Don't Tell Me What I Can't Do....
See what I did there? Worked a Lost reference into an actual writing blog. Hm. Wonder if I can keep that up for a whole week.
For those who haven't been sharing my obsession for the past six years, "don't tell me what I can't do" was the motto of Lost character John Locke. When he actually was John Locke and not the dead guy whose body the smoke monster borrowed, that is. We first hear Locke make his iconic statement when he is refused a place on the Australian walkabout he'd come halfway across the world to undertake. Granted, he was, at the time, a paraplegic confined to a wheelchair, but that didn't stop him from doing the research, amassing a truly impressive cache of hunting equipment and flying all the way to Australia to pursue what he firmly believed was his destiny.
The tour company's insurance provider had other ideas, and so Locke didn't get to make that walkabout. That one. He didn't plan on getting put back on a plane home to his truly depressing life...nor did he plan on the plane crashing on an uncharted island...or the island curing his paralysis. When the survivors' food ran out and they'd spotted a wild boar in the jungle, well, golly, Locke happens to have all this hunting equipment and he knows how to use it. Free range pork dinner for all. That's only one of the things that branded Locke as the show's man of faith. Don't tell him what he can't do, indeed.
This carries on over to the writing life, especially for those of us who write genre fiction. In my case, romance. I knew I was a writer early on; there was never anything I wanted to do more than tell stories. There was a time when I honestly thought the only genres I would be "allowed" to write were science fiction and mystery, neither of which are right for me. For others, they are a perfect fit, but for me, about as good a fit as a Harley Davidson is for a goldfish. Still, I thought that was all there was. Don't ask me where I got this idea, but I got over it and I pushed through and found my voice.
Being a writer means having a strong sense of self and a tough hide. It means going after what one wants -destiny, if you will- even in the face of the "everybody knows" clan and the "supposed to" monster. Romance is fluff? Pah. Guilty pleasure? Half right, no reason for guilt. I'm proud of my books and proud of my genre. I am a Christian. I am a romance writer. These two are not mutually exclusive, nor am I restricted to the inspirational subgenre. I like to color with every crayon in the box. Love. Hate. Life. Death. Sex. God. Thought. Doubt. Faith. Despair. Triumph. Everything in between. I make my hero and heroine earn their HEA in a time and place that directly affects their personal journeys, individually as well as romantically.
No matter what genre or subgenre a writer calls home, someone (okay, a lot of someones) are going to start laying down "supposed to" stuff: the only period that sells is Regency England. Readers only want series and those only about the same generation. No blond heroes. Heroines must/can't be virgins. Add your own "supposed to" stuff here. Do all of that or your book and career are fated to share John Locke's seat back on the plane to his beige cubicle at his job in the office of a box factory. Wrong-o.
Tell your story the way it comes to you, because nobody else can tell it for you. Tell it until it's told, and finish, revise, submit, repeat. When all else fails, face your fears and give a hearty shout of "don't tell me what I can't do." Then gather your tools and go hunting, because you know you can bring home the goods.