.

    Um, so, uh, yeah, what I mean is — I agree! Write what you love. Even if the only person who ever reads it is your mom or your best friend or your spouse. Don’t waste your time writing what you don’t love. That way madness lies.

    1. If westerns are what you love to write, you should write westerns! I think there is still a market for them, although it’s not as big as it once was. (My grandpa devoured them. He had boxes upon boxes of them!)

      It’s exciting to write what you love, isn’t it? The rush of anticipation before you start, the thrill when the pieces fall into place, the happiness of finishing a project. It’s a wonderful thing.

      1. And for the first time, I am excited to be revising a novel! My previous novels, once I finished them, I was like, “Okay, got that out of my system. What’s next?” This one… I want to spend more and more and more time with it, not less. It’s a wonderful thing indeed.

  3. Wonderful post, Charity. Your description of your “history-manipulating, magic-infused brain” made me think of my favorite Tim Powers novels. Have you read “The Drawing of the Dark” or “The Anubis Gates”? They are alternate-history stories with fantasy.

  4. Awesome post. As someone who writes what I want to write – I do fall prey into second-guessing myself because I’m not writing what “everyone else wants”. It’s encouraging just to know that others feel the same way but are still writing what they love. Thanks. 😀

    1. I believe that if you write what you love, others will catch on through your enthusiasm and care to read what you write. I can always tell when an author isn’t writing what they love, but is instead committed to a contract. Their writing is dull. It doesn’t sparkle. It doesn’t inspire. It doesn’t captivate.

  5. I was just thinking…the point I agree on most is the achievement of inspiring someone else. I don’t so much feel inadequate when others don’t like certain things, as I know I write for myself–but I pick their brain and want to know what they thought/felt of the book because my biggest aim is to effect them. My goal, and I say this often, is to write a book that “makes them care so much that it rips their heart in two–then it will put it back better than what it was”. My life goal, never ending.

    1. Your life goal is similar to mine. I really, really crave feedback and to talk about my ideas with people, and I rarely get it. It’s sad. I don’t want to beg people to talk about my stories with me – that seems self-centered, but sharing is nice. Sharing is fun! I don’t see my characters as being mine – they live their own lives, I merely write it down, so talking about them isn’t centering the focus on me, it’s centering the focus on “neat” characters!

  6. Your post is really encouraging! I followed your blog for a while but now I have to leave a message 🙂 I can really feel your enthusiasm through your writing although I’ve never met you!
    As you’ve mentioned in your post, I was always worried what others will think about my writings and it sucks all my energy out that I had when I wanted to put my pen down… It’s oftentimes hard to stay “true” to one’s preferences and thoughts – but as a writer one has to own a voice.
    Nevertheless, I’m wondering what would happen if everyone (meaning: all writers/authors) write for their own sake, write about the things they love and not just to please anyone..

    1. Yeah, writing is my life, so I tend to spew enthusiasm in all directions when talking about it. 😉

      That would be a happy world, full of new ideas, concepts, and stories. Writers would not fall into ruts, or churn out the same books all the time. They would write what is on their heart, as opposed to what pays the bills. And, in time, it might pay the bills, because if you are enthusiastic enough about something, others will catch your delight.

  7. What a fabulous post. Thanks for sharing this – you’ve packed a lot of great advice in here, and as you said, we must write whatever genre we love because otherwise, chances are, we won’t ever manage to finish anything let alone distribute it. And after we’ve written what we love, one never knows, perhaps someday our tastes will shift and we’ll have a desire to write something different. 🙂

  8. Great post. Sort of sums up how I feel about writing in general. No matter what happens, we must throw off all constraints and write. It is in our blood. I was eleven when I was bitten by the writing bug too. I think the preteen years are often when most writers begin their journey. It is the most formidable years. It is a very beautiful time before all the pressures set in.

    1. Yes. It’s a time before we learn to curb our imaginations and “act like grownups.” Writing reveals that inside of every heart is a child who just wants to play!

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