I have been working my way through the Writers and Artists Yearbook mainly lamenting that I am just not set up to be a conventional author - something we already knew. I'm too generalist, I am never going to settle for an area or one specific genre.
I think perhaps the closest I could get is saying that I am a blogger!
But one of the things that is starting to bug me with the book, if not with life in general, is this idea that we can't aspire to be creative. The main examples are Sheakespare and Neil Gaiman in the book. Neil apparently gets away with it as he is a genius and the same goes for old Will but that 'we' are not.
Well I'm sorry but 'we' or at least me are that creative. I never knew I wasn't supposed to be, I am by nature as I mention frequently A Jack of All Trades and I pride myself on picking up these new skills and trying new ways of doing things. I also get bored and projects stagnate if I don't do this (this does not mean I have to start lots of new projects though - before I realised what was happening this was the tendency).
To me Jacks are not less good than Masters - never ever and their works can be outstanding. But they don't sit in a rut, lay back and enjoy the easy way, they get on and find the next thing that is needed or interesting.
First off lets take Sheakspeare - he was a good imaginative writer and was represented to me at school as someone to emulate now for me what I saw was a guy who made his money by writing the equivalent of Eastenders most of the time with a bit of Dr Who thrown in. But he also worked on other things because of rich people liking him and a good fertile idea brain that could come up with new stuff.
He was a cross genre specialist; romance, horror, tragedy, comedy, fantasy, stories within stories, complex story arcs and sub plots galore and sometimes all in the same story. Of course I didn't know what any of this was called as a teenager it was all just 'books'. So this was my first model of what an author should be.
Then came the Of Mice and Men and To Kill a Mockingbird, An Inspector Calls and so on at GCSE's but these were often one or two of the only works of the authors in question had written. And all seemed to me to have been written specifically to get so socio-political issue over.
Then A'level I was doing 4 A'levels - only one that touched on stories and they were of course all the old Greek and and Roman sagas and here I saw something of an attempt to record history and natural events before science gave us other ideas of why things might be happening. Or they were a way of people to feel emotional release such as the Tragedies and Comedy sets of the Greek theatre - these were there to cause strong emotional responses, to invoke a sense of lose and love and pride and fear and to then bring everyone back up with the ending fun of the comedy.
These narrow forms existed for specific reasons but I never thought that you would be stuck in just one - in Rome and Greece you often wrote plays and poems and sagas again you were a generalist, a cross genre writer.
Now during my A'levels I also did a short course in creative writing which I would attend at lunch times and here we would go through a different area each week pretty much and I would do the exercises produced by the teacher (who I have forgotten the name of 🙁 It was at Havering Sixth Form College though). And I loved it!
I got on well with all the different writing tasks producing poems and beginnings of stories and slices of life and what have you. Of course my GCSE English teacher had already introduced me to Response Writing which I still use to kick ideas off. The only thing I really struggled with was making short stories - I always saw what the story could be - it always wanted to grown into a novel or maybe three!
But I wasn't hooked up on genre - I wrote scifi, fantasy, horror, romance, comedy, thriller, crime, articles on life and science, and my old fall back poetry.
She sent what I produced off to various comps and submitted others to newspapers and they were all being accepted and winning something and I was amazed.
I was working on two main novel ideas at the time The Crystal Singer which has basically been adapted to The Punk and changed into scifi rather than the scifi-fantasy it had been - I may still write the original version but it would be for young adult.
The other was a vampire origin story involving dark matter and a judicial system that believed suffering was worse than death and so create the Forever Criminals (with the dark matter of course!). Each criminal had their own story and one of them should not have been there at all - a teenage girl who was a floppy sparkly veggi type who got caught up in it all by being empathic and thinking that in not trying to stop all suffering she was responsible for it. It was primarily a love story between her and her jailor a cloned cyborg.
The other criminals were more interesting and were products of their societies in many ways bar one termed as The Elephant Man who was a true sociopath.
I had more notes than story and bad biro sketches but I was working on it for about an hour before bed each night until boys and exams got in the way.
