Friday, September 18, 2009

beauty and the business of being you

"Beauty is what happens when you're busy being yourself."
I've been living with this quote all week. I cut it out from a print ad years ago -- not even sure which one -- and tacked it to my vision board. What does it mean to us as writers? I wonder.

I think this follows up on my previous post about audience. If we're not writing what we like, what we think our friends would like, then for whom are we writing? Are we writing to follow a formula? Do we want to be the next Dan Brown or Stephen King? Not that either of them are formulaic (although both get a lot of flack), but certainly they have mass market appeal. Are we writing to be best sellers? Not that this is not a goal to aspire to. But to be a best seller, you not only need to write, but you also need to sell.

Is being yourself writing about what you know? And is writing about what you know autobiographical? Or is it about going beyond what you know?

Many aspiring writers -- novelists, playwrites, screenwriters, you name it -- write to Aaron Sorkin and ask how they can learn to write like him. He always responds, "I think you should learn to write like YOU."

What does it mean to be me?

I guess for me, as a writer, being myself means writing about things that interest and please me, borrowing from the things and people and places I know and love; writing for a select few who love the same things I do and love me; writing to explore some kind of truth; writing in a style that doesn't have to conform to any one genre but somehow manages to find its place; writing when I'm thinking, writing when I'm not thinking, and writing when I'm typing; writing things that make others laugh; and writing without constraint of time or length or formula.

And I take things with me: I take my Long Island accent and my big family and my love of Duran Duran and my Judy Blume books from when I was a kid and my chocolate chip cookies baked from scratch and my When Harry Met Sally DVD and my guitar and my friends and my students and my teachers and my religion and everything else in between.

It's a mess, really. One big beautiful mess.

So I ask you: as a writer, what does "being yourself" mean to you? Whatever the answer, I hope you find it beautiful.

1 comment:

Elspeth Antonelli said...

I've seen you post this quote several places this week. This is one of those sentiments that I know should be true, but isn't for me. Self-esteem has always been an issue for me - even when I was good at something. Sad but true.

My novels are considered 'whydunnits' as opposed to 'whodunnits'. I find whys endlessly fascinating both in fiction and in real life, so I suppose that aspect of my writing reflects me. I like history and my books take place in the past. Another reflection.

I have never been lucky enough to be able to say to the world "This is me. Like me just the way I am" (wow, very Bridget Jones). Good for you that you can, Elisa. Applause and admiration.