Hello everyone! Hope you had a fantastic Christmas, or whatever you might be celebrating. If the entire month of December for you is literally business as usual, well, than at least I hope you didn’t contract any illnesses or get into a car wreck or anything. 🙂
Today I’m thinking about how nothing is ever perfect, and how it will be a frozen day in hell before everyone in the whole wide world likes the same thing.
I think this is a trap that plenty of writers fall into early on. I know I have, and sometimes I still suffer from the mental version of this problem. It’s easy to think, in the glow of naivety and optimism, that you’re going to set out to write something special that everyone and their mother and aunt and weird cousin and pet orangutan will love and enjoy.
But the harsh reality is that you can’t please everyone, and the sooner you remember it, the sooner you’ll get out from under the constraints this thinking can put on your writing–and the better off it will be for everyone involved. I know this sounds like the same kind of advice as dealing with haters, but I promise it’s not the same as that.
The fact is that everyone has different tastes. And I know, as a writer, you want to try to appeal to as many people as possible. Or possibly not. Maybe you don’t want anyone to like your books. Maybe you’re writing to stretch boundaries. Perhaps you’re using some kind of weird, twisted format, even harder to read than second-person, and your writing is more about making a statement than trying to be rich-and-famous. Perhaps the idea of people casually reading your books in line for the post office and being happy with them is appalling, so you decide to kill every main character in an effort to be shocking. (Sorry, George R.R. Martin already has the monopoly on this.) If that’s you, than you can just ignore this entirely and keep doing what you’re doing.
THE POINT IS, the rest of us are just trying to get along, writing our little stories and hoping that someone out there will enjoy them. But we get caught up on the idea that people won’t like them, and that’s where we make the mistake of thinking we can somehow fix this–we can get out of the cycle and maybe write something that will move the earth, discover the cure for cancer, and have all the Whos in Who-ville coming out to sing Christmas carols. (Besides the Grinch.)
But you can’t.
Take, as an example of this fact, Doctor Who. I know, I know. You’re probably sick to death of hearing about Doctor Who, unless of course you are a Doctor Who fan, but stick with me. It’s really a relevant point. One of the things I love most about Doctor Who is that, because of its nature, you have a bunch of different people/actors playing the same two key rolls–the Companion and the Doctor. And although in the most general sense of things, ALL of the people who played ALL of these rolls were great actors and actresses, do you think that the fans like them all equally?
Just perusing the comments section of any Doctor Who-related blog post or tumblr thing or youtube video, you’ll see something like this:
“Rose and the 10th Doctor forever!”
“Martha was so under-appreciated. She rocks.”
“Eleven was my favorite Doctor, definitely!”
“Nine was FANTASTIC! But I loved Donna Noble.”
“Forget New!Who. Who can possibly forget Sarah Jane and the scarf-wearing 4th Doctor?!”
Literally, it goes on like that forever. An INFINITE NUMBER of favorite Doctors and/or Companions. AND NONE OF THEM ARE THE SAME. Well of course a few overlap, but you see my point. Fans of various Doctors and Companions prove my point that everyone has different likes and dislikes, and even when you get people playing the SAME ROLE or, in the case of the titular character, SAME PERSON, you’re going to get people who are fans…
And people who aren’t.
Writing is supposed to be fun, first and foremost. Sure, it has its moments where you would literally rather perform a lobotomy on yourself than try to cobble together another piece-of-shit sentence, but even under all of that you know that you’d rather be doing it than performing surgery on people and making tons of money, like your parents wanted you to do not-so-secretly. So when you get the brilliant idea to try to write something that will “make EVERYONE happy!” the only one you’re really hurting is yourself and your writing.
Because it just can’t be done. Say that out loud and believe it.
You can’t please everyone, so seriously, don’t try it.
You’ll end up with some mish-mash of aspects that you THINK are appealing, and then somehow fall completely flat when all shoved into a room together, like an awkward cocktail party of people that everyone thinks are awesome, but it still doesn’t feel like The Coolest Party Ever. And even if it WERE some kind of perfection-incarnate creature, some asshat on the internet would STILL find something wrong with it–statistically more than one. (Asshat or flaw, take your pick.) And then you’re sitting there with a story that you crafted for the larger masses, not for yourself, and wondering what you’re doing with your life, aside from not making as much as your accountant cousin.
Write what you want to write. Write what makes you happy. That isn’t always the way to go but, damn it, it should be in writing. Chances are you’ll never make more than a pittance doing it anyway.
So at least be poor writing something you believe in.