10.05.2012

The Plight of a Shamed Writer, or How Little Women Ruined Me

Making Allison Feel Inadequate Since Always
My name is Allison Dickson, I write genre fiction, and I am deeply ashamed of this.

Yes. Yes I am. Or, I was. Or I'm working on being less so. It's a process.

I am aware that this is a cognitive malfunction, and that I shouldn't feel this way. I know, intellectually, one should not feel shame for what one loves (unless we're talking about something abhorrent like pedophilia or Michael Bay movies, but I digress).

I've struggled with the notion of edification for most of my career, or the notion that I shouldn't be writing about supernatural events, ghosts and monsters, mystical things, far off worlds. Instead, I should be writing about "important" things, like human suffering and triumph as seen through the lens of gritty reality, with stark and daring prose that people spend more time interpreting than actually reading. I should be writing "from life." I should be like Jo March in Little Women, who was chided by the man she loved for writing horror stories and who eventually earned his respect after she wrote a beautiful sob story about her sisters.

In fact, I would say that it was because of that book, which I read at a very impressionable age and still love in many ways, that I started to view genre fiction as something I would eventually "grow out of" once I found my true voice as a writer. The weird little stories I took the most joy in writing were only supposed to be my authorial teething biscuits, and that once I was ready, I would move on to a prestigious career teeming with National Book Awards and Pulitzers. I would walk among the celebrated gods of literature.

I'm good enough...I'm smart enough...
Well, that still hasn't happened, and it likely never will. The truth is, the more I write, the more I'm discovering that I'm not that kind of writer. I wasn't given the talent of  a Thackeray or a Twain or a Marilynne Robinson or a David Foster Wallace. I will not be the next Melville or Austen or Joyce. Hell, I don't even possess the brilliance of Poe or Lovecraft, but like those latter fellows, I have an appreciation for the macabre and I feel like there might just be a place for me at their table--at the far end where they won't even know I'm there--and that's perfectly okay. I might not have their talent, but I do have my own talent. I write like me, and that's...okay.

Anyway, this is just a glimpse into my daily struggles as a writer. I'm sure painters might feel similarly, knowing that while they might excel best at painting pretty landscapes, they might never master the art of Cubism. I strive every day to be comfortable and proud of what I can do, the stories I can tell. Little by little, those voices telling me I'm wasting my talents on frivolous pulp are receding. More and more I am becoming  okay with the fact that those in a position of literary authority will probably consider me a hack. But you know what? There is nothing wrong with setting out strictly to entertain. There is a book for everyone, and what one person won't like, someone else will love. Besides, I am not just writing fluff over here. A lot of thought goes into my work.

More and more, I'm finding it easier to wave my pulp flag proudly.

My name is Allison Dickson, and my goal  is and should only be to entertain the shit out of you. Louisa May Alcott can bite me.