Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Where 100 Years of Solitude Leads

Paul concluded his Sunday column for Write Anything this week with:

"We don’t have an excuse to not look at good writing across all genres, just because it is unfamiliar to us or unappealing as a reader. Sometimes our best writing comes when we move out of our comfort zone. Perhaps we should move beyond our reading comfort zone once in a while too."
Part of the decision to write seriously this year, was to read seriously also. I began the year with the goal of reading one book a month. Wild Swans had been beckoning me from the book shelf, where it had been adopted from an old friend of ours so I chose to begin the year with that. I didn't get it finished before the end of January and realised it was a really bad omen not to get through my first book for the year in the alotted time. What January taught me (other than some amazing things about China and mostly awful things about Mao's version of communism) was that to read a book a month, I had to make time to read a book a month. This meant cutting back on the time I was spending at the computer at night (being not much of a TV freak)

In April I upped the anty to two books a month. This would give me a chance to read something I really wanted to read (and something I was likely to really enjoy) and something from my list of 'literature' - mainly books that I would never get around to reading given the option. The books I've read since taking on the two a month challenge have been East of Eden, 100 Years of Solitude and The Great Gatsby. Again last month, I almost didn't finish 100 Years of Solitude and I was up until midnight on the 31 August trying to get it done - reminded me of burning the midnight oil to get an assignment done!

100 Years of Solitude by Gabrielle Garcia Marquez (Nobel Prize winner for Literature in1992) isn't I would normally read, but was a book that Dave had read and spoken about, along with Love in the Time of Cholera (also now on my list to read!) I'd read Chronicle of a Death Foretold when I was pregnant and knew that I didn't hate Marquz's writing style - but I got such a delight when I finally got into the rhythm and style of his writing ... when I was able to suspend my rational mind and enjoy the banquet of magical delights (the moment when I realised that the gypsy's were really flying carpets past the window). I'm very glad that I did push out of my comfort zone to read this. You can see the legacy of having read it in my latest [Fiction] Friday.

After discussing with Dave how much I enjoyed 100 Years (and sadly he read it that long ago he doesn't remember much of it), he suggested that I give Midnight's Children by Rushdie a go ... so I have the second half of September slated for that. I'm certainly intriged to know more about magical realism and how other writers weave it through their narrative.

There were discussions about genre at the Byron Bay Writers Festival ... and how some writers just write without any real regard for WHAT genre they in. After all getting the words on the page are more important than getting the 'right' words on the page. I never gave much thought to what genre I wrote it ... though I was always drawn to some darker elements of humanity, particularly to terrorism (and this was before 9/11) and the twists of the mind. Since picking up writing again after a long absence I feel that rather than being drawn to one genre over another, I'm drawn to themes, and the exploration of the human experience through those themes. Perhaps that's what allows a good writer to write in any genre or across genres?

Writing outside of your genre is another example of dangerous writing, and as I have discovered with a number of my fellow writers this year pushing boundaries and finding those places of discomfort are when we produce some of our greatest work. For that reason I believe we should regularly choose to write something outside of our comfort genre. I would never have believed this time last year that I would be writing:

  • adventure stories (I CAN'T do adventure) ... though I love it (#1 guilty secret of mine!)
  • a pirate story (I WOULD NEVER write that - I only write literature with a feminist bent)
  • write science fiction (I most certainly DON't write that)
It's a good thing I've become a little more open minded this year. As a writer, as soon as you say you 'can't', 'don't', 'won't, 'shouldn't' (you get the gist) accept it as an invitation to give it a go. You never know where the path less travelled may take you.

As professional development - what stories/books would you read to push you out of your comfort zone?

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