This is not a rant. It is a revelation.
I just got back from my (way too) early morning grocery run. (Note to the wise: Want to experience NO CROWDS EVER? Do your shopping at 7 in the morning. Seriously.) I'm a sucker for the clearance display, even though it's usually stuff-I-would-never-buy. Like jars of artificially-red ham glaze, questionable health supplements, and post-Jewish-holiday processed Kosher food-in-a-box.
This morning, though, the clearance display touted a motley collection of books. Yes, books. And among the cheaply-bound recipe books and other nondescript titles were two or three paperback copies of a teen classic-literature-meets-vampire by a well-known imprint, both of which will remain unnamed.
Before I even read the title, the cover art grabbed my attention. It. Was. Awful. It almost had the do-it-yourself look of so many self-published books out there. (And I'm not knocking self-published books. I have one out there myself. And I paid a professional graphic artist to design my cover.)
Yes. It was that bad. It was really that bad.
Succumbing to morbid curiosity, I opened the book and started to thumb through. And I can't even express to you how poorly written it was.
Yes yes yes, subjectivity and all that. Maybe some of you would pick it up and adore it. You're allowed to. That's part of the beauty of all the arts, right? So many tastes, so much to choose from.
But honestly? I work really hard at my craft. As in, really hard. And I know many of you do, too. I have by no means "arrived", and so I continue to work really hard. The words are important to me. Their beauty, their cadence, their subtlety. A story's voice is encapsulated in its words, and we all know how important voice is.
So it would be easy to pick up a (travesty of a) book like this on a rushed Friday morning and become OH SO BITTER. As in, "I bleed from my fingers every day as I craft my novels, and this is what gets published?" And, "I work incredibly hard to create well written stories for young people, and this is what is selling for teens?"
You know what I'm saying.
Here comes the revelation: It doesn't matter. My works--the stories of my soul--have absolutely nothing to do with what else is out there. The time and effort I spend on my novels is by no means cheapened by what I perceive as lesser-quality work. And the fact that excellent writing is important to me does not make me any better--or any more deserving--than those who have landed contracts with projects that I might personally find less well crafted.
I'm allowed to hate a book I find on a grocery store shelf, and you're allowed to love it. We will never all agree on what is good and what is really good and what sucks beyond human comprehension. Yes, there are standards of "good writing" in general--if there weren't, then we'd all experience literary anarchy. But in the end, it just doesn't matter.
It doesn't matter!
So keep writing. There's nothing else to do, really. And keep reading books and allowing the really good ones to sink deep into your psyche and affect your own writing. I'm going to continue to be inspired by my peers who do write well -- Jodi Meadows and Beth Revis and Joan Paquette and CJ Redwine and Myra McEntire and Peter Salomon and Geoff Rodkey and Victoria Schwab and Erin Bowe. And countless others who are crafting well written stories for young people.
And there it is--my grocery store revelation. Happy writing!!