You Have To Care, But You Can’t

How’s that for a riddle.

So what do I mean by this?

I had a mini meltdown in my journal the other day because I’m rewriting each chapter of the last novel (something some would advise against as a waste of time and I get that, I do) and I keep thinking about what others will think of it.

Now, I haven’t changed anything in the novel as a result of these thoughts, because to me the novel I chose to write is the novel I chose to write.

But I can’t help but think about the ongoing discussions about portraying diversity in your writing and the number of people who have opinions about the right way to do that and the wrong way to do that and how insanely vocal many of those people are.

And the people who really don’t give a flying you-know-what about the diversity argument and how vocal they sometimes are when they see books that do have diversity in them.

Me, I just want to write a fucking novel.

Now it happens to be a novel with diverse characters because that happens to be the world I’m writing in.  I didn’t set out to create a diverse novel because that’s what you “should” do or because that’s my responsibility as a writer in this modern age or…

I just wanted to tell the story bouncing around in my head.  And it happens to be diverse.  It’s not a message novel.  But maybe it has a message.  It certainly grapples with some diversity issues because people who move from one social environment to another will be faced with those types of problems.

I’m not trying to be part of that conversation, though.  I just had a story to tell and that’s all I want to do.  Is write it the way it makes sense to write it.

But part of my brain knows those voices are out there.  And knows that as soon as I hit publish, I’ll be confronted with the reactions of real people in the real world with real opinions that differ from mine and assume things about me or what I’ve written that may or may not be true.

There’s a part of me that says I can’t care what any of those people think.  What I have to do is write the story I want to write in the way I want to write it and let the chips fall where they may.

But there’s another part, the part that’s going to have to market this book and read any comments I get on it or respond to anyone who has an opinion on it (which would be good because it would mean people actually read it and were motivated enough to care about it…), that worries about these things.

From a pure “tell your story” perspective, I (and you) have to ignore those outside voices.  This is my story told my way and that’s what makes it unique and potentially interesting.

From an “I’d like my life to not be a shitstorm of controversy” perspective, I have to at least pause and consider that there are people out there who may react strongly to what I’ve written.

Of course, I’ve actually been pleasantly surprised in the past with the lack of ugliness I’ve seen in reaction to my stories.  Perhaps because not enough people have read them for the nasty people to find?  Or perhaps, as the writer I am, I have a far better imagination for what could happen and what people could say than is realistic?

Perhaps nobody cares at all…

Which, alright.  I’ll take that.  Just as long as they buy the book…

(Haha.  Nope.  Can’t have it both ways…Or can I?  Maybe the ideal should be to write perfectly forgettable but highly commercial works?  Hmm.  Yeah, no.  Not my style, I’m afraid.)

Ah, anyway.  It won’t matter either way if I don’t finish and publish the thing, so off to put some more time in on it.


About M. H. Lee

M.H. Lee is a speculative fiction writer currently residing in Colorado whose stories are sometimes dark, sometimes funny, sometimes darkly funny, but hopefully always thought-provoking and entertaining.
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2 Responses to You Have To Care, But You Can’t

  1. Dave Higgins says:

    Diversity in fiction is often like dialogue in fiction: if you match the real world it doesn’t seem real, but if you don’t it seems forced.

    My current solution is to treat traits that are often grouped into ‘diversity’ like any other trait I don’t have, so I don’t go out of my way to be diverse but I don’t write stories only about myself. Of course, my planning axiom that race is no more objectively important than height or nationality so only brings subjective issues is a political one.

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