The creative writing teacher got the badly spelled printed on tractor paper first few chapters.
I prepared myself - by this point I had observe that most people in the group were writing 'serious stuff' and were taking some sort English A'level. It was at this point the concept that some 'genres' were more respected than others began to creep in. I had handed in a scifi story about Vampires - something which at the time didn't really exist Ultra Violet appeared on t.v. at about the same time and Blade and other films were just appearing.
The Teacher turned to me and said, 'this has the potential to be a best seller.'
The words didn't really sink in and I continued to potter on it though a bit more earnestly - my aim was to get it published before my 18th birthday - hahahahahahahaha. It is sitting in a box upstairs I found it in some A'level notes. It reads like a teen novel to me to be quiet honest and it is not finished and of course I only have the badly spelt version on tractor paper that is turning all yellow.
But she thought is was good and I've had stories I wrote at 14 published in the last few years - I just sort of corrected the spelling and sent them off realising that though I wrote them as introductions to novels they pretty much stand alone as short stories.
What I remember though is that she thought the novel had potential from a professional point of view but it was the poetry she loved and she told me not to read Plaith. She felt it would destroy my poet voice which was just emerging, it was too near and may well have just become a clone.
So yeah basically I have always been a mix and match type writer and even artist to be honest. Writing and Art were put on the back burner whilst I was at Uni as there was simply too much to do. I still wrote though, I found a floppy the other day with the title 'Stories for Alaric'. Early on I would write him a chapter of a story/short story and save it to floppy go to college and then email it to him.
I wrote down all the ideas in note books and margins and since having Jean I have been pottering at the writing stuff in a similar way though with added blogs. I unpacked more boxes yesterday to find a photo album for a talk with the cubs and found yet more note books filled with ideas and stories and poems. I am now facing the issue of the small bookcase I have for notebooks is not big enough for all the note books :/
I often worry about this and my almost career but Al thinks I will simply do a Stross and have loads of stuff to publish all at the same time.
Neil Gaiman himself says in the Yearbook that he can't tell you how to become a cross genre author. I think you probably either are or aren't and a lot of ares get lost and never make it. He established himself in one area first it is true so he had a fan base to shift around with him. I on the other hand get a few short stories and a few poems published a year and distract myself with deciding to write a song or draw a picture or make a papier mache space ship or make a discworld cake or workout a new irrigation system for the garden or reconstructing the first amphibians...
But you know this has somehow become my work - I'm already booked for two festivals for the craft stuff and last year was insane!
My blogs are mainly what I have been writing on and it has been peicemeal but then daily I am getting comments on old articles or posts on here saying they are useful and helpful (real ones not the spammers) or huge long rants disagreeing with my view point (though mainly that happens to Al's technical posts). And I am finding people writing to me for advice on stuff I wrote 4-5 yrs ago to do with the web which surprises me.
I confess the blogs are often badly spelled and a bit patchy mainly due to that writing in between playing with babies - talking of which I just need to go and rescue the bin!
One clean baby later...
I digress my main issue was that several of the articles in the Yearbook say we can't aspire to be like Neil Gaiman but I am doing just that. For a start he one of the few with a CV that looks like my todo list.
I don't want to be Neil Gaiman nor a copycat clone but I do find him inspiring as he has done stuff I want to do. Like me watching the TED talks of the scientists I admire I watch interviews of authors I like - some are boring - Neil is not. He is good at capturing his audience in person which helps.
I personally feel a bit more comftable with the idea of Cross Genre authors now as it is at least being admitted that they exist which pre the 2007 flood when I was looking before - it was not. Cross Genre at all was looked down upon as if people only read one type of thing ever.
I wonder sometimes if other people really do not have high levels of creativity or weather it is just that they believe they do not. Thinking and creativity are skills that need to be used or they begin to rust but even if they are unrecognisable under all that rust you can always clean them up!
This is one of the reasons that I am running WoPoWriMo again this year. Talking of which I need to go and prod some guest bloggers for their articles!