I Will Never Write Like Proust and That’s Okay

There are several reasons that I blog anonymously. I like the freedom, I like knowing that the Diva and I built our readership without relying on the “click-throughs” of FB friends, but the biggest reason is one I haven’t written about on here. I come from a conservative Christian culture, and it’s the kind of conservative culture which would sooner judge me for my interests in popular culture than make an attempt to understand the importance of why I write what I write, or even why fandom itself is a significant part of our society and history.

Before I continue, it’s necessary for me to say that, while I no longer actively participate in organized religion, I have faith, I have beliefs, and I judge no one for theirs. This blog post is merely the venting of the frustration I feel when I try to build a bridge between my conservative past and my pop culture savvy present.

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This past weekend, I overheard a conversation between two family members that unnerved me. Out of respect to my family, I shall not repeat verbatim what was said, but the gist of it was that these two persons were of the opinion that the writers of Hollywood could not possibly be good religious people, because they have made a living from writing. 

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As a writer, I’m used to criticism, but it hurt to hear that my close family place so little value in what I do, even if they don’t know I do it. Perhaps those of you who are writers have faced similar situations in your own families/friends: to them, the idea that you could support yourself purely by writing is so ridiculous that you obviously must have met up with a crossroads demon to make it happen.

I haven’t met Mark Sheppard yet, but I hear he’s lovely.

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It’s a sad state of society when our arts–our poets and painters and actors and novelists and musicians–are written off as failures before they even start because “darling, why don’t you get a real job? One that actually has a paycheck?”

I may never be able to convince the conservative members of my family that my talent didn’t come from Crowley, so let me give you a few reasons why you should never, ever tell your kids that the arts are a pipe dream.

1. The arts are interesting

C’mon, without the arts, what would we have done as children? More math homework? My mother once told me that, as a single parent, the greatest blessing she had was that she didn’t have to worry about not being able to afford the best toys for us, my brothers and I made do with our imaginations. Broom handles became lightsabers. Bed sheets became Elven cloaks. The family dog became a ferocious werewolf. Books, movies, comics, they give us a chance to use our imaginations, to have ideas, and when would that ever be a bad thing?

Even my conservative holier-than-thou family has seen every episode of Psych. 

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2. You learn things (Statistics can be useful)

Do you remember saying “I’ll never use this shit again” in one of your math classes?

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Yeah, so did I. I swore I would never need to use statistics. And I didn’t, until I gave up teaching and began writing more. Here’s something I learned from writing: you need to know random shit. A while ago, I was working on a dystopic piece and needed to calculate population growth over a span of 75 years, accounting for average life span and death rates. It was essential information for my piece, and I had to dust off the rusty part of my brain where I store mathematics and statistics and put it to use. You know what? I didn’t mind.

Turns out that if you’re using math/science/sociology for a project that you really care about, it’s less painful to spend the time doing the research. Bonus? You’re more likely to remember the formula for exponential growth and decay.

3. There’s a place for everything

No matter what people might say about “high brow” or “low brow” culture, the truth is, if you loved Sharknado, somebody else did too. If you’re 45 and still watch Power Rangers, someone else does too. How many lovely Twitter friends do I have now because of my obsession with Misha Collins? Dozens. In fact, the Collectiva Diva and I began our profound friendship because we both recognized Tom Green while we were wandering around St. Louis several years ago. True story.

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The other side of there being a place for everyone is one that people won’t often talk about, but should be said. I do not have to write like Marcel Proust or Ayn Rand for there to be value in my writing. If I’m introduced to someone as a writer, I’m often asked if I’m going to produce the “next great American novel.” My answer to that is an emphatic no for several reasons, but the main one is: I won’t write what I won’t read. I have no desire to emulate Hemingway or Fitzgerald because I rarely dive into books that my graduate advisor would say is full of “literary merit.” I find them boring. Give me Stephen King. Give me Chuck Palahniuk. Give me Neil Gaiman. Give me something with plot and quick sentences and disgustingly vivid details.

This is the thing about the arts that most people seem to forget: you can make a living at it if you can sell it. When I say that there is a place for everything, I mean that some people would buy 50 Shades of Grey before they’d ever pick up The Color Purple. It’s simple supply and demand. We don’t all need to be a Dickens or a Tolstoy, when it’s Clancy or Meyer that will pay the bills. I would much rather write what I love and be successful at it than to be held back by the fear that I’m not “literary” enough to be a good writer.

am a good writer. I write fanfiction and dystopic murder mysteries and smut. Deal with it.

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-The Collectress

8 Comments

  1. JSA Lowe

    I come from a very similar background and am finally old enough or embittered enough or whatever that these kinds of comments just amuse me (also I can get in my car and leave after three days, so). Where do they think all those episode of Psych come from? That they just magically appear, that faeries bring them, that baby Jesus created them in seven days? It’d be hilarious if it weren’t so stomach-churning. It’s like men who pay sex workers and then denigrate their profession. Anyway I guess it does still get to me or I wouldn’t be commenting, but this is just to say: thank you for your blog, I follow it religiously (!), stay strong, and don’t stop writing (as if one could). xox!

    1. The Collective Blog

      I’ve been “out” of the Church for almost ten years now, and although I no longer get as upset as I once did–my days of dramatically shaking my fist at the pastor and stomping out of the sanctuary are long past–I can’t help but get a little irked when people undervalue the arts and modern culture, especially when they live in Southern California, where Hollywood is our biggest commodity! Thank Chuck for anonymous blogs where I can bitch about it! Anyway, thank you for reading (religiously..heheh) and for your support. There ain’t no us if there ain’t no you.

      Sidenote: I believe that certain family members assume that Psych is all improv and no writing is involved. No joke.

      1. JSA Lowe

        OMC, I was just nodding along peaceably and wasn’t going to respond until I got to that last line and guffawed aloud at my desk. No, I get it. Believe me I get it. As in, twenty years of therapy get it. My own beloved family has the delightful habit of getting sucked into some show now (anything from Ally McBeal to House to Bones) and then ditching it angrily and with many public denouncements after “something gay” happens—as it invariably does, because, hello, reality. Needless to say I don’t think they know what my research is about. Unless they’ve just googled me in which case, hi guys! Your daughter’s a poet who also works on queer theory and pop culture and just answered two CFPs on the rampant gay in Supernatural. —Although I think they’ve given up on their initially crashing disappointment in me years ago, and just decided to take the bad with the good. Fortunately, you know. Family don’t end with blood. NEVER CHANGE, COLLETRESS. xox

  2. idream3223

    Reblogged this on idream3223 Fanfiction & Other Writing and commented:
    Very well said! I totally agree, and have run into some of the same prejudices from my friends and family. I let it take the wind out of my sails for awhile, but I am slowly making my way back to doing this because it makes me happy. It should be simple to just let be THE reason to do anything, but if it were really all that easy, anyone would do it. 🙂 Thanks for sharing and inspiring!

  3. Kimmi

    I love this post SO much! It is a constant battle trying to validate my desire and need to write. People just don’t get that I want to be successful at what I love…not just make money at something I might be okay at but sucks my soul.

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