Inspired the blog, “The Other Side of the Story” by Janice Hardy, author of The Healing Wars Trilogy.
Note: If you haven’t read it yet, click here to check it out before reading this further.
I don’t follow a lot of blogs on a regular basis, but the ones I do are either extremely helpful to me as a writer, or they’re just plain fun, but nearly all of them are inspirational and deeply empathetic.
In the case of writing blogs, one of the most helpful ones I discovered last year was The Other Side of the Story, by the author of the well loved Healing Wars Trilogy by Janice Hardy.
While I’ve never met her in person, both Janice, and her blog, have been integral to my meltdown recovery. Her blog is full of practical, useful advice, even if it’s not as easy to follow as it is to explain.
So many good writing blogs are hindered from being great because they usually (But not always) focus on the facts without taking personal feelings and setbacks into account.
Recently she wrote a post about something I’ve never given great thought to before. Our career theme.
We all know most writing contains or address a specific theme, but did you know your writing career in and of itself can be theme oriented? I didn’t. At least not to extent in which Janice talked about on her blog.
When you really think about it, not all bakers, banks, and businessmen and women have the same ideas about what the job means to them, outside of making money or being a nonprofit charity. The same is definitely true of writers, even those who write the same genre or type of story.
Think about all those books about plucky redhead girls: Pippi Longstocking, Anne of Green Gables, and Judy Moody. (Judy might be a carrot-top, but I’m not sure, her color covers and doll’s hair looks reddish to me) All of these girls were written by different authors from different eras, connected only by their gender, and their heroine’s hair color, and their heroines are unique and distinctive in their own way.
All stories have a theme, or themes, of some sort, whether fiction or nonfiction. Every writer has their own career theme too, things you like to explore or talk about in your stories no matter what you write, be it fiction, nonfiction, or poetry.
For example, not all love stories are straight romance, and not all romances are sex-driven, just like not all Women’s fiction involves dating or relationships.
Now if only there were more books “For men” that don’t always involve crime-starved, perverted loners who drink and gamble to the umpteenth degree…
Anyway, back to the point, for Janice, her career theme is “Moral Grey Areas.” Stories that explore characters whose actions and choices are neither all good or all bad, and tough questions don’t always have a clear cut “Right and Wrong” answer. It’s bittersweet, open-ended, and arguably more true to “Real life.” Even if the world, people, and events are entirely made up.
This certainly doesn’t describe me or my writing at all, at least not at large. So what are my career themes?
First and foremost, most of my stories deal with friendship in some form, from making new friends, to keeping old ones, and honoring friends who are either dead or you’re no longer close to.
To me, friendship is vital for every person to experience, second only to family, and loving ourselves despite our flaws and quirks.
What makes friendship especially interesting to me is that unlike families we’re either born into or adopted by, we can choose our friends, and we can change them as we ourselves change throughout life.
That’s why friendships that last throughout most of your life are very special to me when I read about them, I never got that, so those of you who have a friend or two you’ve known most of your conscious life, treasure them for those of us who have to live much longer to form similar bonds.
But like families (Either by birth or adoption) we hurt when our friends are hurting, and we they die, the feeling of grievance and loss is no different than losing a blood or adoptive relative or family pet.
One of the biggest advantages of having friends, especially friends closer to your actual age, is you can be equals, whereas with friends older than ourselves or older kids or adults in our family, there’s a distinct, normal, and yet semi-annoying sense of respect and restraint you must have.
Of course you must respect your friends as well, but it’s not the kind of respect you’d give your teachers. sports coaches , and your parents and/or parental figures.
I’ve only recently discovered my second career theme, which for now I’ll call The Reverse Peter Pan Syndrome, or the T.R.P.P. Syndrome for short (Acronyms are fun, if not always easy to say)
One of the hallmarks with Peter Pan is kids never having to grow up. The reverse of this is wanting to grow up, but here’s the twist, you constantly feel frustrated and fearful of how long it’s taking to “Grow up,” at least in the ways we want most.
For me, it’s how long it takes to be more Independent, to not be so dependent on my family for money and transportation, and being so behind an burnt out on education.
I have to admit, there are times I feel I’d be better off as a kid than the depressed, undereducated, temperamental 20 something I am now. But I soon remember the flip side, for all the pain and downright sadness associated with the many milestones and mishaps of adulthood, I learned wonderful and meaningful things about myself that my younger self couldn’t do, or simply not understand.
I got smarter. I learned to care about others and not just myself, and while I’m not 100% temper tantrum free, it doesn’t happen nearly as often as when I was five since I have better (Mostly) self-control, and hey, even the uber mature folk slip up sometimes.
While I haven’t written much about this myself yet as I’ve just discovered it, anyone who’s read books by memoirst Kelly Corrigan and about the “Quarterlife Crisis” us 20 somethings go through, you’ll get a general idea of what I mean. Stories, both true and fictional, about feeling like a child trapped in an adult body, and not yet knowing how to make peace with onself, and feeling good about where you are now, versus when you were a kid, and loving yourself in the present as opposed to what you hope to be in the future.
I definitely have problem in this department. It can be hard to “Love the present you” when the thinks you can’t stand about yourself cause you and those around you, and live with, to be miserable.
Now I’m not trying to go all “Hippie Psychoanalyst” on you, but feelings play more of a part to both the writer’s craft and career, than a lot of Type A by-the-book folks like to admit.
Unless your natural inclination is to see things in a highly pragmatical manner to begin with, trying too hard to be analytical takes all the fun and adventure out of the writing process, believe me, I speak from painful experience. Past and Present.
Often I think writers confuse the word “practical” with “paranoia.” There’s a not-always-fine-line between the two, and leaning too far to either side only brings frustration and heartbreak to the writer, and maybe even greater chaos than they already deal with.
So take some time today to think about your career theme(s). Just remember, these themes don’t just describe a paticular book or story, they describe you as a writer, and what you most value, fear, and/or respect the most about life and the human condition.
With that, here’s a quote by me that I hope I’ll be known for one day-
“Even when the story’s not about us, it’s still about what we, the writers are about, mixed with the blessings of our imagination.”
Hope to hear some feedback from you!
May the Fantastic Fauna Be With You!
P.S. I’ll update the Future Headlines tomorrow as I return to my typical posts on craft.