May 29, 2012

herd mentality

One of the sad, sad truths about living close to a beach is that you almost never go. It's been warm/borderline beastly hot for a few months now, but I've only made that 15 minute drive to the beach about twice. And neither of those to actually swim in the ocean. I know, I know, I can hear your yells of admonishment through my computer screen. I plead the busyness of real life?

So I decided to go last weekend. Hindsight is 20/20... but I really should have realized that it was Memorial Day Weekend, thus, every other person in the city/county/state had the same idea. I put on my sunglasses, sprayed on my sunscreen and sat in my car for an hour and a half. When I finally reached said beach, there was very little wiggle room on the sand. But I was able to lounge and reread The Scorpio Races for  a good three hours to make my traffic snarl worthwhile.

I suppose, though I wasn't completely aware of it at the time, that I was participating in a "herd mentality." My friends/acquaintances/everyone on Twitter/Facebook talked about going to the beach, so I decided to join. And I "suffered" because of it (in a very, light, metaphorical, white-whine sense). It made me think of how many times writers fall victim to the herd mentality.

Herd mentality isn't always bad. Often it starts off as a good thing. People will flock to entertaining ideas/plots/genres. There's so much out there to be discovered, that oftentimes we need other people to experience things first and then recommend them. This is why sites like Pinterest are so wonderful.

I think where it goes wrong, is when writers are afraid/insecure in their stories because they don't fit in with the hot trend of the time. Some are even so worried about where the herd of other writer/agents/editors/reads is going that they don't write down the story that's burning inside of them. Instead they write what they think the herd will want to read. They cater to the tastes of others instead of penning down the story they were meant to write.

Sometimes the stories of your heart and the "hot genre" coincide (lucky you!!), and that's great. But most of the time they won't. And to me, the stories that I love the most, the books that stand out, are the ones where the author took risks.

Harry Potter was written at a time when children's literature wasn't "popular."

The Lord of the Rings is one of the first volumes of modern "high fantasy."

Redwall features talking animals who live in a woodland Abbey....

Killer water horses? Reincarnated chimera/human/demons?

This is as much as a peptalk for myself as it is for anyone reading this post. Don't worry about what other people will think. Write down what you need to write. This is how the best stories are born. And if the herd loves it, then great. And if they don't. Well, at least you had the courage to jump and write what you needed to.

Write what you love. Who knows. It might spearhead the next big trend!

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